Is it actually Remarkable?
While this is a post about the Remarkable 2 tablet, a little back story of the journey to this point is probably worthwhile.
I'm a consummate hoarder of notes and information who for many years was a subscriber to Evernote. I had a lot of data in Evernote, I had Evernote linked to my Livescribe (Anoto) pen, and I kept PDFs, Payslips, Mortgage, Insurance and Bills the lot in Evernote.
I had this workflow down to a fine art and was able to find things I needed based on Tags, Dates and searches.
Then Evernote changed hands, and strange things started happening there so I've spent the last 2 years looking for a viable alternative.
I've used Notion, but I don't like it, It's overcomplicated and obsidian, and there's still too much going on there, I've tried writing on Laptop screens, but these are very untactile and awkwardly slippy for me to write on.
I've Kind of ended up with a solution based on Google Drive and OneNote with information shared on both, however, I've still not found a workable solution to taking notes in meetings.
Even in 2023 it feels wrong to be on my phone or laptop trying to type information into Onenote in a meeting when I need to be listening and when I've tried writing on the phone screen or laptop screen there either isn't the real estate i need, the latency is terrible or between bouts of writing the screen goes black and the screensaver kicks in.
Last weekend my wife and I found ourselves hunting for a new laptop for her in Currys (UK version of Bestbuy) feeling disheartened at the 2022 laptops, and dreaming of 80" OLED TVs when just before leaving I happened on a Remarkable 2 tablet.
It was set up, I picked up the stylus and was sold immediately for one simple reason
It felt like I was writing on a sheet of paper with a ballpoint pen.
So I bought a refurbished device directly from Remarkable
What is it like?
I think a device like this is a very personal item, what works for one person will not work for another, so I'll work through the thoughts from my personal perspective. You may not need, agree or find these important. It's ok that's allowed.
I find the writing experience on the device good, it has that tactile feedback of pen on paper and not the slippy feel of writing on a phone or computer screen. To my brain, this means my handwriting is legible and I'm not constantly trying to compensate for the slippiness of the experience and ending up looking like a 2-year-old writing.
I bought the cheaper of the 2 Remarkable Markers with the tablet, and have since noticed that the same pen my wide uses for the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 also works on the tablet.
Something that did catch me out, and I thought I'd got a dud was the pressure sensitivity of the stylus. It defaulted to pencil (rather than pen) mode when writing, and just as you'd expect from a pencil when writing with low pressure the writing was barely legible and I needed to apply more pressure to get darker writing. Just as I would with a hard pen.
I'm not sure how other people feel about the latency between writing something on the tablet and it actually appearing, for me this feels very quick, much quicker than say a cheap laptop or Chromebook running Cursive which it's visibly possible to write something and wait for it to turn up on the screen (this is better in newer versions with newer Chromebooks)
It feels very responsive and my brain is having no issues correlating that I've just written what appears on the screen.
Probably best shown with a video.
As with all new hardware the first boot setup takes about 10 minutes most of which was a couple of reboots to update the device to the latest version.
It runs off 2.5GHz Wifi networks, not 5GHz which took me by surprise however seems to run quite well.
A reboot from cold takes less than 40 seconds and to start from sleep takes about 4 seconds including me putting in the pin I set up.
There is not much processing I suspect going on behind the scenes and this is a fanless device. So far the only time I've felt it getting anything close to hot is when I was installing an update.
Because of the minimal nature of what this device is doing it doesn't need to be very quick, and it's about the right speed and the speed I'd expect from an eInk device.
The Screen is plenty. bright in most of the situations I've used it in, and feels just like a sheet of expensive paper. When off it displays the logo, and during the startup it reminds you that it's going to run a full-screen refresh to stop burn-in at regular intervals and that this is normal.
This essentially means for 2 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes the screen flashes black and carries on. this is normal for eInk displays.
Discussing refresh rates here feels a bit pointless. It's bright, slightly, only slightly off-cream white, responsive and refreshes with a tiny bit of ghosting.
There is a small button on the top left of the tablet which when pressed will put the tablet into and take it out of sleep mode.
When the device is sleeping it displays as seen above. It takes a couple of seconds to come out of sleep mode and puts the device back to where you left it.
When in sleep mode the power drain is pretty much zero..
