Editor’s note: Sometimes, we find products compelling, interesting or curious enough, we like to get a second opinion on them. The ReMarkable 2 tablet is one of those products. In this piece, two of our staffers — Nick Caruso and Will Sabel Courtney — each share their impressions of this fascinating piece of tech.
Nick Caruso: Have you ever wished you could write on a Kindle? If you’re the type of person who has, odds are you’ve seen the ReMarkable tablet, maybe through a targeted Instagram ad like I did. I’d been vaguely aware it for several years, but my interest was newly piqued with reviews of the new ReMarkable 2 ($299)—or RM2, as the fans call it. And after a few weeks of testing, I can confidently say that, while not without its flaws, the RM2 is not the gimmick I worried it might be.
Will Sabel Courtney: After hearing Nick’s initial report on the ReMarkable 2, I found myself incredibly curious. I’ve long had an interest in e-ink devices — any tech that lets me read without the curse of backlight is appealing to my screen-weary eyes — and adding in the ability to write and draw on it as well made it sound like a potential game-changer for my daily reading and editing routine.
What’s Good About the ReMarkable 2:
NC: Unlike so many modern gadgets, the RM2 is a gleeful unitasking device. Its primary goal, simply put, is to replace a stack of paper — and not much else besides.
Like the original reMarkable before it, the RM2 lets you create “notebooks” using dozens of templates (lined rule, gridded dots, day planners, music staffs, storyboards, blank), and are organized in folders. You write, notate papers, highlight books, draw sketches, etc., using a wide variety of digital writing implements, which each mimic the look of their IRL versions, thanks to the RM2’s 4,000+ levels of pressure sensitivity. The pencil leaves an imperfect graphite line; the calligraphy pen makes everything you write look effortlessly fancy. All your writing and drawing can be erased, rotated, copied, pasted, moved and otherwise manipulated with a tap or two. Create layers, a la Photoshop, and manipulate them separately for more complex creations.
All of these files and notebooks and pages can be organized, rearranged, deleted, and shared between the RM2 and an app on your phone and/or on your computer (everything backs up in the cloud and appears on all the devices automatically). You can import pdfs and ePub ebooks (I know) to scribble all over, and then email those documents to whomever you please. A just-released Chrome browser extension sends text-only or pdf versions of webpages to your device for reading and marking up too. And there’s a text conversion tool that works surprisingly well, especially considering I have handwriting a friend recently referred to as “truly shocking.”
The first reMarkable tablet (still available, just on Amazon) was an impressive product debut, but in context, the RM2 is a huge step forward. It is “the thinnest tablet” in existence: at 0.19 inches, it’s 30 percent thinner than its predecessor. It also sports a battery that lasts three times as long and its e-ink responsiveness is greatly improved (latency is just 21ns, meaning it basically doesn’t exist). Its case is aluminum, and the whole thing weighs less than a pound. It feels simultaneously substantial and gossamer; I frequently feel like I’ll snap it in half, but have also accidentally dropped it once or twice with zero ill effects. RM2 charges with USB-C and features loads of magnets to attach it to folios and to keep styluses in place when not in use. Its processor is fast and storage is ample–8GB goes a long way with pdfs.
The result is a device that I literally cannot stop using. I read and highlight books and screenplays, send drafts of my own documents to the RM2 so I can mark them up like a sadistic professor, and take notes in real time when I’m hosting the Gear Patrol Podcast. I doodle when I’m on the phone with friends. I’ve even downloaded PDFs of crossword puzzles to do while I ignore Netflix.
WSC: There’s no arguing with the fact that using the ReMarkable 2 is utterly delightful. Nick isn’t exaggerating: writing and drawing on the tablet feels as natural and organic as doing so on a real piece of paper. The different types of pseudo-writing implement produce different results — the pencil’s line is different from the ballpoint pen’s, which is different from the highlighter, which is different from the paintbrush. Add in the aforementioned low latency, and the result is a truly remarkable writing or drawing experience.
Likewise, the slim, light nature of the tablet means carrying it around is almost effortless. If your bag is big enough to carry a magazine, it can handle the ReMarkable, even with the added leather case snapped on. I’ve started slinging it in my backpack when I go on trips, whether to load up on briefings before driving new cars, making notes for future reviews and stories, or just plain reading up on stories I’ve saved to check out later when I finally have time to do so. My artistic partner, in turn, has started using it for sketching; it’s much easier just to grab the ReMarkable than get out the good drawing paper and pencils.
