This is the largest blow to the reMarkable because it’s never enjoyable to find a device’s features being locked behind a paywall.
ReMarkable hinted that they would be heading in this direction for some time, and they finally took the leap at the end of 2021, likely because they took tons of venture capital money and ended up desperate to make their backers happy ASAP.
Supernote has almost gone the opposite direction of reMarkable, if such a thing is possible. In a truly remarkable twist in today’s capitalist world, Supernote puts all their resources into improving existing devices instead of arbitrarily phasing out devices to make a profit, or opting for a subscription model like reMarkable.
People who purchased their reMarkable devices before October 12, 2021 got to keep a few of their so-called “premium” features for free, but all future updates that reMarkable makes won’t be included, and if you’re thinking of buying a reMarkable now…just don’t.
Here’s the thing: reMarkable bills itself as a paper notebook replacement, but as a side-by-side comparison shows, the features offered via any reMarkable plan simply don’t come anywhere close to the Supernote, and that includes things like writing feel and latency. How is this possible? Well, it all comes down to Supernote’s incredible roadmap.
Supernote has a public roadmap available with all their development plans. ReMarkable offers a blog with infrequent updates when major software changes take place.
This is a stark difference that highlights not only how great Supernote is with community engagement (and how much they care about creating an incredible product), but how the needs of the community have influenced the actual design of the device and the features that it offers.
I’ll come right out with a hot take: for all that reMarkable does offer the writing feel of pencil on paper (it does, and, to be fair, it’s incredible how well it does this), it comes with the massive limitation of wear and tear.
Like a few other e-ink devices on the market, the reMarkable stylus wears out and, according to various reviews, wears out quite quickly. That’s a steep price for the feel of writing on paper.
The Supernote, meanwhile, approaches the experience of writing through their patented self-repairing screen film. This mimics the experience of writing with a pen on paper surprisingly well, and does so with a hard ceramic nibbed stylus that never wears out.
In fact, their Heart of Metal stylus is the best-looking and most impressive on the market, offering the feel of a high-quality pen.
Beneath the hood, these devices are wildly different. The reMarkable uses custom software based on Linux, the open-source GNU operating system.
When I originally heard this, I immediately thought two things: that’s awesome, and, what about all the apps that people expect to be able to use with an e-ink device? Because the reMarkable can’t run anything from the Android app store.
That means: no Kindle, no Overdrive, no Dropbox; none of the integrations that have become a mainstay of the e-ink market. To get around this, reMarkable tried to double down on their claim of their device as a “paper journal replacement” designed to focus the user’s attention on nothing but their writing. No matter that this alienates a huge potential userbase.
Supernote has a Linux line of devices, their older A5 and A6 models (and these actually feature email integration, Supernote’s own generous cloud sync, and software that is still getting major improvement updates). But Supernote’s latest devices, their A5x and A6x line of tablets, feature a heavily modified Android OS that offers massive integration potential.
Currently, Supernote supports Kindle (and, through Kindle, Supernote also supports reading books borrowed from your local library which is wonderful), as well as email, calendar, and Dropbox integration.
Their team has stated that wider access to apps in the Android app store is on their radar, and that means that we will hopefully eventually be able to ditch Kindle altogether and use any apps we choose for our ebook pleasure.
They have also considered integration with various academic and knowledgework apps like Obsidian. Supernote even has default integration with Microsoft Word, in a major boon for writers everywhere who want to travel without their bulky laptop.
Ever since the original reMarkable came out, users have been complaining about issues with using that device as an e-reader. To be fair, reMarkable 2 has improved things immensely, and the size of the reMarkable 2 makes it handy for viewing PDFs and other large documents.
But the Supernote not only comes bundled with its own extremely powerful e-reading application, it can also use the Kindle app, one of the most widely used e-reader apps around.
For a long time, Supernote lagged (literally) when it came to handling very large or image-dense ebooks and PDFs. The December 2021 Supernote update changed all that.
