Based on monochrome digital ink technology, the reMarkable 2 is the first fully convincing “tablet” designed for writing and studying. By focusing on the essentials, the teams of the young Scandinavian brand hit the mark.
© 01net.com Review of the reMarkable 2 digital notebooks: almost perfect concentration of intelligence
Who can do the least, gets you to do more. This could be the slogan of the reMarkable 2 tablets, a medium format electronic ink tablet. If we are talking about doing less, it is because the second generation of tablet from the Scandinavians of reMarkable does not disperse: no video games, audio/video playback, or web browsing, the device is used to consult and enter text. And it is, in particular, this concentration on the fundamentals that makes it successful.
Mature hardware technologies
Powered by a small two-core ARM processor, the tablet offers a useful surface area of 10.3 inches for a definition of 1872×1404 pixels or a resolution of 226 points per inch. The image is therefore very precise for electronic ink (E-Ink Carta technology). The device has a USB-C socket for recharging and PC connection (a bit artisanal), Wi-Fi, and a connection system for accessories such as screen protection.
No colors either, the screen is a shade of gray, no super processor but an energy-efficient chip, no Android but a home system (probably based on Linux). The reMarkable 2 is built on mature and stable technologies, and the company’s software engineers have done an amazing job. For electronic ink, the response time is excellent and allows for a real writing experience. Because in addition to consulting documents, the tablet also allows you to take notes. An area where all the tablets and other solutions we’ve tested over the years simply crashed – out of focus, too slow, difficult to sync, proprietary technologies, etc.
Magic Pen (s)
Let’s get right to the point: the experience of writing on the reMarkable is almost equivalent to that on paper. Even, in the case of penguins of our kind (erasures, spelling mistakes, etc.), it turns out to be better since the scribbles are erased with a blow of software eraser. Note that if the handwriting latency time is very short, the same is not the case with navigation and the virtual keyboard, which is more sluggish, closer to the classic experience of e-ink screens.
There are two styluses which differ by a function (and a price): displayed at 99 euros or 40 euros more than the normal version, the “Marker Plus” includes a virtual eraser on the second end.
But from the point of view of the seizure itself, there is no difference between the two models. The eraser version therefore only imposes it on designers, sketches, and other composers. Because the models of notebooks are numerous and varied.
Dozens of notebook models
Between the time we initially received the tablet and the writing of this test, several months later, the teams added a number of new models, specially dedicated to music. Currently, the reMarkable 2 offers 47 notebook templates, ranging from bass guitar tabs, piano sheet music, to a lined notebook, several weeklies, grids, lists, and even storyboards (to one, two, or four boxes).
On the minimalist side, the white notebook is obviously part of it, while on the more exotic side of the spectrum, there are dotted pages or even a system of isometric boxes.
Clearly, there should be something for everyone. Where appropriate, there is no doubt that developers can implement new formats as long as the voices are heard.
Manual entry strength
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The keyboard is good, but taking handwritten notes has another impact, especially on memory. In addition, for those who have developed a habit of marking during their studies, pen input can be much faster and more efficient. The lowercase Greek phi (φ) which allows summarizing the word “physical”, the ent by exponent for the adverbs, etc. many are the handwritten tips that can save time compared to typing via keyboard, even simplified.
Visual memory is more efficient in the case of leafing through handwritten notes, thanks in particular to the spatial position of the elements (margins, top of the page), but also their shapes since you can make diagrams with a stylus – good luck for quickly add shapes in Word!
As long as the flow of your course/conference / etc. is not too fast and your natural writing is drinkable, character recognition also works quite well which allows you to send (with an active Internet connection), the conversion of your notes.
This reMarkable 2 has been used over the long term and in a rather professional context: taking notes during (avalanches) of press conferences in TV/videophone, preparing video formats, reading technical PDFs, etc. His great strength? Unlike notepads, notebooks, loose sheets, and other pieces of paper that you lose or forget, the reMarkable can send your notes to the cloud.
The connected capacities of the tablet have already saved us the day on several occasions, in particular, to get our hands on data or precise quotes from interlocutors.
If you’ve gone to the trouble of setting up the Wi-Fi connection on your tablet and paid a little attention to syncing it every now and then, all your notebooks are syncing in the cloud. By installing the reMarkable application on your PC, you can therefore have access to all the documents on your tablet. Enough to finish articles on time, even though you forgot the precious object at home.