What’s Not Ideal About the ReMarkable 2:
NC: First, this is an expensive device. A price of $299 is nothing to shake a stick at, and several orders of magnitude more expensive than a ream of paper and a pencil. Worse yet, that only gets you the tablet. To make use of the best part of this thing, the writing part, you will need to shell out an additional $49 for the Marker, or $99 if you want the Marker Plus with its back-end sensor for eraser emulation. There are also the folios ($69+) .if you want to be able to protect your investment from scuffs and scratches. And if you factor in spare stylus tips (which are designed to gradually wear away in order to give you that tactile drawing sensation), you’re in for about $530 — around the same as you’d pay for the new 10th-gen iPad and an Apple Pencil.
Beyond reading and some organizing, the mobile and desktop apps lack functionality. On the device, you organize and navigate mostly using menus and submenus; there’s no drag and drop functionality, and only a few touch and swipe gestures at present. It’s a little clunky, but then so is… I dunno, getting heavy books off the top shelf? There is no backlight, so reading in low light is really hard. The Reddit community argues heatedly a lot about how well the brand serves and responds to customers, often citing a lack of specific features; in fact, many have hacked and modified their own devices.
WSC: While the app makes it easy to sync PDFs between computer and tablet, it still requires an extra couple steps to do so: if you want to sign a contract, for example, you have to drag it into the app, wait for it to sync with your tablet, do your business, then wait for it to re-sync and then re-download it to your hard drive before uploading it wherever it needs to go.
Want to read a book on the ReMarkable 2? You’d better hope it’s in the public domain, and better be prepared to poke around the Internet looking for a plain-jane PDF copy of it, or else you won’t be able to drop it on your tablet. Want to read a longform article instead? Unless you happen to come across the aforementioned Chrome extension — which requires a) poking around the ReMarkable site, and b) using Chrome — it’s more complicated than just clicking “Save as PDF,”since all the formatting of web pages tends to crush down the text to a narrow, barely-legible column. Before I tried the Chrome plug-in, I had to resort to copying all the text from stories, pasting it in a Word document, then saving that as a PDF before uploading to ReMarkable’s server. (The results turned out great — but it’s enough of a burden that I only wound up doing it for stories I really wanted to read.) None of these tasks are individually laborious, but they combine to make the barrier to everyday use an unexpectedly high hurdle.
Perhaps the biggest danger to the ReMarkable 2’s current success comes from the ranks of the FAANG complex — not from Apple, but Amazon. As of late 2022, the Bezos brand is now offering a Kindle that, like this tablet, lets you write on it via an electronic pen: the Kindle Scribe. While we haven’t had the chance to test it yet, the fact that it’s priced at just $370 (including the pen) and enables you to seamlessly read anything from the Kindle library arguably makes it a much more appealing proposition for buyers looking to maximize the value of their products.
The ReMarkable 2: The Verdict
NC: When I show folks the RM2, most approach it as an iPad downgrade, which it isn’t. It’s a massive upgrade for all your reading material, notebooks and papers. The RM2 is the most novel product I’ve experienced in quite some time. Actually, it’s the most interesting and fun anything I’ve tested since I used to test McLarens. It’s just not as swoopy, and slightly less expensive.
WSC: As much as I’ve enjoyed using the ReMarkable 2, its minor quibbles mean I finding myself coming back to the same question: who, exactly, is the ideal user for this product? Students, perhaps, if your textbooks and reading materials come in PDF form; on the flip side, teachers who receive assignments in digital form but still prefer to mark up with pen and paper would also likely appreciate it. No doubt other folks who often deal with lengthy documents will find it helpful, even in ways that I can’t think of.
Yet none of that diminishes the pleasure of actually using the ReMarkable 2— even if it’s now facing more competitors than it was when it first debuted. To stick with Nick’s automotive comparison, much as a McLaren is likely not the first, second or third car in the average owner’s garage, the ReMarkable 2 will not be your primary, secondary or even tertiary piece of tech. It’s not the most flexible gadget. But again, much like a Macca, it does what it does very well — and you’ll have a great time using it.