The Supernote now absolutely matches the reMarkable in terms of speed, but provides a far more satisfactory reading experience, through multiple apps. That’s a big winner for me.
The reMarkable is excellent when it comes to writing and drawing, without a doubt. They corner the market on superb latency and pressure sensitivity…but that’s it. For a very high price, you’re getting something that’s ultimately less functional than a good art pad and stylus.
What first attracted me to Supernote was it’s Word Processor integration. You can open and create Word documents from within Supernote directly, link a bluetooth keyboard to your device, and get straight to work.
As a professional writer, this was groundbreaking. I do actually want to escape the distractions of tech while I work, and Supernote offers me the ability to get the best of both worlds. I can work in my Word documents without eyestrain and with insane battery life, all at a quarter of the weight of my laptop.
Proofreader marks for Word in Supernote?
But then Supernote went even farther with their development of the perfect writer's companion, and added proofreader mark support for Word documents. What does this mean?
That’s right. You can mark up your Word document using your stylus, deleting and inserting content with a strike of the pen.
And, since the massive update at the end of 2021, Supernote’s word recognition is fully functional. That means it’s possible to insert handwriting directly into a Word document—handwriting that is automatically converted to digital text.
Watch the video:
This is a small one, but Supernote has an ingenious cover design that automatically wakes the device when the cover is flipped open.
It wakes to whatever document you last had open and feels beautifully intuitive. It really is just like using a paper journal. No buttons to press or anything.
The reMarkable has definitely seen some upset customers after cracked screen issues, but it’s not any more risky to own the reMarkable than any other glass tablet. Save, perhaps, that you can’t put an additional screen protector over it.
Still, if it’s snug in its folio, then nothing short of a drop or applied pressure needs to be a concern. But, so the consensus goes, don’t drop it, or it absolutely will break.
The Supernote A6X also uses a glass screen, but this is covered by Supernote’s special self-healing film (which gives the device it’s pen-like writing feel). This makes the device sturdier, and I’ve yet to run into any concerns with my own A6X.
Supernote’s A5X has a newer plastic screen that’s even sturdier, however, making it the ideal choice for those of us constantly on the run and more likely to be rough on our devices.
With the folio attached, both Supernote devices are pretty hard to damage. My A6X did eventually end up with some cosmetic damage after two years of rough use—the thin plastic lip at the bottom USB-C port split. It doesn’t affect the device in any way, however, and isn’t noticeable unless I’m looking right at it.
Build quality aside, the reMarkable is incredibly thin and well-designed for a futuristic sleek factor. In an age where we want all the power of technology without any of the baggage, it definitely has something to offer.
The Supernote beats it out again for me in this department, however. Yes, the Supernote is fractionally thicker, with a design that reminds me a little like a Moleskine notebook (once it’s in its folio), but that also gives it a weight and solidity I like.
It’s very easy to hold, but has the sort of density one would expect from a notebook. I enjoy reading on it more because of this as well.
But these two features really stand out for the Supernote: the instant-wake feature I mentioned earlier. It’s intuitive and lovely to have the device snap to life as soon as I open the cover. But there’s also Supernote’s unique hardware slide.
The right side of the Supenote features a sleek groove that provides two powerful functions. Slide your thumb up and the screen instantly refreshes. For anyone who has not yet used e-ink devices, a “ghosting” effect can sometimes occur, where subtle afterimages of previous content are displayed until the page is refreshed.
Supernote makes it incredibly easy to take care of this issue. And, swiping down brings to life the system control bar, providing physical access that once again feels really natural to use.
The big claim that reMarkable made early on was that the latency of its devices were equal to Apple’s 2nd Gen Pencil. That was a major breakthrough for e-ink devices that have historically struggled to match the writing experience of traditional devices like the iPad.
Initially, the Supernote’s writing latency was still perfectly serviceable (and, indeed, faster than a number of better-known e-ink devices), but it was double that of the reMarkable 2.
But then came the 2021 end of year update, and Supernote quietly changed the game. The Supernote now boasts a pen latency almost identical to that of the reMarkable 2 eliminating the lead that originally excited me so much about the reMarkable device.
