As a lover of all things writing and note taking, I take my first deep dive into the world of eInk notebooks with reMarkable's latest and greatest.
Scarlet Bell

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I love writing, I love recording, I love documenting. For years I’ve bought fancy pens and equally fancy notebooks for the joy of writing in them, but they’re not all I’ve sought out. For just as long, I’ve looked for a decent way to write digitally. I’ve gone through graphics tablets, styluses, and even the bizarrely unique Yoga Book, but it never quite felt right. Historically for me, these devices become more a pain than a joy given enough time, and one by one they fall back into the obscurity they once crept out from. The reMarkable 2 is different, for me at least.

For those not in the know, reMarkable is a brand that’s been around for a good few years now. Attempting to offer a tablet to replace paper in both utility and feel, they first released the reMarkable in 2017 to middling reception. Though the idea was solid, it was let down by latency, cost, and to some extent, even its build quality. Roll on recent years and they’re back in business with a sleek new design, but has enough changed to warrant the still-premium price tag?

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The packaging is all paper, how apt.

Out of the box, the reMarkable 2 is sleek. Aesthetically, I’d compare it to a large Kindle Oasis minus the bezel on the back, with a similarly asymmetrical design not dissimilar to that of a notebook. Moving away from the white plastic of its predecessor, the reMarkable 2 opts for a more premium feel, complete with an aluminium frame and slightly grey body. Both the back and front have a real papery vibe, which is fitting given its purpose. On the top and bottom of the spine, you can find the power button and USB C port respectively. The rest of the device remains free of buttons, or anything else for that matter. Given the asymmetric design on the left, it would have been nice to see the bottom bezel match the top to maintain some kind of aesthetic symmetry, but that’s my only real criticism here. As advertised, the tablet is incredibly thin, being just under half a centimetre thick. For its £399 price point, you want the device to look nice and feel durable; the reMarkable 2 checks both these boxes.

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Of course, the tablet itself is unlikely to be the only thing you’re buying here. After all, how can you write on a paper tablet without a pen of sorts? While, as I mentioned, the tablet costs £399, it doesn’t actually come with a Marker, the tablet’s titular stylus. Instead, you’re required to build yourself a bundle on buying the device. Sure, you can buy the tablet alone, but you won’t really be able to do much with it outside of being an oversized eReader. For the basic Marker, you’re looking at £49, and for the more expensive Marker Plus, you’re looking at £99. But that’s not all! To protect your lovely new device, you’ll probably want a case. Is this included in the £399 retail price? It is not. The cheapest case, essentially a sleeve to keep the tablet in while you’re not using it, comes in at £69. Moving onto the book folio cases, these vary between £99 and £149 depending on the material you choose to go with. With these in mind, the real cost of the reMarkable 2 comes in at somewhere between £517 and £647 depending on your choices.

Turning on the tablet for the first time, there isn’t much in the way of fanfare. You create an account for reMarkable’s free cloud storage service, and you’re let out on your merry way. The overall experience is brilliantly intuitive. After having a scribble for a few minutes, my mum wanted to try it for herself. I passed it to her, and she just started writing. She flicked the screen from right to left to turn the page, and she even tried her experienced hand with the calligraphy pen to really quite pleasant results. There’s a reasonable assortment of templates for you to write on, varying from lines, to grids, to sheet music, and even a few daily planners. While you can’t yet create custom templates to import, you are able to read and write on both PDF and EPUB format documents, so you could easily create your own planner this way and fill it in like any other page on the device.

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My mum's calligraphy is a bit rusty, but still pleasing to look at.

Along the left side of the screen by the spine, you have the toolbar. This contains a few helpful things like your choice of pen, your line thickness, eraser tools, selection tools, zoom, and the ability to undo and redo. Most of this is fairly self-explanatory, and in practice I found it just as easy to use. The menus never go more than one or two levels deep so you find things are right there when you need them, and when you don’t, you can just hide the toolbar entirely. There’s a few nice features lurking in this toolbar, one of my favourites being the ability to create and use layers as you might in a modern image editor. Though the larger use here may be artists using the device as a sketchpad, I did find some pleasant utility in being able to annotate my scrawlings without having to desecrate the runes directly. You can also export pages or even full notebooks as SVG files, allowing you to retain these layers should you want to continue your work on a PC. When it comes to export features, you can even convert your writing to text, with surprisingly positive results.

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The toolbar is full of useful things.

To test the handwriting to text functionality, I figured the easiest way would be to write out this paragraph by hand, and see how the software copes. Now it’s worth saying my handwriting isn’t exactly neat, nor is it really that consistent. I’d say it’s somewhat middle of the road all things considered, so should prove at least a modest challenge. I can’t say it’s perfect, but based on the few times I have used this feature, I can say it really isn’t bad.

