A few years ago we reviewed Remarkable, a sort of Kindle and iPad hybrid that tried to offer the feel of writing on paper with the smarts of a tablet. Now the sequel – the Remarkable 2 – is here and these are our early thoughts.
Try not to think of Remarkable 2 as a tablet in the same vein as the iPad Pro 2020 or Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus. Even though the brand behind the Remarkable 2 refers to it as the ‘world’s thinnest tablet’, you won’t be picking this up to binge on Netflix, scroll social media or as a laptop replacement.
Like Amazon’s Kindle, this is a very focussed piece of tech aimed at a niche market. It’s essentially digital paper, with a monochrome e-ink display designed to feel like a sheet of A4. There’s no backlight, no apps and, well, no distractions.
While the first iteration was good, there were obvious areas that could be improved. This second version is far slimmer, up to twice as responsive and with three times as much battery life. Other benefits include a move to USB-C (yay), a smarter pencil and classier accessories.
Before I get onto how good this is to use, it’s worth looking at the price – it’s not cheap. The tablet is £399 (more than the basic iPad), with the Marker (the stylus) £49 and the Folio case £69. There’s also a slightly spruced up Marker Plus that’ll cost £99 and a number of very nice leather cases that cost £149. Now, at the time of writing, you can get a bundle consisting of the tablet, basic folio and Marker for £399, saving you £137.
I think it’s slightly odd the Marker isn’t included by default, as buying the tablet without it is virtually pointless.
The display is the star here and it’s really what separates this from a more traditional ‘media’ tablet. It’s a 10.3-inch monochrome Canvas panel that uses e ink tech. It’s ridiculously sharp at 226 ppi and has a textured finish that, when combined with the pen, makes it feel like you’re writing on paper. There’s the right amount of friction, very low latency and the experience is more akin to real writing than it is on a traditional tablet.
I’ve been using this as my main notebook over the past week and my partner has used it to draw – she’d usually Procreate on an iPad Pro – and we’ve both been impressed with just how much of a pleasurable experience this is. Yes, you don’t have the same feature set as an iPad, but when writing and drawing feels this natural, that issue almost fades away.
There’s no form of backlight, which makes night time writing or drawing hard without aid. I understand the decision to a point and yes, paper doesn’t have a backlight either, but the addition of a front light (the kind you’d find on a Kindle Paperwhite) would have added more versatility. There’s no colour support either, so you’ll need a separate device to colour in. Still, the matte finish removes any form of glare and it looks as good outside as it does inside.
Both versions of the Marker came in my review kit, with the Plus model offering a clever eraser on the top and a sleek black colour scheme. Both pens are ace, with the ability to properly sketch and apply more pressure for thicker lines – just like a real pencil. Neither requires any form of charging either, and they attach magnetically to the tablet’s side when not in use.
The display is rightfully the star here, but don’t dismiss the design. This is a gorgeous piece of tech that’s ever so thin (4.7mm) and light, that it lets you focus entirely on what you’re writing or drawing. It slips in a bag with barely any added weight and I can easily hold it with one hand to read through a document.
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There’s a USB-C port on the bottom for charging, a lock switch on the top and small silicone pads on the back so it rests, slip-free, on a table. It’s these little things that show this is made by people who actually want to use something like this.
Along with drawing and notes, the Remarkable 2 can be used as an e-reader for epub files transferred from a computer. I’ve also used it to sign PDFs. Arguably the least attractive aspect is the software, which is fine and basic but takes getting used. The idea here is ‘no distractions’, so don’t expect anything like an app store, browser or social media feature but there is a companion iOS, Android and Mac/Windows app for syncing notes and other files. Would I like to easily get a look at my Google Docs to make quick edits? Of course, but it feels like that would never be a feature added. This is a limited product, but that’s the point.
Spec-wise, the Remarkable 2 has 1GB RAM, 8GB storage and a dual core ARM processor. It supports Wi-Fi, has a 3000mAh battery that’ll last a few weeks and 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity in the display.
Remarkable 2 – Early Verdict
I’ve been properly charmed by the Remarkable 2. It’s different from any other tablet out there and while it’s oh so niche, it knows what it wants to be and it’s very good at what it does. Would it replace an iPad Pro in my bag if I could only choose one? Probably not, but on a desk it’ll be my new notebook.
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