Update (2021.07.25): I have bought reMarkable 2. Here is what I think this time around.
About 2 weeks ago, reMarkable has a promotion that discount the price of the tablet for 100€ to 499€. I have been interested in it for quite a while, so I decided to go ahead and give it a shoot. I check the return policy multiple times before I make the final call, and right now I am very glad that I did. I am going to return the tablet.
Why I wanted one
Before I start explain why I decided to return it, I probably should start with how I planned to use it. After graduating from university, I don’t really need to use paper in my daily life anymore. The only time where it feels necessary is when I want to do some sketches on ideas, like some random hardware that I was dreaming about, software architecture that I was working on, or just some quick note taking on post-it notes. Drawing on paper is fine, but it is so hard to organize and store, it does not take long for it to be messy. I have like 2 or 3 notepads, each of them have all sorts of sketches in it. It just does not really work well. I have a iPad mini 2 for a while now, but it is just not that good for this purpose: the screen is too small, and the styli that I have tried are just not that good, especially when I want to read and annotate text books. And when I discovered reMarkable, the promise that it provides an almost paper-like experience sounds super promising.
When I first sketch on the tablet, it feels almost magical. It LITERALLY feels like you are just drawing on a piece of paper with pencil. There’s definitely a few days when I though I would not be returning it. But when the first impression settles down, some drawbacks starts to appear.
One time when I was having a phone call in McDonald (Don’t ask why), I realized that I left the tablet at home and I can’t check what I have written back then, nor add more info to it. And then situations like this happens a couple more times. It reminds me what Casey Neistat said “The best camera is the camera you have with you” (something like that), and that is pretty much exactly the problem I have with reMarkable: I write notes in a much more chaotic manner, and reMarkable is just not a thing that I bring with me everywhere. It is too chunky and specific for me to bring everywhere. I usually unpack everything and repack my bag every day, and if I don’t think I will need something, I won’t put it into my bag. And because of that, keeping the only copy of a note on the tablet is just not a good idea.
The other problem I have with reMarkable is about the reading part of the experience. Like I said above, I don’t enjoy reading textbook on small screens, and reMarkable seems like a decent choice to the problem I have with my iPad mini. But when I start using it, it actually does not feel right either. The display is better for both reading and writing on textbook, but interacting with it is more sluggish than I like: flipping pages is a bit slow, also sometimes it just froze; the pen tip is just too think for writing between lines; and not being able to flip though pages swiftly (because so many textbooks needs you to flip between pages quite frequently) turns out to be a bigger problem then I’ve imagined.
So after some consideration, I realised that I am not really getting what I’m looking for from reMarkable. It is not necessarily a bad device, but it definitely does not fit in my workflow. I am not a paper person. So if I am going to get another writing/reading device, this will be what I am looking for:
- Great connectivity (direct access to Google Drive/whatever cross-platform note taking service that I use)
- Great sketching experience (i.e. dedicated stylus support)
- Great reading experience (preferably E-ink, but good LCD/OLED are also fine, since virtually no one is making E-ink device anymore)
- A bit more multi-purpose (so that I am more likely to bring it out)
Some feedback to reMarkable
Like I said, I am not a paper person, and that’s why this particular device is not for me. But of course, there are still things in the paper department that reMarkable needs to fix/improve to make it a better paper replacement:
- Responsiveness of the device. Get better SoC, hire developers that can improve the code that is running on the tablet, whatever. Physical world and object has little to no reaction time, and to replace paper, you really need to improve upon that.
- Variety. Some people write on small booklet, some people sketch on large notepad. If you guys can somehow get the E-Ink corp. to work with you guys, maybe try to release 1 bigger model and 1 smaller model instead, like how moleskine works.
- Pen panel UI improvement. The pen selector + page selector + all the other buttons and random titles takes up too many space IMO. It looks nice at first, but when I start using it it just becomes annoying. I feel like there has to be a better way to allow easy switching between pens (esp. erasers) without taking up so much useful spaces.
And this is the end of my rant. Again, I really like what they’ve done, and I hope to see what they will come up next!