Do-it-all E Ink tablets, that’s what the world needs, isn’t it? All the functionality of an iPad with none of the eyestrain. Huawei’s MatePad Paper, Boox’s Onyx series, and Kobo’s Elipsa are on the case – smartening up the E Ink world with web browsing support and more. So why should you still care about the proudly unsmart Remarkable 2?
It’s a less-is-more alternative from the category OG, with no ignoring the fact it just can’t compete on features. The slate packs no app store, no backlight, no web browser, and no E-Book portal. It also runs a custom version of Linux – not Android, so you can’t hack apps onto it either. What’s a geek to do? According to Remarkable, they need to embrace simplicity.
Simplicity is anything but cheap, though, and lukewarm early reports might have put you off. But this isn’t the same tablet it was at launch. Long-requested features like cloud backup and a new app for Android, iOS, MacOS and Windows have been added, so you can access your notes across devices. The interface has also been overhauled, with pinch to zoom support, cut and paste, new brushes, a tagging system, and more.
Has this markedly simple tablet lost its way and overcomplicated itself with updates – or is the Remarkable 2 a perfect blend of smart simplicity?
Design and Build: How thin?
Seriously thin. That’s what springs to mind when handling the Remarkable 2. At just 4.7mm, the E Ink canvas isn’t much thicker than the USB-C port used to charge it, and the svelte body’s matched with rich styling.
A metal frame helps the Remarkable 2 feel robust, with a matte finish front and back fending off fingerprints. Rounded sides and corners mean nothing digs into your hand when holding it, and four tiny raised, rubberised discs on the back keep it in place when laid flat on a surface.
At 10in, the screen is about the same size as an iPad. There’s plenty of bezel beneath the screen, which wouldn’t look great on a traditional tab, but the Remarkable 2 gets away with it in two ways. Visually, the bezel is colour-matched to the screen’s off-white, grey tone, and practically it helps to have space to actually hold the thing. It’s especially useful when holding the tab in one hand and writing on it with the other.
A USB-C port sits at the base, opposite a power button up top. An invisible magnetic mounting point holds the optional Marker digital stylus in place. There are also some mystery pogo pins on the left side, but they don’t hook up to any official accessories.
Accessories: Pricey but nicey
Remarkable is clearly a company that loves to labour over the details, and its products benefit from this attention. The Marker might set you back an additional £59 (or £129 for the Marker Plus) but feels excellent in the hand. Unlike the Boox Onyx pen, which is a lot more hollow, and loosely clings to the side of the tab with an underwhelming magnetism, you really get what you pay for here.
The difference between the Marker and Marker Plus is an eraser. Just use the back of the Marker Plus like you did a black and yellow lead pencil at school to rub out your pencil strokes – only now, there’s no smudging or mess. Is an eraser really worth £70? If you’re in the mood to treat yourself or a loved one, absolutely. We use the eraser every time we use the Remarkable 2 – it’s not a gimmick, but it is a luxury at the price.
There are plenty of official cases to choose from. The sleeve is a stylish grey cross-stitched polymer weave, with space for the pen and slate, which costs £69. The folio book case is also available in the same grey polymer weave for £119, and magnetically attaches to the tablet’s spine. A leather version looks and feels suitably premium, given the £159 price, but isn’t one for vegans. It’ll be interesting to see if Remarkable either refreshes the line with a vegan leather alternative, or offers one up for any potential third-gen tablet.
Screen: Canvassing notes
With 226 pixels crammed into every inch, the 10.3in, second-gen CANVA display is nice and sharp. It doesn’t have a backlight, so you can’t use it in the dark like the Huawei MatePad Paper and Onyx Boox Note Air 2. But that’s not a big deal in the real world, because you know what else lacks a backlight? Paper.
More important the best-in-class ghosting management and responsiveness. The multi-touch display’s diffused finish means you can see exactly what you’re doing, even in direct sunlight (we used it outdoors during a heatwave). Viewing angles are near best-in-class at a little under 180 degrees.
