In this post, I want to address something that I get a lot of correspondence about – the difference in the tactile writing feel of the major brands of e-ink tablets.
Writing experience is something that is quite difficult to convey in words, and is also quite subjective, but I’m going to try and do my best, and hopefully give you an idea of how it differs between tablets.
I will also tell you which devices I personally prefer, however, this should be regarded as my own subjective opinion, and I’m sure that others are likely to disagree.
The screen of the reMarkable 2 has a rigid, grainy, matte surface, so when you run the nib of the stylus over it, it makes a satisfying ‘scratching’ sound.
The best analogy I can think of is to imagine an HB pencil on a single sheet of sketching paper placed on a smooth flat desk.
This, by itself, provides a very pleasant writing experience, however, reMarkable has also put a lot of work into the note-taking software, so that it is very sensitive to the amount of pressure that you use. Whilst other manufacturers have implemented pressure sensitivity, it seems to be even more finely tuned on the reMarkable so that it responds to even the slightest change of weight.
In addition, the reMarkable has one of the best implementations of tilt-sensitivity, which means that when using certain brushes (such as the pencil), adjusting the angle of the stylus results in a change to the thickness of the strokes.
This gives the reMarkable 2 a very natural and authentic writing feel that is ideal for things like sketching and shading.
Supernote tablets have a completely different writing feel to the reMarkable 2, but it is no less enjoyable to write on.
The screen is smoother but not glossy and there is resistance when dragging the stylus across it. There is also some flexibility in the screen when writing on it, which gives the feel of bounciness that you get from writing on a pad of paper.
Supernote tablets use proprietary ceramic nibs on the stylus, which are thinner and harder than other Wacom styluses. This results in writing feeling very accurate and precise. The ceramic nibs have also been designed not to wear down like the nibs on other tablets that have to be replaced periodically.
My best analogy for the Supernote is writing on a stack of premium paper with a premium ballpoint pen.
There is no tilt sensitivity with the Supernote stylus, but there is some pressure sensitivity (although not to the degree of sensitivity as the reMarkable).
Boox Note Air 2 Plus
The Boox Note Air 2 Plus has a textured matte screen similar to that of the reMarkable 2, and the stylus uses a similarly soft/medium nib.
The writing experience is also very similar with a sort of raspy, scratchy feel as the stylus glides over the screen, however, pressure and tilt are not quite as sensitive as they are on the reMarkable (but more sensitive than the Supernote).
There is also a slight gap between where you place the tip of the stylus on the screen and where the mark is made, although this is very small and might not be noticeable unless you are looking for it. This is because the Note Air 2 Plus has an integrated frontlight (that the Supernote and reMarkable do not), which increases the gap by a millimetre or two.
Overall, the writing feel on the Note Air 2 Plus is really very nice, although not quite as pleasurable as the reMarkable/Supernote. However, I must stress that there is not a massive amount of difference.
Boox Tab Series
The screens used on these tablets are a lot smoother and glossier, resulting in a writing experience that feels somewhat slippery. That is not to say that the stylus is likely to slip when writing, but it does glide over the screen with a bit more pace.
NOTE: The Tab X is not quite so fast-paced as the other tablets in this range.
As an analogy, I think it feels like a marker on a whiteboard, if you imagine the tip of the marker to be thinner (like a ballpoint pen) and without the squeaking.
The Tab Series use (almost) the same software as the Note Air 2 Plus, which means that there is similar pressure and tilt sensitivity. There is also a gap between the top of the screen and where the mark is made, which is slightly bigger than that of the Note Air 2 Plus.
The screen of the Kindle Scribe has a rigid matte screen, similar to the reMarkable. It is not quite as grainy as the reMarkable, which results in slightly less resistance/drag but it still makes a satisfying scratching sound as you write.
Pressure and tilt sensitivity have both been implemented really well (although I would say the reMarkable is slightly better in this regard). The Pen that ships with the scribe also has a very nice feel to it and is one of my favourites.
Although the Scribe has an integrated frontlight, the distance between the point where the tip of the stylus touches the screen and where the mark is made is much less noticeable than on Boox tablets.
