Remarkable 2 Hands on Review

The Remarkable 2 is one of the most eagerly anticipated digital note taking devices of the year. The first generation model was crowdfunded and almost immediately available soon thereafter.  The Remarkable 2 is being released in a staged format. Pre-orders have been ongoing for almost six months and the initial batch was supposed to come out already, but was delayed two months. Most people who pre-ordered one a couple of months ago, won’t get it until September or October, orders placed today, won’t receive it until December. Basically, Remarkable is taking the pre-order money and using it for production. They are only a small company, so they can’t afford to make thousands of units at once.

Remarkable is one of the most popular brands in the world. Many  people turn to this device because the UI and menu system is in English, so millions of people can use it. The hardware on the second gen model has been enhanced, with a better processor, more storage and additional RAM. The stylus has been redesigned and they also have a new premium one.

Hardware

The Remarkable 2 features a 10.3 inch E INK display with Canvas 2.0 technology for a better refresh system when viewing PDF files or reading ebooks. It has improved, contrast, making sure it gives a great writing and reading experience.The resolution is the same as the original with 1872×1404 with 226 PPI, it also has multi-point capacitive touch. The screen has 21ms latency, which is very ideal.

Underneath the hood is a 1.2 GHZ dual core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Remarkable has basically doubled the processor and RAM from the original, but has kept the internal storage the same.  Also, the company has decided to forgo a Micro USB port and instead embrace USC-C, which should appeal to the vocal minority that hates having multiple cables.

It is powered by a 3,000 mAH battery and one charge should last around three weeks, the original model only lasted a few days. You can also leave it in standby mode for up to 90 days. It has wireless internet access to download firmware updates and other materials.

The industrial design has changed from the original model. It no longer has a physical home button or manual page turn keys. Instead, everything has been incorporated on a software level, this helps keep the overall design thinner and lighter. Remarkable is basically billing this as the thinnest e-note currently available, the dimensions are 188 x 246 x 4.7 mm (7.4 x 9.6 x 0.19 in) and weighs 403 g.  The color scheme is white, with black accents along the sides of the screen. There is also a big black boarder on the side of the screen, that is meant to look like the binding on a book. It is on this side of the screen that accessories like the cases can magnetically attach to.

What are the major changes for those of you that own a Remarkable 1 and are thinking about buying the Remarkable 2?  The Remarkable 2 has two weeks of battery life, which is three times as longer as the first gen. The Remarkable 2 is 30% thinner, performance is twice as fast, accessories magnetically attach to the device and it uses USB-C for fast charging and data transfer.

I think Remarkable really nailed the design on the Remarkable 2. It looks way better without physical buttons and everything going via the software. The Remarkable 2 basically replaced books, technical documents, notebooks in your bag, with a single device.

Software

Remarkable is basically employing the exact same software on the second generation model, as they are on the first. This allows them to constantly push out new updates that introduce new features and fixes lingering issues. The company has a really good job at producing new updates and they always update their online blog, with very comprehensive changelogs, along with pictures, with what is new and what customers can expect.

The home screen has a bunch of elements. You have the sidebar which is basically shortcuts to all of the major features. You can view your files, notebooks, PDF files, ebooks in EPUB, and favorites. On the very  bottom is a trash option to delete anything you want from the home screen, such as your recently opened files or workbooks you have created.

In order to finetune your Remarkable 2, you will want to visit the settings menu. This is the only screen on the entire device that has a black background, with white text. You can do a lot here. Such as check for firmware updates and what your latest version number is. Configure your WIFI internet access or extend the battery life and put it in airplane mode.If you have sideloaded a bunch of PDF files, ebooks and note taking templates, the storage can fill up fast. You can monitor it by visiting the storage option. One of the things you will want to do right away is is checkout the handwriting conversion system. It allows you to convert handwriting or just writing to text. It can do it in over thirty different languages.

Remarkable has a philosophy on their software design. “In the interests of better thinking and human-friendly technology, the new new paper tablet also features a distraction-free design, without notifications or pop-ups, so that your train of thought remains undisturbed while you work. It’s a standpoint that’s very closely tied to our DNA. There are no social media sharing, internet browser or email.”

One of the more interesting things about this device is the Google Chrome plugin. You can save web articles and send them to your Remarkable 2. This is similar to Pocket, on the Kobo line of e-readers. With the new extension, you can send articles in a simplified text format (EPUB) with a single click. You can adjust text settings on the device to customize your reading experience, and it goes without saying you can annotate your chosen articles. You can also send content as a PDF, if you’d like to see more visuals or crop, so you can write in the margins. To use Read on reMarkable, all you need is the Google Chrome browser and a reMarkable account. You can find more details and specific instructions on setting up Read on reMarkable, in the Chrome Web Store.