This connectivity is not limited to the PC since there is an Android / iOS mobile application that offers the same functionality. Good point on the security side: you have to pass an authentication procedure by code sent by email to validate the connection. But there is still some uncertainty about the nature of file storage – the nature of the cloud provider and encryption.
Better at PDFs than EPUBs
To qualify this device, we have alternately used the terms tablet or notebook, never that of e-reader, even though reading and annotating PDF is comfortable thanks to a system of layers – modulo the native layout of the files. The reason is that if the “professional” use in PDF is pleasant, reading books is less rich than on a real e-reader.
In addition to the lack of backlighting, the reMarkable 2 suffers, in book use, from a lack of effective library mode. In addition, reading ePub files is done in the same way as taking notes or reading PDFs: the tablet is in edit mode, offers writing tools, layers, etc. But no bookmark, for example, or a “currently reading” section. And instead of presenting the covers of the books, the interface displays a preview of the opening page (not always easy to find your book!
The layout options (size and type of fonts, margin settings, etc.) are present, but minimalist. Reading is no problem and the screen is very well defined and comfortable, but the experience is less rich than with a “real” reader.
Regarding navigation, in ePub but also in PDF, allow a little time when you switch to “Page Overview” mode: in this presentation by thumbnails, the tablet must create the previews for each page. As much to say to you that the creation took a little time for Earth Portrait 6th Edition, a university work of geology of more than a thousand pages, covered with images.
If the thumbnails are created once and for all, the navigation remains quite heavy – you should prefer a linear reading, use the interactive index or the search field to go faster. The experience here is decent, but an improvement in the frame rate would be welcome.
With its integrated memory of 8 GB (6.41 GB effective) impossible to expand through a Micro SD slot, one would have thought that the team played the card of safety to integrate one or more management services PDF files with DRM. Unfortunately, this is not the case, since the tablet does not even support Adobe Digital Edition. This deprives her, for example, of PDFs from scientific publishers like Elsevier or McMillan. Hopefully reMarkable overcomes this limitation as soon as possible. Meanwhile, DRM breaking becomes a requirement for students, professors, researchers, scientists, and other professions who need to read-protected PDFs.
No backlighting and limited storage
There are local storage maniacs, humans who think it’s best to carry as many documents as possible offline to avoid reliance on the cloud: survivalists, nuclear attack freaks, supporters of lower energy consumption. , lovers of hypertextual thought, who ricochet from book to book, and the curious who writes his lines (which combines several of the pathologies mentioned here).
Also, while the 6.41 GB of storage may be enough for many people, freaks like us who buy PDF publications (the excellent cycling magazine 200, the documentary collections of the different Humble Bundle packs, etc.), who like to have their caliber library (750MB in my case) and/or who add scientific papers every week, can quickly have to juggle documents. A limit that could have been avoided with a simple Micro SD slot.
Another limit, this time more understandable: the absence of backlighting. In addition to preserving the life of the battery – which easily lasts one to two weeks, depending on use – its non-implementation allows costs to be reduced and remains in the field of “natural” analog. i.e. dependent on outside light – unlike LCD / OLED tablets. But we would have preferred to have had a choice.
Focused on goals
The reMarkable teams could have added an audio player, especially for audiobooks. How about Bluetooth support or a jack to output the sound? And since the stylus is so good, how about some Sudoku or crossword puzzles while you’re at it? Or RSS feeds since Wi-Fi connectivity is part of the game! Considering the potential of the machine, many elements can be added and it is by choice that the company did not integrate them precisely so as not to fall into the “iPad trap”.
The omnipotence of the Apple tablet – arguably the best of tablets – is its greatest weakness for academic use. The student, the professor, the researcher, the journalist, etc. all are humans who respond to the same needs, urges. Like this (involuntary) switch from word processing to that of Clash of Clans! And who has never started a documentary search on Wikipedia only to end up reading the biography of a Polish voice actor in Soviet films of the 1960s an hour later? And how do you make a “quick glance” at Twitter without ending up unwinding a discussion thread on the making of Scandinavian words in the 10th century by the talented Doctor Pierre Al Chaize alias @docteurbagarre ?
By focusing only on its reading, annotation, and note-taking goals, the reMarkable 2 teams has deliberately limited its range of possibilities. Thus allowing it to remain impervious to digital escapes and digressions. A magnificent display of intelligence through sobriety that makes the reMarkable 2 the best digital notebook/book ever.