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reMarkable Paper Tablet

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Summary

Key Features

  • 10.3-inch E Ink display
  • Pen
  • Wi-Fi
  • One-week battery life
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Ships in August 2017
  • Manufacturer: Remarkable
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

reMarkable Paper Tablet hands-on: The notebook of the future

The reMarkable Paper Tablet is an interesting proposition. It’s targeted at those people who still love the texture, feeling and simplicity of paper – the team behind it tell me there are lots of such folk – but who also want something connected, smart and that can be backed up.

The reMarkable is pretty much paper for the 21st century.

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The reMarkable is best described as a combination of an iPad Pro equipped with an Apple Pencil, and a Kindle. It's the size of the iPad, but the display is electronic paper, like the Kindle. It’s also very basic – but then that’s sort of the point. You won’t be watching movies on it, playing games or even browsing the web; the reMarkable Paper Tablet is for drawing, writing and reading.

You might believe this all sounds rather limiting – but, in fact, it's this device's strongest feature. Ditching the additional capabilities available on other devices sets the reMarkable apart.

The 10.3-inch high-resolution screen, for example, actually feels like paper. It has a texture that isn't possible with glass-coated LCD, and that instantly makes writing with the pen feel more natural. I've tried replacing my paper notebook with an iPad Pro, but it doesn't come anywhere near to the feeling of actually writing on paper that I get from the reMarkable.

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Oddly, the pen isn't supplied with the tablet; it’s a $79 additional purchase. I can’t imagine anyone buying this without the pen, so it would've made more sense for it to be included in the package.

While the textured, higher-friction surface makes this feel like paper, it’s the minimal latency when you’re writing or drawing that keeps the feeling going. The team behind the tablet told me it’s the “world’s fastest digital paper”, and while I didn’t have anything on hand to compare it to, it did feel almost instantaneous from pressing the tip down to my scrawls appearing on the display. That short, but very noticeable, lag you’d experience when writing on a tablet isn't there with the reMarkable.

One of the reMarkable’s real strengths is its ability to be a great tool for artists. I was shown a number of sketches and attempted some myself, and the level of detail you can achieve is impressive. The size of the screen might limit those who prefer a big canvas such as a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, but if you’re used to a typical sketchpad then you’ll feel right at home. You have access to various pen types; the stylus is pressure-sensitive, so you can accurately shade and alter thickness by pressing harder; and there are a few extra features for importing your work into Adobe Illustrator.

As a piece of design, the reMarkable is the opposite of its name. The version I used was a prototype, but I was told the final design will be much the same. It’s a clean-looking, plastic device that’s about the same size as an A4 sheet of paper.

Two buttons flank the display on the bottom for flipping through pages, and you'll find a Micro USB port here too for charging. Battery life isn’t quite on a par with a Kindle – which often lasts a month – but I was assured that you’ll get through a heavy working week without needing to reach for the charger.

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The software has been developed specifically for the reMarkable and, like the design and functionality, it’s intentionally simple. There’s no browser or email client, but there are plenty of nice touches that demonstrate how much thought has gone into the development of the device.

The homescreen is laid out like a library, combining your drawings, books and notes into a grid. There’s a search box at the top, which will eventually support searching inside documents thanks to OCR (optical character recognition), and it has options to delve deeper into specific content if there's a lot. There’s no ebook store, so if you’re planning to use the device for reading then you’ll have to get your books from elsewhere.

Arguably the most important aspect of the software is the custom cloud infrastructure and companion apps. Desktop, iOS and Android apps will be available and include live syncing between the tablet and your other devices.

I'd have liked for the syncing aspect to be more open, so you could choose your service – Google Drive, Dropbox and so on – rather than being pushed into reMarkable’s own solution. If my notes could instantly be available on my smartphone through Drive, then this product would be even sweeter.

You will be able to livestream from the reMarkable to a computer, however, which appears to make it an ideal tool for meetings and group working.

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First Impressions

After using the device for a few hours to both take notes and draw, I was charmed by the reMarkable. It’s a niche product, yet it will be invaluable for those who can really get the most from it.

The sensation of writing on the high-friction surface is the best digital representation of paper I've tried, and that instantly puts its above using a consumer tablet such as the iPad Pro.

But the biggest barrier to entrance for this device is surely going to be the price. And, of course, the availability. The reMarkable Paper Tablet was originally conceived on Kickstarter and if you backed it there, you would have got yourself a decent deal. Prices started at $379 (around £295), and those units will begin shipping from August.

However, if you want to buy one now, you'll be paying more. The tablet will cost $529 (£411) and the pen $79 (£61). There's a 33%-off promotion on currently, but that's unlikely to last much longer. Also, ordering it now will see it ship in October, which is quite a long wait.

The reMarkable’s obvious rival, Sony’s DPT-RP1, is even more expensive at $799 (£620), so the price isn't unreasonable. But until it becomes more accessible, the reMarkable will remain a niche product.

tarhonya

May 31, 2017, 4:27 pm

Is there any way of connecting and using a keyboard? Via USB or BT?

toboev

May 31, 2017, 4:37 pm

Any risk of the surface wearing smooth and shiny with lots of use?

Lauren Yee

May 31, 2017, 7:36 pm

On one of the engineering forums a ReMarkable engineer said that they can and do hook a USB keyboard up to the device and type on it during development. However, that is NOT a feature that's going to be publicly available at launch. The hardware capability is there, but for whatever reason they aren't building it into the software. They are thinking about adding this feature on a later update, but have no solid plans. I can't find the thread I read this on, sorry, but that's what I remember from the discussion.

The device has no bluetooth, so it's unlikely that it will ever support a bluetooth keyboard. Which is really too bad. If they added that functionality and the ability to sync with some writing programs they would probably own the market for pressional authors. Nobody likes staring at a screen all day.

Word Merchant

May 31, 2017, 8:01 pm

We need a Kindle this size. Amazon! Get to it.

disqus_er3g2byx2B

May 31, 2017, 8:12 pm

Sony DPT-RP1 is $699, not $799. Includes pen, 13" screen, and Bluetooth.

disqus_er3g2byx2B

May 31, 2017, 8:15 pm

Agree. Keyboard for independent productivity and, for musicians, hands-free operation (e.g., page-turning). Shouldn't have to drag your laptop around with it. Maybe one can tether a Bluetooth keyboard to it through an open document on smart phone.

tarhonya

May 31, 2017, 10:55 pm

Do you have any information if the Sony can pair with any HID devices? (Yes, I am still after that keyboard. Sorry for being a drag.) They only seem to mention file transfer by Bluetooth.

disqus_er3g2byx2B

May 31, 2017, 10:58 pm

Dunno. Really, should implement external keyboard: much more useful.

Marcel Abraas

June 7, 2017, 9:31 am

Does it work properly with pdf-books, including annotations?

tarhonya

June 10, 2017, 12:45 pm

According to recent updates to Amazon's Q&A, it does not pair with keyboards. Too bad: I really do think it is a chance missed given that the hardware is there. Those will have my money who support this.

tarhonya

June 17, 2017, 6:36 pm

Well, the hardware could be easily added via its USB connector (if they could connect a keyboard, it can act as a host): would not be more than a little hump; but software support/SDK would be still necessary.

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