The Remarkable 2 is very secure, users can establish a passcode in security settings.  After setting your passcode your work will remain available for your eyes only, unless you choose to share it.

The Remarkable Cloud is something many users should setup, it gives you 8 GB of free storage, allowing you to sync, import/export, and have access to all of your PDF files, ebooks or notes via the mobile or PC apps.

One of the drawbacks about the Remarkable 2 is is the heavy reliance on their desktop app. You need to install this to copy ebooks or PDF files to it. You can only have Remarkable registered to your account at any given time. So if you have a Remarkable 1 you regularly use, you will have to deregister it, or simply create a new account. Unlike many of the other e-notes on the market, you cannot just plug it into your PC via USB-C and expect to drag and drop via Windows Explorer.  If you want to bypass your PC, you can download the Remarkable Companion app for Android or iOS. This will let you send ebooks, PDF files, templates and lots of other things directly to the Remarkable.

The Stylus

Making notes, freehand drawing, editing PDF files or annotating an ebook all starts with the stylus. The new Remarkable pen has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, but does not have any buttons or an eraser.  It weighs 15 grams and comes in grey. It has a magnetic on it, which clamps to the side of the device, and it attaches and holds it into place way better than the Sony Digital Paper. The premium pen, which is called Marker Plus will cost $99 at launch, but is only $50 during the pre-order phase. This one has an eraser, weighs 19 grams, comes in black. Both pens have tilt sensitivity, which allows you to hold it on its side and basically do shading. Remarkable is the only brand out there that lets you do this and is a major selling factor.

The nibs are replaceable, and they tend to wear down if you press hard on the screen. Currently Remarkable 2 does not have replacement nibs for sale and you cannot buy them during the checkout process. They might offer them later, as the pre-order period ends, but the device does ship with eight replacement nibs, which should be good until you can buy more.

The thing I really like about the Remarkable brand in general, is they give you a solid pen with the purchase of the unit. It has hefty weight and does not feel like a piece of cheap plastic. They are also one of the very few in the e-note space (Supernote is the other) that gives an upgrade path. Draw a alot? You should probably go with their premium pen, with the eraser button.

Note Taking

You are buying the Remarkable 2 because you want to make notes, freehand draw, edit PDF files or view and edit EPUB ebooks. The note taking app is the most extensive in the market, and reminds me of Adobe Photoshop. Key selling features is the layering system, where you can have multiple layers, and only edit that specific layer, good for artists looking to flex.

The UI can be put on the right or left hand side, depending on if you are right or left handed, this option can be customized in the settings menu. You have various pen types such as ballpoint pen, fineliner, marker, pencil, mechanical pencil, paintbrush and a highlighter.  There is a line thickness tool, that works great in conjunction to the stylus that has pressure sensitivity. You can select thin, medium or thick lines.  There are also various “colors”, which are black, grey and white. There is an eraser function, that can just delete specific things on the screen, a lasso that you can select to draw around something you want to delete and it will remove it, also you can clear an entire page by erase all. If you draw something, like a car, house or something else, you can hit the area select tool and resize it.

The Remarkable 2 does not have pinch and zoom functionality for their note taking app, this is why you would want to select the zoom levels in order to draw fine details. One of the coolest options is zoom selection, where a circle can be drawn on any area, and it will zoom in a high degree. When you use this method, a small mini map will appear in the top right hand corner. This helps orient, exactly where you are in a note.

If you are going to make notes, Remarkable has 50  templates to get started with. This includes lined paper for handwriting, the music template for writing musical notes, and the checklist template for setting up your to-do lists. I am a big fan of the Remarkables weekly and daily planner, that lets you organize your time in as much detail as you like.

Any notes that you create can be emailed from the Remarkable. They can also be exported into PDF files, PNG images or SVG. This is useful if you want to email a team, or just yourself. I like this system better than plugging the Remarkable into my PC with their Desktop app and doing it manually.

Among the exciting features is handwriting conversion, which turns your handwritten notes into typed text that can be edited and shared by email. There are a few requirements for this function, including being connected to Wi-Fi and being logged in to your reMarkable account. But once you’re set and have updated your software to the latest version, multiple pages of notes can easily be converted into typed text at once.

