I took delivery of my brand new Supernote A6X2 this morning and will be using it over the next week or so in preparation for my full review.
In the meantime, here’s my unboxing experience and first impressions.
The first thing to note is that the packaging is almost wholly biodegradable and the outer cardboard box has three compartments; for the tablet, folio/case, and pen/stylus.
In the tablet box is the tablet itself, a quick-start guide, a USB-C cable (with right-angled connector), and a screwdriver (for replacing the battery).
The cover is ‘vegan leather’ and has a nice suede-like texture on the interior. The tablet attaches to the folio using two magnets and there is a loophole for the pen/stylus.
The pen itself is a single unit (no detachable lid like some previous Supernote Pens) and has a clip to attach it to the loophole of the folio. It is also retractable, so pressing the button at the top moves the nib in and out of the housing.
After turning on the A6X2, I went through the initial setup process and tutorials, which provided a good overview of the system (although being a daily user of the Supernote A5X, I didn’t really learn anything new).
I then set up synchronization with my Google Drive and downloaded my files.
A word of warning for any new users: Notes on the A6X2 are not compatible with other Supernote devices running different firmware. I found this out when I edited one of my notebooks, and, following synchronization, tried to open it on my A5X. I was confronted with this message:
Unfortunately, my Supernote A5 X reports that its firmware is up-to-date and so can’t be updated. Therefore, I can no longer open this notebook on my older device. Hopefully, Ratta Supernote will release a firmware update for older devices as soon as possible so that there is cross-compatibility between the older and newer generation tablets.
I then updated the firmware on the A6X2 to the latest version, which meant I could download and install Atelier (Supernote’s new drawing app).
During the firmware update, the A6X2 appeared to ‘update‘ all my note files. Having been burned previously, I made a backup of the notebooks on my Google Drive before initiating a synchronization of my files. As expected, I was no longer able to open any of my notebooks on my A5X.
So unless you are planning to solely use the A6X2 (and do not envision needing to access notebooks on your older generation Supernote), I would recommend not syncing your files until the older generation of tablets receive the latest update (fingers crossed this is imminent).
Update: Ratta Supernote has advised that I can register as a beta tester to get the latest beta firmware for my A5X, which will allow me to access the updated files.
The A6X2 Nomad incorporates a similar design to the Supernote A6 (lightweight plastic chassis) with some notable enhancements.
Firstly, the USB-C port is on the top edge of the tablet. This may seem like a small thing but I find it is much more convenient to have the port at the top so that the cable can run away from you rather than toward you.
In comparison, most e-ink tablets have the USB port on the bottom edge or left-hand side of the tablet. In the case of a side port, there’s a risk of damaging the plug/port when you open/close the book-folio whilst it is plugged in. For bottom edge ports, the cable points towards your body and feels cluttered. I would assume that most people have their power source located away from them, and so the top edge port prevents a tangle of cables.
In addition, Supernote has made the USB cable right-angled at the tablet end, which feels more secure as well as being aesthetically pleasing.
Another big enhancement is that the A6X2 has a modular design, which means that the battery (and motherboard) can be replaced if they break. I believe Ratta Supernote is the first e-ink tablet manufacturer to provide the option to replace the battery, which affirms their commitment to sustainability.
I wanted to take a quick look at the internals but having watched Supernote’s demonstration on how to change the battery, I had considerably more difficulty removing the rear panel than the guy in the video. I just couldn’t get my fingernails underneath it to get the initial grip to prise it open. I was pushed for time, so battery changing is something that will have to wait for my full review.
The A6X2 has two side-swipe bars on the left and right bezels. Existing Supernote users will already be familiar with the right bar, which opens the Quick Access menu with a swipe-down and refreshes the screen with a swipe up.
WIth the left side-swipe bar, you can erase, undo, redo, and quick page-turn.
I’m looking forward to using these gestures and seeing if they improve my productivity.
FeelWrite2 Screen Protector & Pen
Newer Supernote devices are fitted with a grainy screen protector that has been designed to imitate the feeling of writing on paper.
This was the first time that I had written on the FeelWrite2 screen and I must admit that my first impressions were not all that great. It felt a bit too scratchy, as though I were etching into the screen (and damaging it).
This was compounded by the stylus, for which the nib seemed to move a little within the shaft as I was writing – it felt a bit like a cheap biro and not the premium ballpoint I have become used to with Supernote products. However, this is purely subjective.
There was also a faint rattling sound, which I discovered was the button at the top used to retract the nib. This was reminiscent of the retractable LAMY Safari pen of which I was not a big fan. I’m also in the habit of just pulling the pen (Heart of Metal 2) downwards out of the loop and detaching it from the lid (with the lid remaining in the loop). Because the new push-up pen is a single unit, I found it a little more cumbersome to pull the whole pen upwards.
However, this is only a first impression, and it will take me a little while to adjust the pressure of my writing to get the best experience – I am reminded that I did not initially like the writing feel of the original FeelWrite screen protector on the A5X but it quickly grew on me and became my favourite writing surface.
The folio holds the tablet in place very securely and I was unable to dislodge it, even with vigorous shaking. The magnets are very strong.
It is very lightweight and has a nice texture, which makes using the A6X2 very pleasing. The colour is very beautiful although I’m pretty sure it will not stay bright white for very long!
Atelier is Supernote’s new drawing app and can be installed from the Supernote Store once the A6X2 has the latest firmware.
I only took a brief look at this but it does seem to have a good variety of brush tools, as shown in the picture below.
It also supports layers and in terms of colour, there’s black, white, and 14 shades of grey in between.
Atelier files are saved in SPD format, which I believe is an Adobe Postscript file type. Files can be exported as PNG.
In the interests of transparency, I’m no artist, and probably won’t use Atelier all that much in my day-to-day work, so I’m perhaps not the best person to comment about it. But, on the whole, it looks like a nice little app which will be very beneficial to some users.
I haven’t spent a lot of time using the Supernote A6X2 Nomad yet, so I don’t want to form any opinions too soon – it usually takes me at least a few days of regular use to get a good ‘feel‘ for an e-ink tablet.
I am, however, very excited to get stuck in and start using it. It has all the features that I’ve come to love about Ratta Supernote’s line of products (lightweight, good battery life, awesome note-taking app etc.) with some interesting enhancements (modularity, paper-like screen protector, Atelier, dual side-swipe bars etc.)
Not being able to access my notebooks on my previous generation tablet after opening them on the A6X2 is obviously a concern, however, this should hopefully be temporary and get resolved when Ratta roll out the latest firmware for the A5X.
I’m a little unsure about the stylus and FeelWrite2 screen protector but this could simply be down to my familiarity with the tactile writing feel of my Supernote A5X (with the original non-paperlike FeelWrite film). So I think I need to do a whole lot of writing before I can provide my subjective opinion about that.
So, I’m going to be using the A6X2 for the next week or so and after Christmas I will write up my full review.
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.