reMarkable’s Notebook Device is “Just Like Ink-on-Paper”

reMarkable (Oslo, Norway) will soon be offering a new electronic notebook product. The device can be used not only for reading but also for handwritten notetaking and sketching. The user can use a “pen” to write directly on the surface of the display. One of the principle features of the device is the claim that writing on the display surface feels – as well as looks – just as if it had been written by a real pen on real paper.

A video demonstrating the reMarkable in operation can be found at the end of this article. As can be seen in the video, notes can be written directly on the document. Tools available for reviewing documents include a highlighter, a pen and tags. The user has the capability to organize multiple notebooks and can select the template used from choices that include squares, lines and dots.

The basis of the reMarkable system is the so-called Canvas display. It was developed in collaboration with E Ink and Dragon Innovation. It utilizes E Ink’s Carta technology with “ultra-thin high-friction surface materials.” The result is the production, the firm says, of ‘just the right friction’ between the pen and the display surface to make writing feel completely realistic.

The pen does not have a battery and does not require any setup or pairing with the display system. It supports over 2048 levels of pressure detection and is also able to determine the angle between the pen and the display surface. These last two points’ together mean that the qualities of a line that the user draws responds to pressure and pen angle in a way that feels quite natural. To further enhance the natural feel of the writing process, it is even possible to rest your hand on the display surface while writing.

The system offers the capabilities for the pen to sketch with a variety of brushes and tools such as undo, erase and zoom.

The reMarkable device is made from plastics and aluminum and should withstand normal use without damage. The Canvas display itself is claimed to be virtually unbreakable. None-the-less, the display is acknowledged to be more susceptible to scratching than glass displays. Other display specifications include the following:

  • Monochrome
  • Physical size is 177 x 256 x 6.7 mm (screen diagonal is 10.3-inches)
  • Weight is about 350 grams
  • With a response time of 50-60 ms, the user will experience little latency when writing on the digital paper.
  • Resolution is 1872 x 1404 (226 DPI)
  • Provides 16 shades of gray for text, and black/white for pens and brushes.
  • Sunlight readable
  • Multi-point capacitive touch

The reMarkable device includes a 1 GHz ARM A9 CPU Processor. With 8 GB of RAM and internal storage of 512 MB the device has the capacity to store on the order of 100,000 pages. The battery within the device can be recharged through a Micro USB connection and has a capacity of 3000 mAh. This translates into several days of typical use before needing to be recharged.

The operating system of the reMarkable device is called Codex and is described as a custom Linux-based OS that has been optimized for low latency e-paper. Since the OS is proprietary, the device cannot support macOS, iOS, Windows 8 and 10 or Android apps.

As a strictly notebook device, other capabilities not supported by the reMarkable device are apps for web browsing, social media or games. The menu language built into the device is English only.

Current capabilities that are supported by the reMarkable device include the following:

  • Notes can be shared by email.
  • PDF and .EPUB file format ebooks are readable.
  • The reMarkable application can transfer documents wirelessly with Wi-Fi.
  • All work can be automatically backed up securely with reMarkable’s cloud service.
  • All changes can be instantly synchronized and available on all of the user’s devices.

Looking towards the future, reMarkable hopes to support a varieteepdy of additional capabilities. These include:

  • Connection to third party storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Integration with third party productivity services such as Evernote, OneNote and Google Docs.
  • Support for handwriting recognition and conversion of handwriting to computer text.
  • Waterproof certification.
  • Support for math symbol and shape identification.
  • The ability to read ebooks that contain DRM (Digital Rights Management).
  • The ability to read Kindle ebooks.

The reMarkable device is planned to sell at $529 and the pen at $79. A sturdy, durable wool felt folio cover is available for $79. Bundled together with shipping at $29, the total price will be $716. The company is currently offering a “launch” pre-order price of $379. Delivery is expected to begin during August, 2017. –Arthur Berman