Editing PDF files has the same UI and options as the note taking app. You can simply use the Remarkable app to sideload in your own PDF files. The PDFs filter displays PDFs imported through the desktop or mobile application and onto your device. The  tablet allows you to easily read and take notes directly on your documents. Annotated PDFs can be shared to email directly from your device or exported through the desktop app. View all pages inside a document by tapping the PDF options icon, then the Page overview icon. Go back to single page view by selecting a page, or tapping Back in the top left corner. Under the PDF options icon, you can also tap Adjust view, for a cropped view of your PDF. The new view will apply to the entire document.  Turn pages within a PDF by swiping left or right, and make annotations with your chosen writing tool from the side toolbar.  You can organize your PDFs by moving them into folders, under My files. All your PDFs will appear in the filtered PDFs section on your reMarkable, regardless of how they are organized. You can also read the PDF files in portrait mode or switch to landscape, depending on how the PDF was structured.

One of the best new features is currently in Beta and is called liveview. You can mirror on your PC, exactly what is being done on the Remarkable. This might not be appealing to many users, for people who do livestreaming on Twitch or Youtube, it might give them an avenue to do live drawings. It is easy enough to capture open programs with OBS. It also is good just to show people what your working on.

The overall PDF experience is excellent. They load really quick and page turn speed is robust. One of the drawbacks of PDF files, is that it doesn’t have a split screen view, similar to what Sony or Fujitsu does with their devices.

Ebook Experience

The Remarkable 2 supports the open ebook format EPUB without DRM, a format available with many ebook retailers. The Amazon Kindle ecosystem is not open to third parties, so you can’t read Kindle books directly on the device. The Remarkable 2 does not come with any ebooks, so you will have to load in your own, such as your personal collection or free content from the internet. You need to use the Desktop app, or your smartphone to transfer them over from your device to the Remarkable

When you open a book you can turn pages using taps or gestures. There are many options that allow you to change the text settings, such as six different font sizes, six font types,  justification, page margins and line spacing. Ebooks can be organized by moving them into folders under My files. All your ebooks will be displayed in the ebook section on your home screen, regardless of where they are located.

You can edit an ebook, using the same settings as the main digital note taking app. So you can highlight, draw, or do anything else. This is useful for proofreaders, who want to easily to cross out words, and insert their own, make highlights,  make underlines, etc.

Remarkable is one of the few companies that has a fully functional ebook experience.  Sony, Fujitsu, Quirklogic and many others only allow you to read and edit PDF files. Supernote, Onyx Boox, Boyue and many others have a stock ebook reading app, but most allow you to install your favorite apps. Some of the pros is that you can import ebooks right from your smartphone to the Remarkable, but they must be DRM free. It will not read EPUBS with DRM, such as those purchased from Barnes and Noble or Kobo. It will also not read library ebooks. The Remarkable 2 does not have support for Adobe DRM, and they have failed to launch the bookstore they promised a year ago.

Wrap Up

The Remarkable 2 is one of the best e-notes on the market, it has the most advanced note taking features, handwriting recognition, can view and edit PDF files and ebooks. There are very few devices that can successfully compare against it.

The main competitors against the Remarkable 2 is the Onyx Boox Note 2, which might not have all of the advanced note taking things, it does hold its own, it has a microphone, so you can even do audio to text, in addition to handwriting recognition. The Supernote A5 also competes against it, but is older, slow, and their handwriting software has been broken for years.

One of the great things about Remarkable in general is that they continue to introduce new features and enhancements. The OS is based on Linux, so it is really stable. Only having two products in their portfolio can accelerate software development. Companies like Onyx, Boyue and a myriad of others all run varying degrees of Android, which makes supporting older models unfeasible and they always tend to issue updates for whatever they are currently selling.

I would really recommend the Remarkable 2 to someone who has an older e-note and wants to upgrade to the latest and greatest. The only barrier right now is the pre-order system, you can’t just buy it and have it delivered in a few weeks. If you order today, it will take 3-4 months for it to be sent out and this depends on stock availability. Hopefully in 2021 the stock situation stabilizes and can be purchased right away, ditto with standalone accessories, cases, stylus and nibs.

Remarkable 2

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Remarkable 2

Rating


4.8/5

Pros

  • Hardware is solid
  • Stock and Premium stylus are the best in the business
  • Supports PDF and EPUBS
  • Best Note taking features
  • USB-C

Cons

  • No SD
  • Reliance on desktop/mobile apps
  • Can’t have more than 1 Remarkable per account

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