reMarkable 2 review: The first tablet that actually writes like paper

When it comes to journaling, notetaking, and document annotation, Apple's tablet has finally met its match.

When most people think of a tablet, an iPad comes to mind. Sometimes a Surface Pro and maybe a Fire tablet. But they're all the same: a touchscreen you use to read, watch videos, play music, play games, check email and social media, and (maybe) get some work done.

The reMarkable 2 is almost nothing like an iPad. The screen is E Ink instead of color. It doesn't have an app store; it doesn't play videos or music; and you can't play games on it. With so many things it doesn't do, why the hell would anyone pay $399 for it?

I wondered the same after taking delivery of the reMarkable 2. I own a Kindle, but still prefer reading real books so a larger e-reader doesn't appeal to me. And with iPads starting as low as $329, a $399 tablet that few people have ever heard of didn't seem like a good value.

Then I started writing on it...

I've used almost every kind of tablet stylus available. The Apple Pencil, Surface Pen, S Pen, etc. As close as some of these styluses have come to replicating the feel of writing with a real pencil or pen, you can still feel (and see) there's some latency when the tip is dragged on the glass display.

That's not the case with the Marker styluses for the reMarkable 2. Both of them โ€” the Marker and the Marker Plus โ€” are the most pencil and pen-like writing experience I've ever used on any tablet (display even). There's virtually no perceivable delay from the moment the digital ink spills out of the tip.

Taking notes on reMarkable 2 with a Marker is so smooth and so pencil-like, it's truly like writing in a notebook. Compared to other styluses and tablets, there's almost no resistance as the digital ink comes out. The tip never drags on the screen the way other styluses do. It also helps that the fine texture to the Markers also makes them more pencil-like than the smooth plastic and aluminum on other styluses.

There's even a nifty handwriting-to-text feature that works really well!

For handwriting digital notes, the reMarkable 2 and Marker is unmatched and I prefer it over an Apple Pencil or S Pen. Drawing is a different story. While the Markers are tilt and pressure-sensitive and you can choose from different brushes and thicknesses, the reMarkable's E Ink display limits you to black and white. This is fine for sketching, but it's a major deal-breaker if you want to go further with color.

Mostly, the Marker and Marker Plus work identically. They both attach magnetically to the side of the reMarkable 2and don't require charging or pairing. The only difference is that the Marker Plus has a built-in eraser at the top, which works exactly like a real one. Just flip the Marker Plus over and erase what's on the screen. It sure beats tapping the undo button every time and it's more versatile for erasing certain parts as opposed to undoing the last stroke.

The stylus snaps to the side of the reMarkable 2 via magnets.

The downside to the fantastic Markers: they're sold separately. $49 for Marker and $99 for the Marker Plus. That's not as pricey as Apple Pencil ($129 for second-gen or $99 for first-gen), but it's still an additional cost on top of the already hefty $399 reMarkable 2. With a regular Marker, the total for a reMarkable 2 and stylus totals up to $448. To get that eraser, your cost of ownership balloons to $500.

Tons of templates

I usually prefer free-handing my notes and sketches on a blank page. But I also appreciate the included templates for things like checklists and storyboarding. In fact, I storyboarded this review on the reMarkable 2.

Templates make it really easy to storyboard videos or even modern storytelling formats like this one that you're reading.

Fine e-reader

The reMarkable 2 is a beautiful piece of hardware: it's thin (4.7mm โ€” thinner than an 5.9mm iPad Pro) and light (0.89 pounds) and made of premium metal and glass materials. The Book Folio's a handsome accessory, too, offering stylish protection via a magnetic attachment. But it's nothing special as an e-reader.

That's hella thin. Don't worry it doesn't bend. (I tried.)

Loading e-books (ePUB format without DRM) and PDFs on the reMarkable 2 is easy enough using an app for Android, iOS, PC, or Mac. I've been reading Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama and while the 10.3-inch display is way more spacious than my Kindle's 6-inch screen, I can't say that it helped me read faster. It's a real bummer there's no backlight for reading in the dark.

There's also a Chrome extension for sending websites to your reMarkable 2 for reading later. It works, but it also strips out images, which really sucks. What's an article without photos, even if they're black and white? I didn't find myself using the extension very often. There are a million and one better ways to bookmark a website for reading later.

Battery that lasts and lasts

I have charged the reMarkable 2 less than a handful of times in 2 months I've been testing it. Like other E Ink devices, the reMarkable 2 battery lasts and lasts. It's good for about two weeks of continuous use and up to 3 months on standby; it makes the iPad's 10-hour battery life look absolutely weaksauce. Also, it charges via USB-C. (Thank god!)

USB-C! Thank god!

Who should buy?

That's easy: serious notetakers. The reMarkable 2 is for a very, very niche audience. It's a specialty device for note-taking lovers. As someone who has always loved notebooks and got into journaling this year, I understand the appeal. I showed the tablet to a friend who's also a paper fanatic and she loved it. She initially balked at the price, but the more she tried it, the less outrageous the price seemed.

For most people, an iPad makes more sense. It costs less and the multimedia and app ecosystem are more valuable than a paper-like writing experience. I don't think for a second reMarkable expects to sell truckloads of these tablets and "kill" iPads. But if you're a notetaking obsessive looking for a tablet that prioritizes notetaking, you're gonna love the reMarkable 2.

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