Kobo Elipsa/Elipsa 2E
All of the tablets I’ve mentioned thus far have almost imperceptible latency – that is, the time it takes between the stylus touching the screen and the mark being made.
For the Kobo Elipsa 2E, although the latency is not unbearable, it is noticeable. As you draw a line across the screen, you see that the ink mark is constantly trying to catch up with the stylus, which can be a little off-putting – although the difference is literally milliseconds, it is perceivable. There is also a noticeable gap as a result of the integrated frontlight.
The Kobo Screen has a matte-like feel with some (but not a lot of) resistance as the stylus runs across it. There’s no tilt sensitivity but pressure sensitivity has been implemented okay.
The Kobo stylus has a cone-shaped tip, not unlike a Crayola crayon. This means that there is a larger surface area where the tip touches the screen than on other devices, which reduces the accuracy.
It’s also worth noting that Kobo writing tablets do not use Wacom EMR technology, which means that you can’t buy an alternative stylus to use with it because it will be incompatible.
Another annoyance is that very often when you pause for a moment, the screen flashes to refresh and your writing changes slightly – this is for anti-aliasing that reduces the jagged edges on your handwriting but can be annoying as you come to expect the ‘flash’ after every sentence.
Overall, the writing experience on the Kobo Elipsa is not all that pleasant but not unusable either.
Like Kobo, Meebook tablets do not use Wacom EMR technology, so you’re restricted to using the proprietary stylus.
The screen is matte but without the grainy feel of previously mentioned tablets and there is some resistance as the stylus moves across the screen. The nib of the stylus feels quite hard but is finer than the Kobo.
The latency is even worse than the Kobo and the gap caused by the frontlight is very noticeable. There is some pressure sensitivity, but it has not been implemented as well as the other tablets on this list.
Overall, the writing feel of Meebook tablets is not so bad that it is unusable, but is not as good as the other tablets on this list.
If I were choosing an e-ink tablet based on writing feel alone, it would be a choice out of the reMarkable or the Supernote.
The reMarkable 2 certainly feels the most natural if you are used to using a pencil and the stylus responds the most accurately to changes in pressure or tilt, which is great for artists.
However, for writing, I much prefer the Supernote because of its pinpoint accuracy, and the way that the stylus glides across the screen with just the right amount of resistance. The Supernote also has a much wider feature set, both within the native note-taking app and the additional productivity apps that are included.
Next, would be the Boox Note Air 2 Plus and Kindle Scribe. The writing feel of both are similar to that of the reMarkable but not quite up to the same standard due to the writing distance and lower sensitivity to pressure and tilt. However, these two devices both have a frontlight (which the reMarkable and Supernote do not), so you can perhaps think of not having a frontlight as being a compromise for the better writing experience.
After this are the tablets from the Boox Tab series. Although the writing feel is more slippery (like writing on glass), and there is a noticeable gap between the surface of the screen and where the stroke appears, it is still a pretty good writing experience. On the flip side, the Boox Tab series is currently on the cutting edge of e-ink technology. Some of the devices have colour screens and they all have Boox’s Super Refresh technology, which makes it possible to do tasks that were previously not feasible on e-ink tablets (e.g. web browsing, watching video etc.) Therefore, if you are looking for a multipurpose device that goes beyond reading and note-taking, you would have to concede to a slightly poorer writing experience.
As for Kobo and Meebook, the writing experience is not altogether terrible – and probably not something you would even be aware of if you didn’t use any of the other tablets – but it does feel very unnatural and somewhat clunky on both tablets. I don’t really like writing on either of them – and they are difficult to recommend because they don’t really have any major advantages over other e-ink tablets apart from the Meebook being cheap and the Kobo being desirable for those already invested in the Kobo ecosystem.
About the author
Dan Dutton is passionate about E-ink writing tablets, which bring together the pleasure of writing on paper with the power of digital technology. When he bought his first tablet, he realised that there wasn't a lot of unbiased information available for people that were considering buying an E-ink tablet, and so he built eWritable.