While tablets may have freed productivity from the desktop, they often haven't done as well freeing us from the indoors. That's because their displays have a hard time fighting the brightness of the sun.

The reMarkable tablet uses e-paper tech, the same technology that is used in Amazon's Kindle reader. The result is a digital surface that is clear and legible in even the brightest sunlight. Indeed, unlike most modern e-readers, the reMarkable tablet has no backlight so it depends on a light source.

The reMarkable tablet is designed to come as close to the experience of using paper as possible and excels at three tasks.

1. Scribbling Notes

While laptops have become more acceptable in meetings, their raised screens and clicking keyboards can often be distracting. Even the glow from a tablet can divert attention. In contrast, the reMarkable tablet's display is nearly as unobtrusive as paper. reMarkable's creators have a cloud service that automatically syncs notes between itself and a PC app. Mobile apps are promised but not here yet.

2. Drawing and Diagramming

While handwriting may be a more natural if less efficient means of getting down notes, it's difficult to beat the pen-paper combination for creating quick freestyle diagrams. reMarkable has a quick notes feature that allows the creation of drawing and pages without having to boot up any apps like on a tablet. Writing on the reMarkable is a smooth process. The company had to develop its own technology to eliminate the lag found with other stylus systems.

3. Reading

Like a Kindle, the reMarkable tablet can be used to read e-books, however they must be in PDF format. That means it can't read books purchased from major digital booksellers such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. However, it's just fine for long reports.

That said, there's a few drawbacks. For one, the tablet doesn't allow for apps. That might not make such a difference in some cases. With its monochrome display and lack of camera, it's not well-suited to Candy Crush or Instagram.

But it would even come in handy for some of the things the reMarkable is designed for. While the reMarkable device can read PDF documents, it can't manage Kindle books. And while it is a fine device for reading sheet music, it can't run the app for MusicNotes, a popular web sheet music store. Alas, while there have been a few larger e-paper devices that have been able to run some Android apps, they have tended to be expensive and buggy.

There are other ways that the reMarkable product shows immaturity. As mentioned, there's no way to connect a physical keyboard. That's a shame since the reMarkable would be useful for quick emails on a summer day. Also, compared to the slick attachment or docking mechanisms of the styluses used with the Microsoft Surface and Galaxy S Note, the reMarkable stylus sits in a slot in a case. The makers of reMarkable note that these are early days for its tablet, and that they have big plans to address many of these deficiencies. One idea being considered is a kind of smart cover that would provide keyboard data entry. For now, though, the purpose-built tablet is designed for "paper people" and fulfills its core functions well. If it did not, the writing would be on the wall.

Published on: Apr 3, 2018