Up until about two years ago I was convinced that electronic paper was an outdated technology that no one really needed. What completely changed my mind was the original reMarkable, an E Ink tablet that so perfectly recreated the pen on paper writing experience that I haven’t used a real notebook since. The reMarkable 2 manages to make that writing experience even better and the updated hardware feels incredibly polished, but sadly, it still won’t completely replace your Kindle.
The design of the original reMarkable tablet made its E Ink screen the star of the show, as it rightfully should be. Its all-white housing was sleek and minimal and helped reinforce the idea that the device was there to replace a blank sheet of paper, but even for someone like myself who obsessively keeps his gadgets clean and pristine, the reMarkable’s plastic housing was easy to get dirty and resistant to letting go of greasy fingerprints. The reMarkable 2, which has a slightly smaller footprint, feels more polished in every way with the use of light gray plastics and metal accents.
The original reMarkable tablet’s microUSB charging port has been replaced with USB-C and pushed to the far left side of the reMarkable 2's bottom edge, while the power/sleep button has been moved to the same place on the tablet’s top edge. The left side of the reMarkable 2 has also been widened with an added metal strip making it thicker than the right and easier to hold one-handed without your hand blocking the screen. Users of the original might also notice that the three physical buttons beneath the screen are now gone on the reMarkable 2, requiring users to rely on touch gestures to navigate documents and the device’s UI. I’ll miss them, but have already adapted to them not being there.
The reMarkable 2 feels more premium than the original did, which might make it easier for some to justify its $400 price tag (without a stylus), but it also feels a little heavier. At 404 grams versus 350 grams the reMarkable 2 isn’t much heavier than its predecessor, but you can feel the difference if you’re used to the first reMarkable. I liked that the original was much lighter than an iPad; I felt more comfortable just tossing it in a bag and carrying it around without a case, and while the reMarkable 2 is still lighter than Apple’s similarly sized tablets by several hundred grams, I can already tell that I’m going to feel inclined to take better care of it. Sometimes you just want a gadget that feels as durable as a Tonka toy truck; that’s what the original reMarkable was to me, and I’m hopeful the reMarkable 2 will prove just as durable in the long run.
A big part of what makes the reMarkable writing experience so good is the tablet’s stylus, which the company has redesigned for the reMarkable 2. It now features a grippy texture along its entire length, as well as built-in magnets so that it can be secured to the side of the tablet similar to how the Apple Pencil works. It’s a welcome upgrade as the original had no stylus wrangling aside from the optional sleeve case. You still need to occasionally replace the tips on the reMarkable stylii because they use a very fine point that tends to wear down over time on the tablet’s textured screen, but that’s a minor inconvenience because the simulated pen on paper experience remains better than what Apple delivers with the iPad and Pencil.
There are actually two versions of the new stylus available for the reMarkable 2, the $50 Marker and the $100 Marker Plus, but you’ll want to spring for the pricier Plus version which introduces a dedicated eraser on the end for the first time. That feature alone makes the reMarkable 2 worth the upgrade because instead of having to change the tool you’re using in the software to correct a mistake, you can just quickly flip the stylus over and erase anything on screen the same way you would with a regular pencil. It’s a convenience I feel is worth an extra $50 that adds quite a bit to the usability of the reMarkable 2.
I’ve tried several E Ink based writing tablets since the original reMarkable was released, including Sony’s digital paper, but each experience just reinforced how much effort the reMarkable team has put into reducing the lag between the stylus’ movements and the strokes appearing on the device’s E Ink screen. No other electronic paper device has been able to match the reMarkable’s simulated pen on paper experience, but the reMarkable 2 performs even better. While the tablet uses the same 10.3-inch, 1872 x 1404 pixel screen as the original, the reMarkable 2 includes some key spec bumps including a full gig of RAM and a new 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM processor.
The company claims the writing latency on the reMarkable 2 has been reduced to just 21-milliseconds making it almost twice as fast as the original, and it’s an improvement you can immediately feel. One of the problems I often have with using a tablet and stylus for note-taking is my handwriting (a generous description) consists of all-caps printing. Devices tend to struggle with the endless series of short strokes (they perform much better with the longer strokes of cursive writing) but the reMarkable 2 has no problem keeping up. It manages to take an already excellent experience and makes it even smoother, to the point where I think any devoted note-takers wrangling stacks of notebooks could easily make the transition and never look back.
However, one feature oft-requested by reMarkable users that once again didn’t make the cut for the reMarkable 2 is an illuminated screen. Even the cheaper Amazon Kindles and Rakuten Kobos now come with glowing screens, but, according to a company spokesperson, the design of the reMarkable, with a thin surface layer that minimizes the distance between the tip of the stylus and the actual E Ink, would have to be thicker if LED illumination was introduced. I was also told that screen lighting would increase latency ever so slightly, which would compromise the experience the reMarkable 2's creators worked hard to perfect.
As a result, the reMarkable 2 won’t be your go-to E Ink device for everything, even though its large screen is great for reading ebooks (epub files only) and PDFs. For the price, I would absolutely love to see the reMarkable tablet replace dedicated ebook readers as well, but at least for this next generation of the product, its creators are continuing to focus their efforts on effectively killing notebooks, sticky notes, and all the scraps of paper you reach for throughout the day when you need to jot something down.