The reMarkable paper tablet, good and with opportunity


I have finally received my reMarkable after waiting since summer, and used it for about a week now. I have used up about half of my first pen nib, need to charge the paper tablet daily and it has completely replaced my Leuchtturm journaly and Lamy pen for keeping my daily journal.

I definetely consider myself a paper person, the target group according to the paper tablet makers. The more I digitize and optimize my workflows, the more I find myself reliant on paper for the thinking part and software for the doing part of work. The penmanship is really about focus and self expression without distractions. The paper experience frees the mind to single focus in a way the computer experience is unhelpful for. The computer on the other hand can render the conceptual ideas, visualizations, data models, and presentation materials in ways not remotely possible by hand.

My experience with serious note-taking in journal form started 10 years ago in 2007 and has since become a solid habit. Dare I say it has actually become a ritual for every occasion of thinking or part of the interaction in professional circumstances. To keep, process and complete journal entries helps me think and stay afloat in the ecosystem I’m embedded in: to enable business capabilities by means of implementation of enterprise software and new ways of working, both towards sought effects. Architect work. My note-taking has expanded to about eight to ten Leuchtturm academy pads a year and quite a lot of ink. It was time to find an alternative!

My reMarkable paper tablet

The reMarkable was surprisingly good at replacing my paper addiction. I have already found novel use cases beyond just replacing my characteristic black Leuchtturm. I send documents to it to scribble on and review instead of printing or screen-reading. The new habit is better as I don’t need to manage the paper, the notes are always with me, and I save trees. I now regularly use reuse illustrations from the paper tablet notebooks and find the device to be neater and lighter to carry than the paper equivalent. There are downsides as well which I will elaborate on, most of which I expect the reMarkable team to sort out in the coming months. The combination of touch and pen is really nice, and feels natural.

One downside is that the plastic nibs on the writing end of the pen were less durable than I had hoped for. It means I still need to manage the digital equivalent of ”ink” and have extra nibs on hand. They supply eight of them with the device and new ones are easily ordered though. The battery currently lasts less than a day for me, being a heavy writer, and that is less than enough. The current three levels of pressure sensitivity for the pencil is less than enough for really emulating a real one, especially since the hardware is capable of much more. It seems the pen/pencil traces are made entirely in black and white pixels with no greys which is something I hope will be changed in future releases, to make exported files look smoother. The pressure sensitivity and tilt seem to work much better for the other pen types, yet still only blacks, no grey smoothing.

The mobile apps side of things works, yet both the PNG and PDF exports are unpolished. They will need some work to get the natural paper origin kind of look to them. I find a relevant benchmark to be how scanned handwritten notes on paper looks.

My reMarkable paper tablet needs charging

The next software update is scheduled “soon” (last updated November 28th) and I believe that many of the most important initial issues will be adressed then. The primary one to fix and that they say will be in the first software update, is to bring down battery drain. The battery charges rapidly so it is manageable. When I asked customer services about battery use, they were nice and I got a good answer within hours through the Facebook messenger chat.

At the moment, it’s a product for the fairly early adopter and fully usable. It is impressive in execution and an impressive launch from a completely new company. The unboxing was a polished one, as was the setup procedure. I found it really easy to get started. The have managed to create a nice user experience and kept the user interface clean and simple. The interaction with the device is clean, it just waits for your input and does mostly nothing on it’s own. It’s predictable and is really different from regular devices that dims the light, notifies you about things and just craves your attention. The reMarkable is there for you, when you want to look at it, and stays in the background when not in the spotlight.

In summary, I find that reMarkable delivered on their promise, to provide an enhanced and better version of paper! At least it is a better paper for me, and having layers on paper is useful, for example to annotate PDF:s or ebooks (ePub)! It is on par with what I expected for the first release, and I expect the first few software updates to make a big difference.

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