Battery Life and charging
The things I've read suggest the battery will last about 2 weeks for average use, and so far that seems to be the case, after 6 days of ownership and lots of playing with the device I'm at 68% usage.
The Charge isn't a superfast charge, however in about 2hrs the tablet was fully up with juice.
Again, this is not a high-spec tablet, it's not doing a bunch of number crunching and its runs a low refresh eInk screen so I'd expect for a couple of hours a day use this tablet to last for a long time.
There are two options of the Remarkable "Marker" the $59 Marker and the $109 Marker with an eraser.
I plumped for the cheaper of the two options and I think I did the right thing, erasing things is a menu option away
The Marker/Stylus is a nice weight and has a nice pencil-like feel. It comes with a pretty strong magnet which does attach to the side of the tablet and it is not impossible to knock off but would take a little doing.
The Stylus is battery-less which is nice as well, I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to use the Stylus on my Chromebook and it's run out of charge.
As I mentioned above the Samsung stylus which came with my wife's Galaxy Book 360 which is also battery-less works well on the tablet too.
There are plenty of other Stylus on Amazon.. so you don't need to buy Remarkables Marker
Because (I assume) the screen has the tactile feedback the tips of the Pen/Stylus/Marker will get eroded over time. So it came with 10 spare tips.. and a handy tip swapper.
The Operating system's GUI is about as simple as it gets.
At a basic level there are Folders, Folders contain either NotePads or Quick Sheets which are essentially the same thing.
Quick sheets are notebooks for taking notes on the go, without having to create a new notebook. Quick sheets can be moved, renamed, or deleted, just like regular notebooks. You can access quick sheets from My files.
Both of these Documents sit in Folders
At a High Level this is it. Each time you want to write something you can move it from the home screen as a Quick Sheet or Notebook into a folder, or create it directly in the folder.
Everything can be renamed and moved around on the device usually by long pressing on the item and a new menus will pop up.
Like most things on the Tablet its really basic, however it works well if a little slow, and I mean milli seconds just noticeable compared to working with a phone or regular tablet slow, not picking up an Android tablet from 2008 slow..
While Notepads and Quick Sheets are the areas you write on, when they are set to default they are blank spaces to do whatever you feel on.
Within the Remarkable menus there are options for Templates, Templates are pre designed from lines and grids to work with all the way up to things with Checkboxes and Daily planners.
The Tablet comes with a healthy number of Templats which will get most people started, it also has a flourishing eco system of Custom designed templates especially when it comes to planners
There is a good overview on the Remarkable Support page
I found the Cornell Method Template particularly useful for note taking as I've been using the table to capture those ideas which if not written down will run my brain at 100% while I'm trying to sleep.
There are mthods all over youtube for creating you're own Templates, which I think are just PDF's
This is an area I think Remarkable should be doing a lot more with. While the table has the ability to search for folder names and document names, it has no facility to run a seach on the contents of the documents. So if you've uploaded some PDFs, Ebooks or run OCR on one of your docs the tablet cannot search the text for you.
So far i've covered the Tablet and the software on it, next I'll take a look at how the tablet can be used to interact with the world around you.
Remarkable has Apps to interact with Windows and Mac on the Desktop and Android and iPhone on mobile.
To download the Desktop Apps you'll need a my.remarkable.com account. Once there, the Desktop App can be downloaded, the mobile devices are available on the respective App Stores
Once Downloaded and installed the first run will ask for a Verification code
This can be generated on the my.remarkable.com webpage
The code is an alphanumeric 2FA code
The App, like the tablet is pretty basic and provides an interface to upload ebooks and PDF's onto the tablet or pulling down the documents you've created
The Export options are PDF, SVG and PNG
The my.remarkable page keeps track of the apps you've installed for Desktop
for the Mobile apps, the process and functionality is pretty similar, download an app, install it, register it against an account and view/download the same files but on your mobile and again. The devices are tracked on the my.remarkable.com website
One area of functionality I've found useful with the Desktop App, is the ability to create notes using it,
Copy and pasting text from OneNote or Word Documents has been really useful if there is something i want to draw out around them on the train home.
Ebooks and PDF's
It wouldn't be an eink tablet if there wasn't some support for books and PDF's
There isn't (as far as I'm aware) an Amazon like ecosystem here for Remarkable tablets and it supports the epub and pdf format only. So you'd need to find a service which allowed you to download the ebooks you'd like to read in either of these two formats.
