The reMarkable 2: First Impressions

Nice packaging. The tablet in the righthand box, the protective folio sleeve in the lefthand box, and the marker plus writing stylus in the middle.

The reMarkable 2 arrived five days after it left Hong Kong. That’s pretty good time, especially since the box had to be handed off from DHL to the Post Office.

Inside the box were three boxes, as you can see in the photo above. Everything was neatly packaged. For some reason I find that reassuring.

After removing the unit from the box, I turned it on. It had arrived with 48% power in the battery. There is a paper quick start guide, but there is no need for this as the unit walks you through the set-up procedure, which turned out to be quite simple, including setting up an account with reMarkable so that you can synchronize your notebooks across all devices… once you install the apps on your devices.

It only took me half an hour or so until I was genuinely up and running.

So my initial reaction overall is positive. Here are my evaluations based on my expected criteria (see this post).

First of all, the unit feels solid and well-made. It is very thin, but in no way feels flimsy. Verdict: thumbs up

Writing on the screen is smooth and the “ink” appears almost simultaneously. I can’t say it feels exactly like pen on paper, but it is pretty close. You can choose from various virtual writing implements, such as pencil, fineliner, ballpoint pen, marker, mechanical pencil (see the photo below). I have found that the fineliner produces the best “ink.” That is, the characters are the least pixelated. Verdict: thumbs up

Various virtual writing tools.

The optical character recognition is adequate. The following screen shot is of a test page I wrote on the device… then emailed it to myself as a PDF.

What my handwriting looks like.

You can’t store digital text on the device. You can only get it OCR’d and email it to yourself or someone else. When you do this, the device puts the digital text into the body of the email. The screen shot below shows how the above page was rendered in text:

This is how the reMarkable 2 translated my handwriting into text.

As you can see, the translation was basically pretty good. It missed the capitalized “M” in reMarkable, and made the 2 into a Z (which is understandable given my handwriting). And it recognized the bullet and even indented it.

I tested the OCR with my colleague’s cursive handwriting and reMarkable got it right.

Verdict on OCR: mostly thumbs up, though it could be more robust

I find that I am quite comfortable with the black and white screen. It is pretty easy on the eyes and easy to read. It would look more like paper if the screen were whiter rather than gray, but the experience might not be as good. Verdict on the screen: thumbs up

I feel like I got the hang of the unit pretty quickly. There is nothing complicated about the software, with the exception that I have not figured out how to “favorite” my notes. I haven’t delved into all the functionality yet, but so far I’ve been able to use the device without much issue. Verdict: thumbs up

I set up my account with reMarkable without issue and connected all my devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook) without a problem. All my notes are syncing fine although there is a delay at times, which is a little unnerving at first, until you realize you just have to have a little patience. The apps are simple to use but get the job done. Be aware, however, that the apps are only for viewing your notes. You can’t edit them. There is a search feature, but it doesn’t find the text in the handwritten notes. It will find the names assigned to notebooks and folders. Verdict: thumbs up on the apps, thumbs down on the search

The MacBook reMarkable app. Notes are for viewing only. You can’t edit them. But you can organize them.
Viewing a single notebook page via the MacBook app.

Some other observations

Writing on the reMarkable is much more like writing on a clip board than in a notebook. That’s a good thing, because it means it is always “open” to the page you’re working on.

The biggest downside that I can see is that there is no way to search for your text and that seems unacceptable given that the device already provides a way to OCR handwriting. OneNote does OCR on writing in pictures or PDFs that were created by scans and allows you to search that text. I don’t understand why the reMarkable can’t manage this feat. I think this will prove problematic after I build up 100s of pages in dozens of folders. It can search for the names of notebooks, which you type in. So one solution may be to use notebooks prolifically, giving them descriptive names that can help you zero in on the contents.

Another solution is to move notes out of the reMarkable sphere of apps into a more sophisticated notes manager. For example, since you can email notes into Evernote, that would be relatively simple to do.

So far I’ve used my reMarkable for a bullet journal and shopping list. But I haven’t attended a meeting with it yet, or tried taking research notes yet. I will report again after I’ve genuinely worked it into my note taking routine.

4 thoughts on “The reMarkable 2: First Impressions

  1. My ReMarkable 2 arrived a couple days ago. I had anticipated this for most of the year, since it was initially publicized, and I placed an order 7 months go. I am, unfortunately, underwhelmed — especially by the display. It is gray and dark and not very readable in anything other than daylight or very bright reading lights. Since you’ve use the device now for a while — what is you feeling about the readability / usability of the device?

    1. I can see what you’re saying about the display, but that hasn’t bothered me so much. My biggest problem with the device rests with the OCR. That should be so much more functional than it is. I am hopeful that is a software problem that they can upgrade eventually. I plan to write more about the reMarkable soon.

      1. Exactly. That is my main concern too. I’ve bought it assuming that it could do OCR “in place” (possible toggle-able), but it can’t. That in turn leads to notes that aren’t searchable on-device. Which makes the entire thing almost useless for me save for not losing my paper notes.

        The hardware is awesome and response to writing very quickly etc, as you already mentioned, but for a device of this type the extremely basic OCR functionality is a major let down.

        Guess I should’ve done my due diligence instead of assuming that that would be in there, but it seemed logical.

      2. Agreed. I actually gave my unit to someone who is using it a lot more than I was. OCR is so common these days, that it seems crazy that the reMarkable isn’t better at it. Nebo on the iPad does a great job and it costs like $5 or something ridiculous. Thanks for reading my blog.

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