When I tell people that I’m a tech journalist, they expect me to talk about what features the next iPhone will have or my opinion on AI. These days, I’d rather talk about this black-and-white tablet I’ve been testing. All it does is let me read, write, and take notes (with a stylus) free of distractions. It doesn’t even have a web browser.
Unlike my MacBook or iPad, which I turn on begrudgingly when it’s time to work, the reMarkable 2 doesn’t stress me out with pings and browser tabs before I even get started. You can’t get notifications on it, there’s no app store, and its minimalist, colorless display makes for a space that’s dedicated solely to writing and taking notes. It’s best seen as an elegant digital notebook or a modern typewriter you can drag out to a coffee shop. My pitch to a former editor was that it’s like a typewriter that you can also use as a notebook; she ordered one shortly after I told her how much more writing I’ve gotten done lately.
She’s not the only one who’s intrigued by my rhapsodizing. My friends who shamefully confess to spending too much time on their phones usually want to hear more. So I tell them that nothing else has helped me find this much momentum in finishing the writing that my impostor syndrome has helped me put off for months. To my friends who are equally as avoidant of creative pursuits, that sounds great, until I mumble the price under my breath. The tablet itself costs $300, the optional stylus costs $130 (you can get an eraserless version for $80), and the keyboard attachment costs an additional $200. For the full experience, that’s a whopping $627; woof.
That said, nothing else has helped my unwillfully wandering ADHD mind chill out long enough to work on newsletter drafts I’ve been brushing aside. If you’ve been procrastinating on a script, novel, business proposal, thesis project, or long overdue letter you’ve been writing in your head, I’m confident the reMarkable can help you put it on the page. Unlike a Kindle, which offers a better reading experience, it’s mostly made for taking notes—handwritten or typed. That lack of apps plus its bare-bones display that’s bordering on bland when compared to an iPhone are its strongest assets, because they break the mold of what we’ve come to expect out of a tablet or phone.
Britt Frank, a licensed neuropsychotherapist and author of The Science of Stuck: Breaking Through Inertia to Find Your Path Forward, says distraction-free devices like this one can help change the patterns we habitually fall into, like checking our phone whenever we feel bored. “Anything that can break autopilot can help interrupt the cycle,” she says. “It can be rearranging the apps on your phone or switching to black and white.” In my case, a $600 tablet setup has given me a space to work on my newsletter so that it doesn’t feel like work; it feels like a creative endeavor to foster and build on.
Beyond forcing you out of your typical tech habits, the reMarkable is just a fun device to work on. I love using the stylus to scribble changes over my text right in the document without having to print anything out. It makes me feel like an old newspaper editor. If you’re a student or an avid note taker, you can create separate notebooks to replicate a backpack full of spiral notebooks, without the added bulk.
The optional keyboard is a delight to use too; it’s as spacious as the Magic Keyboard on an 11-inch iPad Pro, and the keys are clicky enough to make me feel like I’m writing something important — a welcome confidence boost. There’s no trackpad, though, so I have to move the cursor around with the stylus when I’m making edits. That’s workable, if not ideal.
Don’t let my Netflix recently watched section fool you. Due to the reMarkable 2, I’ve done more after-hours writing in the few weeks I’ve been testing it than the rest of 2023. While my laptop and phone only enable my Marvel Snap addiction, the reMarkable leaves me with nothing to do but work on the thing I’ve been putting off. I used to drag my laptop to a coffee shop when I needed to focus on writing, but the reMarkable is enough of an environment change. And when I want to move that writing to my laptop for editing, all I have to do is plug it into my computer, let it sync, then copy and paste the text into Bear (my text editor of choice). You can also do this via reMarkable’s syncing service, Connect, which sends your notes to reMarkable’s proprietary cloud service, but it’ll cost you $3 a month.
What’s more, I’ve taken what I’ve learned in my time with the reMarkable and applied it to how I use my other devices. When I’m writing on my laptop in Bear, I close all my other apps and go into full-screen mode. (The reMarkable doesn’t have word count, spell-check, or custom fonts, but that’s all fiddly stuff I don’t want to worry about when I’m drafting, anyway).
If you can fend off everything vying for your attention without buying another device, I envy you. I’m dreading returning my review unit — and trying to find room in my budget to snag a reMarkable 2 of my own. It’s the strongest possible fortress I’ve found to shield me from the outside world when it’s time to get started on the projects my friends are sick of hearing me say I want to start. It’s been empowering for me to finish something that’s been floating in my head so long it feels like I’ll never live up to my own expectations. When the world of distractions, obligations, and group chats feels like too much, a device stripped of all the bells and whistles offers a welcome respite. That pitch hasn’t worked on many people, but my former editor has had hers for a couple weeks now and loves it. And until I drop this review unit off at my local FedEx, you can catch me at the next happy hour gabbing about mine.
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