The files are then sync to the tablet using the Desktop or Mobile app turning it into a basic e:reader.
The Tablet will remember where you left off (most of the time) in a book and you can take notes, highlight and doodle on the PDF's however something i can't seem to figure out is if I've made a bunch of notes on a PDF on the tablet how to pull that edited PDF off the tablet for use elsewhere. It just seems to pull the original PDF without the additional data.
As well as the Apps, its possible to link the Remarkable 2 to 3 of the popular Cloud storage services.
Adding each of these will pop up a T&C's and then ask to login to the service from the my.remarkable.com website
Once connected back on the tablet additional folders will be displayed for each service which has been added
And like the local folders you can navigate around each of these services while attached to WiFi
You can copy files from the Cloud service to the local file system for offline browsing and vice versa to save it.
reMarkable 1 and 2 are compatible with PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and EPUB ebooks.
Docs, Slides, and Sheets from Google Drive can be viewed as PDFs on your reMarkable paper tablet. These files can also be copied to My Files as PDFs to work on or annotate.
You can sort files saved in Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive to show compatible files first, making it easier to view and copy documents across to your paper tablet
Filter your files by tapping Sort by, and then Compatibility in the top right-hand corner, you can also choose to sort by file size, last updated, file type, or alphabetical order by tapping this text.
When using Google Drive, you can access content stored in shared drives. To find your shared drives, choose Google Drive from the side menu. Shared drives will appear as folders at the top of the screen. Software version 2.13 is required to access shared drives on your reMarkable.
As a user of both Google Drive and OneDrive I've found this incredibly useful.
Finally on the eco system software front is the Chrome Browser plugin
If you've ever used the Send to Pocket or Raindrop extension its pretty much the same idea
Head to a Webpage
Click on the Icon in the Chrome Toolbar
Then head to the Tablet and give it a few seconds to sync up
The webpage is then saved as a PDF Document which notes can be written on.
Convert Writing to text
One final trick up the sleeve of the remarkable tablet will have a lot to do with how neat your handwriting is. Its possible to convert from my chicken scratch handwriting to text.
To do this..
Open your notebook, ebook, or PDF to the page containing the handwritten notes you want to convert.
Tap the Share and convert button, then Convert notes to text. Your converted notes will be added as a new page.
Double-tap the text to bring up the on-screen keyboard and edit your notes. This won’t affect your handwritten notes.
your milage will vary on this I can attest to that. Its not the best handwriting convertion system out there. However if I put on my grown up writing and use a lined paper template most times the conversion works quite well. I don't write cursive/joined up normally which may help.
Working with OneNote
So the initial ask was one to have a workflow which worked with OneNote and I kind of found one which worked, its not as baked in as the Livescribe was to Evernote however its working for now.
The basic premise is to setup the firstname.lastname@example.org email to my Office365 Address and have a mail rule so each time i send a mail to my O365 address it forwards it to email@example.com address which delivers the content to OneNote as a PDF or PNG
From the tablet i can then mail the output to my o365 address.
This video goes through the workflow.
From a purely haptic performance over the last week and a bit, i stand by the sentence i wrote at the start of this post. This is hands on the most tactile paper like digital writing experience I've ever had.
This all on its own would score 10/10 for me, as it makes me want to write and use the device, as opposed to tablets where i won't use the pens because it just feels like writing on glass.
The Tablet itself purposely isn't a power house and to criticise it for not being snappy compared to a Samsung Tab would be wrong, its not like for like, it responds at the correct pace for the task its designed for.
I could see how at launch nearly 2+ years ago how this might have been buggy and I'm guessing some of the eco system features were not there at the time. in 2023 however the mix of App, Chrome Plugin and Tablet does work well, its easy to get the content on and off the tablet. the integration to the cloud storage was also a really nice feature right on the tablet.
What can I say more? If you're looking for something to take notes with while on a Zoom call, in a face to face face meeting which doesn't look awkward, feels nice, is responsive enough to deal with the pace of the meeting and notes being taken, then this is a great choice.
If you're looking for a large ereader or an artist tablet, i'm not 100% sure this is the device for you, there are better options out there.
There is also an interesting hack eco system out there for the Remarkable systems (1 & 2) which i've linked some examples below.