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You can see the above paragraph written on the reMarkable 2, and the email I sent with it converted to text. Notice something? It got it perfectly. Now it’s not to say that it is perfect, as I mentioned above. In the few times I’ve tried this, I’ve had the gist of what I’m writing communicated well, with it struggling in particular with things that aren’t real words more than anything. When writing the notes out for my recent K101+ review, the reMarkable 2 struggled consistently to translate my writing of “K101+”. This would largely be down to my Ks looking like Hs, but also likely because it couldn’t rationalise it to any kind of actual word. As somebody who has random spurts of inspiration before bed or on the train to work, it’s great to know I can write out my thoughts and have this feature turn it into legible text at worst with the odd word wrong. Where I am a little disappointed is the lack of integration in the reMarkable PC app. Though you can view your notebooks and pages in full, you’re only able to use the writing to text feature from the device itself, which is then sent as an email. It’s all just a bit convoluted for what could be such a simple and convenient process.

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Both the book and film come highly recommended from me.

The eReader capabilities of the device are fairly standard, with it handling EPUB and PDF files as mentioned earlier. I’ve had a nice time reading The Night is Short, Walk On Girl on the large screen. Having said that, I doubt it’ll be replacing my Kindle Oasis as my primary reading device. With the reMarkable 2, I would say I read on it as a convenience. I take it with me to work, so I read on the train and on breaks. While I’m at home though, I have every device at my fingertips without having to justify its space in my bag. There’s no fancy features on offer here. You can’t highlight words for their definition, you can’t save your favourite bits, nothing like that. You can however write on the pages as if they were any other page on the device though, which could be handy for those needing to annotate and distribute documents as a part of their job. I’d be really interested to see a smaller and cheaper device with a larger focus on students. I’d have loved something like this through my GCSEs as I worked through Of Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls. I really do think a more affordable A5 model would do well in this respect.

The tablet aside, I think it’s time we looked at the Marker and Marker Plus to dissect exactly what you’re buying for £49 and £99 respectively. At their core, these are both unpowered stylus pens and both come with nine additional tips. I assume any Wacom pen would work, since my Yoga Book’s stylus had no issues writing on the screen, but it didn’t really compare to the feeling of writing with the Markers. It’s irritating difficult to put into words beyond “wow it’s like real paper!”, and as somebody reading I can completely understand how difficult it is to contextualise that beyond it sounding like a stoic repetition of an advert. In an attempt to be a little more descriptive, it’s not quite the same as the paper feel they so clearly strive for; it’s something entirely its own. Despite being an eInk screen, I'm really impressed to see such low latency between writing on the screen and it showing up. It all just feels natural. It’s a real shame the device isn’t out in stores to try, because that really is the moment where you realise it is or isn’t for you. While reMarkable do offer a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, I understand the difficulty for many in putting down the money in the first place.

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The difference isn't quite as black and white as it seems.

When it comes to comparing the two Markers, there’s only one functional difference: the Marker Plus features an eraser on the top. I didn’t think much of it at first, and with reMarkable sending both Markers for this review, I can say the writing experience is identical. The more I used the Marker Plus though, the more I found myself making those small and quick alterations enabled by the eraser. Sure you can go into the menu and select the eraser, but the Marker Plus goes that one step further in aiding the overall intuitiveness I love about the device. Both Markers can be mounted to the side of the tablet via magnets, and I’ve found they hold really quite well. I’ve walked around an office with the reMarkable 2 in hand with the confidence the Marker won’t randomly come loose.

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Looking to the folio cases, reMarkable again provided the cheaper sleeve, as well as the more expensive brown leather book folio. It’s worth saying there’s a grey polymer book folio that sits between the two I have on hand too, coming in at £99. You can think of this option as having the material of the sleeve, while retaining the more functional book design. Of the two cases I have, I can say I have never used the sleeve outside of the initial box opening and testing. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just the book folio suits my needs far better. The reMarkable 2 attaches to the book folio securely using magnets, with the case aptly protecting the screen without adding much in the way of bulk. I really love it, but it is a little frustrating the device doesn’t unlock by opening the case. It’s a small grievance, but when you’re spending upwards of £600 on a device so focused on doing one thing, you want it to pull out all the stops to make that one thing as seamless as possible. Sure it’s just pressing one button after opening the case, but it’s one button press that feels out of place.

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The reMarkable app is great for my productivity when writing reviews.

The reMarkable 2 is a device I adore, and it’s a device I can see others loving too. Having said that, it’s the kind of thing where you need really need to know what you’re buying to avoid being disappointed. When talking with reMarkable’s PR, they quite bluntly recommended an iPad for those looking for a device that can do everything, and frankly, I agree with them. You have two similarly priced devices where one does one thing magnificently, and the other does a spectrum of things well. If you want something to keep you focused, something without distraction, and something that feels just as much a joy to write on as paper, the reMarkable 2 is unmatched. 

Verdict
What We Liked . . . Unmatched digital writing experience OS is incredibly intuitive Low latency pen Free cloud storage and companion app support the device well Surprisingly capable handwriting to text functionality What We Didn't Like . . . Price acts as a large barrier to entry No support for other cloud storage services Case doesn't wake device on opening
9
out of 10
Overall
The reMarkable 2 may be the most interesting device I've ever had the privilege of reviewing. Though undeniably aimed at a niche market, it aims to do one thing well, and it delivers. If you want to transition from paper but still want the same premium writing experience, the reMarkable 2 is undoubtedly worth your time.

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