Sitting somewhere between A5 and A4 paper, the tablet is big enough for comfortable note-taking, either in your hands on on a desk. Intuitive pinch-to-zoom gestures let you work on detailed elements while sketching, or expand out to add to a mindmap. It’s supremely responsive for an E Ink display – both to the pen and finger.
Pen input: Pad of many papers
With its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, the tablet’s also intuitive to write with, fleshing out the stroke as you press the pen harder against the screen. Tilt support makes shading feel intuitive, and there are plenty of pen options to choose from: ballpoint, fine liner, marker, pencil, mechanical pencil, paintbrush, highlighter and calligraphy pen.
Since its launch, the tablet has also benefited from updates that add critical features like cut and paste, and it supports up to five layers, and multiple stroke thicknesses.
While we wouldn’t pick up the Remarkable as an artists tool – it just can’t compete with the likes of an iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra loaded up with Procreate or Sketchbook Pro, it’s an excellent option for more off-the-cuff sketches – we used it to storyboard a video project to great effect.
Performance and battery: tightrope tech
Before you start drawing or note-taking, you’re tasked with setting up a notepad. You’ll have a range of paper styles to choose from, with 51 templates split across creative, grid, life/organise and lines categories. Specific templates range from standard lined paper, music paper with seven staves per sheet, storyboarding paper and more – an excellent range.
On the reading side, only PDFs and eBooks are accessible at this stage, though they’re both rendered beautifully, with page flow handled better than both Huawei and Onyx’s default reading apps in our experience.
Cloud backup is a fairly new addition, and makes the Remarkable 2 a very different tablet to the one that launched a few years back. Connecting your device will cost you, though. Unlimited online backups start at £3.99 a month, but to access your Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive folders you’ll need to stump up £5.99 a month. While OneDrive integration worked very well, Google Drive integration took about half an hour to index our files. During that time, if we tried to access Drive, our tablet froze and reset. After a successful index it worked well, but the crashes were jarring given how overwhelmingly solid the rest of the user experience is.
The pricier membership also includes an extended warranty, handwriting-to-text conversion and screen sharing, so your Android or iOS app can show whatever’s on your tablet in real time. It’s a great addition for online meetings. Even without a plan, you can still save documents as PDFs or images for quick sharing, and get files onto the tab over USB-C.
Finally, battery life. The 3,000mAh cell powering the Remarkable 2 is the same capacity as that of the Boox Note Air 2, and a bit smaller than the Huawei MatePad. Given the lack of a backlight, we expected it to last longer than the competition, but that’s not the case. You’ll get through a full work day of note-taking, or a couple of days of casual jotting in meetings and when brainstorming, but not much more.
We love how the last page we’re on lingers on-screen for 20 minutes in power saver mode, but do wish there was a more aggressive power-saving option for those intense all-nighter work days that might leave it running low by the time you clock off.
Remarkable 2 Verdict
Looking at the firm’s website, it’s clearly all about dialling back distractions. So it’s interesting the Remarkable 2 could now be on the cusp of being too smart for its own good.
The more you try and do, the more room there is for error. The Remarkable 2 is worlds away from Huawei’s MatePad Paper, whose glorious design is let down by woefully unoptimised software, but the fact we experienced issues with Google Drive integration suggests Remarkable must avoid updates that break an incredibly solid, serene and stumble-free core experience.
No other E Ink tablet touches the Remarkable 2 when it comes to the basics. It marries a premium design with a rich set of accessories, and intuitive note-taking and sketching software.
Premium design meets a polished, smart but stripped back digital notetaking experience – the best E Ink notepad and paper alternative you can buy right now
Best-in-class, paper-like experience
Beautiful, impossibly thin design
Great blend of smarts go beyond a simple e-reader
Marker stylus not included
Battery life could be better
Remarkable 2 technical specifications
|Screen||10.3in E-ink w/ 1872×1404 resolution, 4096-level pressure sensitivity|