The ReMarkable Tablet–First Impressions

After watching the tablet make its way from Hong Kong to various states around the country before reaching the DFW area, I finally have my ReMarkable tablet. I purchased the original version because the software is the same between the two tablets but the price difference is fairly substantial. Hhaving never used the tablet before, I wanted to make sure it was something I liked before sinking even more bucks into it. Let me say, as far as first impressions go, it is well worth the money for the first edition.

The featured image is of my Acer Spin 3, which is my writing laptop, with the ReMarkable next to it. That’s to give you an idea of the size of the tablet. The image on the screen of the laptop is the desktop app for the ReMarkable. Ignore the blacked out areas on the pad. They were notes not necessary for this post.

I’m one of those writers who has to resort to pen and paper from time to time to work through plot problems, etc. I’ve been using my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil 2 when I’ve reached that point, taking advantage of the handwriting to text apps. It worked but it never really “felt” right. I knew I wasn’t putting pen to paper. That, in turn, kept reminding me all I needed to do was open an app or the internet and . . . shiny!

The ReMarkable is an e-ink tablet. It doesn’t have a web browser. There are no games. It is a productivity tool only. You can set up folders and notebooks and take notes or draw. You can convert your notes to text. Using the desktop or phone app, you can sync your work between your tablet and your other devices. You can also email your work to yourself or someone else.

Because the tablet is e-ink, the learning curve is minimal. Basically, all you need is to figure out what the buttons and icons do. You don’t have to worry about keeping your pencil charged either. That’s a big plus. I’ve been caught with my Apple pencil running out of charge and I’m not ready to stop “writing”. If there is a downside, it’s that you do have to change the tip occasionally. (Of course, you do with the Apple pencil as well.) I don’t know yet how often that will be for the ReMarkable stylus. The reviews I’ve looked at say they last months. The good news is the tablet ships with the stylus and spare tips. There is one in the pencil itself (not counting the tip I’m currently using) and there is a box of 8 tips. So more than enough to last some time.

Writing on the tablet is a dream. It feels like I’m writing on paper. The conversion tool is excellent, even with my bad handwriting. In a page of text, I had maybe three mistakes. That is far better than most of the apps on my iPad Pro.

One of the reasons I wanted the tablet was to be able to take notes when working on the laptop wasn’t doing it for me. I did that for a couple of hours yesterday and it was great. Some of the notes I converted to text, just to test the conversion process. Others I left as my scrawl. Both uploaded to the cloud and could then be viewed through the desktop app or emailed to myself or someone else.

Another reason I bought the tablet was to be able to edit much like I used to by printing out a manuscript and using my red pen. In this case, it’s a matter of converting the file to PDF and loading it via the app. However, because it is a PDF file, I learned quickly that I needed to increase the font size on the Word file first. Otherwise, my tired eyes needed a magnifying glass.

Yes, there is a magnification tool of the tablet but it isn’t really conducive for the sort of work I do. Frankly, it was easier to save out the word file as a PDF after adjusting the font size.

But unlike so many apps for iOS or Android, making notes on the PDF on the ReMarkable is pretty much seemless. You can highlight or annotate. Your edits are saved and synced with your cloud. Then you can either download to you laptop to print out or display on an external monitor when you’re ready to input the edits.

The size of the tablet also helps with the illusion of using pen and paper. It is close enough to the size of a page of copy paper to not be distracting. It’s not too heavy and there are rubber grips on the back that keep the tablet from sliding. (At least there are on the first version of the tablet. I don’t know about the newest version.)

This morning, I loaded so ebooks onto the tablet to see how that went. First thing of note is you must use either PDF or ePub format files. You can either drag and drop them into the desktop app where they will be synced with your tablet or you can side load them. I did the former. Then I opened one of the books and checked to see if I could annotate it without any problem.

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is “Hell yeah!”. Better yet, because you aren’t connected to whatever store you purchased the ebook from, anything you highlight or note is NOT then uploaded to their cloud. I like this for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is I can make notes on my own books about things I need to deal with in upcoming books or stories and not have them uploaded to anyone who has already purchased the book.

I know there are still things about the tablet I haven’t discovered yet and I look forward to playing with it some more.

A partial list of pros:

  • E-ink technology means long battery life.
  • Writing with the included stylus feels like writing on paper.
  • No distractions.
  • Easy to load files and/or e-books onto.
  • Easy to use.
  • While you must be connected to the internet to sync your tablet with the app, you don’t have to stay online all the time.
  • Excellent handwriting-to-text conversion.

Now for the cons.

  • It is exactly like the original Kindles. An e-ink display without backlight. That means you need to have a good light source when working.
  • The pencil doesn’t snap to the tablet, so you have to keep track of it.
  • The app, while good, does need some more work. That’s especially true if you go to full screen. One thing I noticed when I did so was I lost the ability to click on the x to close the app.

All in all, I recommend the tablet if you need a tool that will let you “write” and convert to text in a way where you aren’t distracted by all the bells and whistles you get with an iPad or other tablet or computer.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks after I’ ve worked with it some more with more thoughts about the tablet.

In the meantime, here are a couple of videos to give you an idea about what the ReMarkable can do.

8 comments

  1. Someone gift me a Rocketbook Everlast, which is basically the same thing except in multipage notebook format, and uses ordinary erasable pens (or any ink you can convince to gracefully wash off the pages). I’ve been distracted/busy and haven’t got around to trying it yet. But it certainly is a nifty idea.

    However, my handscratch and scribble-to-text… there’s a no-go for ya… when you tend to omit letters entirely, this confuses even the best OCR…

    1. Honestly, I’m not that worried about the OCR even though this does a pretty damned good job. This is more for quick jotting down of ideas, editing an already completed chapter or more and simply doodling through an idea. So far, it is doing everything I’ve asked it to and easier than I expected.

      1. I picked up the Moleskin Smart Writing Set because I prefer scribbling notes into – you got it – a notebook. The set has various sizes of notebooks to write in, the pen converts the notes to a text or graphic file. Plus all the advantages of a real notebook: you don’t have to turn it on, you can shove it in your pocket, no buttons to push, don’t have to worry about dropping it or scratching the screen, add things you’ve just remembered to your grocery list – and it keeps track of what goes where. And uploads it all onto my computer.

        I used to come home from conventions with book suggestions, the best bakery in [wherever], meetings, number of someone I needed to call, and who knows what crammed into one notebook (still sorting out three).. And, of course, organizing things when my parents were going to move since things were written in no particular order, Also work meetings, could use one notebook to track the cat’s illness, directions, those grocery lists, stuff while I was on the phone . . .

        One minor problem: not long after I got it I wasn’t doing any of those things anymore and phone call take just a pad of paper. I’ve superstitiously put it away. But, with apologies for going fan-girl about pen and ink, if you prefer writing on paper you should try it. And let me know.

  2. My wife and I have both bought the reMarkable 2 and love them. My only complaint is when reading pdf or epub the tablet only recognizes my hand swipe to get to the next page 50% of the time. I have recommended they put in a software button to do the job

    1. That is the one thing I like about the ReMarkable 1. You have buttons to page forward and back as well as another to return to home.

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