The ReMarkable Tablet, a second look

I wrote a review of the Remarkable Tablet in November 2017 shortly after I got mine, I have now been using it for about a year.  So how well has it fared ?  Well it has been pretty good.

Recap

The ReMarkable is a tablet computer used for note taking and as an E-reader.  It has an E-ink display which one can write on and draw.

The tablet is 18 cm by 25.7 cm by 0.7 cm but the screen area is 15.6 cm by 21 cm which is slightly wider than A5 size.

There are three buttons at the bottom of the screen which are (from left to right) ‘previous page’, ‘home’ and ‘next page’.

There is also a USB socket for charging and for connection to a computer.  The tablet can also connect via WiFi to synchronise with the ReMarkable cloud service and to get software updates.

The story so far

I have been using this device for about a year and during that time all the little bits of paper which I used to carry with me have disappeared.  I used to have a small notebook, a Lab book and a bundle of small pieces of paper which usually resided in a plastic bag in my backpack.  The contents of all these bits of paper and the notebooks are now in the ReMarkable tablet.  It is a lot more convenient having everything in one place, I am no longer left looking for that one bit of paper which contained that vital piece of information which I have somehow mislaid.

And all my handwritten notes now automatically appear on my laptop and desktop computers and on my mobile phone.

The ReMarkable can also be used as an e-reader and so I have various papers and articles in PDF format in the tablet.  When the ReMarkable was first released it had some problems with PDF files.  It converted them to bitmapped images (one per page) and this had two detrimental effects, firstly the annotations were not scaled properly when you scaled the page to crop the blank areas around the text.  The second was that the text could no longer be searched.  A recent software update has fixed these problems to some extent.

The annotations are now scaled correctly with the page and the OCR data in the PDF is no longer deleted so after being converted (copied to the tablet) it is still searchable.  However the PDF is still converted to bitmaps so the PDF file becomes very bloated.

It must be noted that if you copy a PDF file from your computer to the ReMarkable the original is not affected.  However the file copied to the tablet is affected and this is the one which contains your annotations.  If you want to use those annotations then when you retrieve the file back onto your computer it will be a lot bigger than it was.

It is good to use a tablet without having the distractions, reminders and alarms that come with most modern digital devices.  A pen and a blank page is about as distraction free as you can get.

The advert says that it’s just like writing on paper, it isn’t just like paper but it is by far the best writing experience of any of the touch screens, tablet computers or graphics tablets I have used or tried.  It is excellent, but it is different to writing on paper.

There are some touch screens which are glossy and smooth, these are especially bad to write on.  The ReMarkable has a satin feel with a moderate amount of friction which makes it very easy to write on.

Software updates

Since I got the tablet there have been several software updates.

Various things have been fixed and little inconveniences eradicated.  Many of the criticisms in my first review of the ReMarkable have been addressed.  The first of the updates improved the battery life considerably by switching the WiFi off when it wasn’t needed and only switching it on for a short time when it was needed.

The tablet now remembers what pen you were using and restores that pen when switching tools.

The handling of PDF files has been improved considerably as has the selection of templates.

Optical Character Recognition has been implemented so you can now convert your handwriting into text.  This feature still has a few rough edges however.

Overall the utility of the tablet has been improved quite a lot.

Pen

One disappointing thing about the ReMarkable tablet is the pen.  It functions correctly but it has the look and feel of a cheap biro.  An expensive tablet like this deserves a quality writing instrument and the pen supplied with the ReMarkable is not.

Don’t get me wrong it functions very well but it just feels flimsy.  It has a white plastic body which turns to white rubber at the writing end.  The white rubber easily gets scuffed and picks up dirt and marks quite easily.

Another problem is the fact that there is no pen clip.  This means that if you put it down on a surface which is not flat and level it rolls away.

I have found a metal pen clip which was made for a pen with roughly the same diameter as the ReMarkable pen and so my pen doesn’t roll away any more.

Replacement pen tips are now available on Amazon which is good as you get to avoid the exorbitant shipping costs.

Graphics Pad

It seems to me that the people at ReMarkable have missed a trick here, the tablet with the correct software could perform as a really good Graphics Tablet.

The problem I find with most graphics tablets is that your hand is in one place and your eyes are looking at another place.  You are writing/drawing on the tablet and looking at the screen so for me it is difficult to get the hand eye coordination to work.  I don’t know if other people have this same problem or if it might come together if I persisted.

With the right software the ReMarkable tablet could be a really good graphics tablet with it’s own display.

Buttons

On the ReMarkable there are three buttons along the bottom of the screen.  This can be a problem if you are writing near to the bottom of the screen in Portrait mode.  The tablet ignores your hand resting on the display, however it can cause problems if your hand rests on one of the buttons.

One of the software updates did address this issue and disables the buttons when you are writing near the bottom of the screen and this has improved the situation but it can still be a problem.

Another solution would be to turn the screen through 180° so the buttons are now at the top of the screen, this would mean that the functions of the left and right buttons would need to be swapped but this is not difficult to do.

This could be extended to have modes for left handed and right handed people when working in Landscape mode so that the buttons could be at either end of the screen.

Text formats

The ReMarkable functions as an e-reader for PDF files and EPUB files but these are the only two formats it supports.

Bizarrely it cannot display plain text files, this seems a very bad omission to me, there are still an awful lot of files out there in plain ASCII text and it is the simplest and most compact format to handle and display.

I have raised this issue with the support team at ReMarkable and I was told to print the text file to a PDF file and everything would be OK.  Yes but it makes the file many times bigger than it would otherwise have been, especially once it has been converted for display on the tablet.

Folio

The Folio is also disappointing.  It is very expensive and not very good quality.  I have one of the original folios which I got with the tablet, they were on sale separately for £59, these are no longer available, there is now a new version which comes in various colours and materials from £79 to £119.

I don’t know if the new ones are any better but the one I got with my original purchase started to delaminate within a week and the stitching started to come apart at one corner.  They are not worth the money and not very well made.  There are many sleeves which will fit the ReMarkable tablet on sale on Amazon and they are a lot less expensive.

Conclusion

The ReMarkable has become indispensable to me.  All the handwritten pages are synchronised with the ReMarkable cloud service whenever the ReMarkable is switched on and within range of my WiFi so they get synchronised with my computers and my mobile phone.  Even simple things like having my shopping list appear on my mobile phone is very convenient.

As an e-reader the ReMarkable is good, it would be even better if it supported plain text files.

As a note taking system it is limited by the fact that it tries to imitate paper notebooks so something more is needed to organise the pages.  I regularly copy handwritten notes into ConnectedText and InfoQube.

I can do OCR on pages and send them by e-mail.

Worth the money?

Yes, well worth it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s