As I’ve mentioned, the best thing about Supernote is its community engagement. Their entire business model seems to be based on building a deep and effective rapport with their customers, taking suggestions and critiques in good faith and using them to directly improve their device. Comments that I made when I first purchased my A6X in 2019 were put on the public roadmap and solved.
The engineers and marketing team are active on the company’s Reddit page, and even their managing director is both available and extremely friendly.
I honestly have not encountered a single other company that does half as much to connect with their customers and build a community of engagement and trust. And that community works out for them, too! User feedback has provided them with a huge testing base that has allowed them to improve their device continually since its release.
The reMarkable team has been less straightforward. They do have a Reddit channel, but little official activity seems to take place there. They do have an official blog, but only a few major updates are released on it.
They will respond to emails, but I haven’t seen a glowing review of their customer support process yet. And then there’s the big problem of their subscription model, which was kept veiled from the public and only became known early through some clever investigating by Voja over at My Deep Guide.
Watch the video:
I wish I could like the reMarkable more…it’s a neat device with so much potential. But the terrible business model, horrible user support and connectivity, and unwillingness to meet the user where the user needs to be met make it a no-go for me. The Supernote, however, is the opposite in every way.
I have experienced nothing but good will and support from the Supernote community and official team, and their devices have become a part of my daily workload for everything from writing articles, to reading books I want to review, to planning my move into a new apartment. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
I’ve written about the Supernote X series of e-ink devices plenty, and they even earned my five-star review for being the all-around best choice for anyone looking for a digital notebook and versatile reading/writing device. Ratta, the company behind Supernote, has managed to produce a compelling and wildly useful little device that can handle professional and everyday needs. In this article, I’m going to walk you through the PDF features of the Supernote A5X and A6X models. These are Ratta’s first devices to be powered by a customized Android operating system which allows them a number of advanced side-loading features, but PDFs are supported by their older Supernote devices as well. Testing the Supernote To test this, I grabbed an old book from the Internet Archive, The Princess of Mars. At almost 400 pages, this hefty PDF only takes a moment to load now that Ratta has taken steps to optimize the Supernote's speed. Originally, loading a book this big (and one completely unoptimized for e-readers) took about seven seconds to load, but now it's smooth as butter and basically as fast as opening and turning the pages of a real book. What are PDFs anyway? Since their development in 1993, Portable Document Format files (PDFs) have been the go-to for all professional needs. The file is capable of presenting text formatting and images entirely independent of any operating system, hardware, or software — a huge advantage when so many companies are constantly vying for control of the market. In addition, PDFs allow for advanced interactive components, digital signatures, and various methods of encryption and document control, which make them extremely popular for legal and business-related work. How does Supernote hold up against the competition? So, how does the Supernote compare to other e-ink devices that can access PDFs? Well, there is a big range of such devices on the market right now, and I tried the most popular ones out myself when considering my initial purchase of an e-ink tablet. Through most of 2021, the Supernote offered something roughly comparible to other staples on the market, like Boox, but failed to live up to the sleek performance of the Remarkable 2. Now, the Supernote is as fast as the RemMarkable 2, without the terrible subscription model that the ReMarkable company is now relying on. Supernote is now as fast as the ReMarkable 2, but offers so much more. As always, what commends Supernote to me so deeply is the company’s high responsiveness and the sleek, efficient build quality of their devices. It doesn’t look like a flashy tablet, either; once it’s in its faux leather cover, it feels quite like carrying around a real notebook. The biggest issue with PDFs on the Supernote A6X is one of size. I’d strongly recommend getting the A5X because its larger screen works way better for PDFs. Yes, you can use pinch-zooming to look closer at PDF content, meaning that, even on my tiny A6X, I can easily navigate around a large D&D character sheet or search through the fine-print of a contract. However, the A5X handles PDF sizes far more efficiently and is definitely the better device to go to if you intend to read PDFs regularly.