Thi is my full review of the Ratta Supernote A6 X2 Nomad.
Following my initial unboxing and first impressions, I used my A6X2 at work for a couple of days before Christmas, sporadically throughout the holidays for personal notes, and as my main workhorse for a few days in the new year.
As somebody that has been using the Supernote A5X as their daily driver for over a year, I was able to quickly slot the A6X2 into my existing workflows (although there was a small issue with making my note files cross-compatible between the two tablets). My experience with the A5X means that this review may contain a fair bit of comparison between these two generations of Supernote tablets.
Like previous incarnations of the Supernote, the A6X2 has a plastic chassis, which makes it extremely lightweight, and “not cold” to the touch (as is the case with tablets that have metallic casing).
On the rear side are two indents containing strong magnets that securely attach the tablet to the folio. Just below the top magnet are three copper pins that will perhaps be used in future for the connection of a keyboard or other peripheral.
On the left and right bezels are touch-sensitive side-swipe bars (which I will go into more detail later). And on the top edge is the power button (on the left) and the USB-C port (on the right), which is used both to recharge the battery and for data transfer.
As I discussed in my unboxing, the location of the USB port on the top edge (rather than the left or bottom edges) is, in my opinion, the perfect placement because it means that the USB cable does not need to be looped around. What I mean by this is that my USB cable runs from the far side of my desk towards where I am seated. With the A6X2, the cable and port are aligned, whereas with most other tablets, I have a sort of u-turn in the cable…..a picture will probably explain what I mean a little better:
It may seem like a small point but, for me, the top-edge USB port feels less clumsy, more natural, and much neater because the cable is not running along the bottom and side of the tablet.
One of the coolest things about the A6X2 is that it is the first e-ink tablet (to my knowledge) that allows users to replace the battery. This potentially extends the life of the tablet because if/when the battery dies, only the defective part will need to be changed rather than the whole tablet.
EU regulation states that all consumer electronics sold in the EU must have replaceable batteries by 2027. Ratta Supernote are well ahead of schedule with this requirement, however, they have always had a commitment to the sustainability of their products, so this is something that I probably expected them to introduce whether they were legally required to or not.
The ability to change the battery is provided by the new modular design of the A6X2. You can unclip the rear panel to access the internal components. It is a little fiddly but, overall, the process is simple. In my unboxing, I drew attention to the difficulty I had unclipping the rear panel, however, this was my own fault for not following the instructions correctly – I was trying to unclip it from the wrong end (and I very nearly managed it!) It is actually the clips on the bottom edge of the rear panel that need to be released (if you spin it upside-down like the video shows, the bottom is then at the top). There are even indentations on this side, which you can use to easily prise off the clips with your fingernail.
Once the rear panel is removed, the battery can be removed by unplugging the connector and removing two screws. The process is really very simple.
The MicroSD slot is also accessible by removing the rear panel, and Ratta have informed me that the motherboard can also be replaced.
Overall, I think the Supernote Nomad has a thoughtful design that focuses on sustainability and increases the longevity of their products. The modular design also means that there is an opportunity for users to create their own custom DIY shells in the future.
Previous Supernote tablets attached to their folios using a plastic runner that slid into a groove in the rear panel.
Perhaps due to the new modular design, Ratta Supernote has moved to a magnetic attachment, which I was initially somewhat concerned about. Other e-ink manufacturers that have a magnetic case design do hold the tablet in place fairly well for the most part, but dropping the case (or giving it a vigorous shake) can cause the tablet to fall out…which sort of negates the reason for having a protective case. I was afraid that Ratta may have gone down the same route.
But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the A6X2 attaches to the folio very, very securely. No amount of vigorous shaking (or even dropping it onto a cushion) could dislodge it. It is the most secure tablet/folio connection I’ve used – once the tablet is in place, it really does not move at all! From what I can see, the use of strong magnets, along with the indentations on the rear of the tablet where the magnets are located ensure a strong binding.
The folio itself (white vegan leather) has a lovely leathery texture on the exterior and a softer suede-like material on the interior. I would not describe it as rugged but it is very slightly padded, which means that it is thin and light. On the right-hand side is a pen loop that has been securely stitched to the folio. The loop has a very slightly wider girth than previous versions, which may be a precursor to the release of a new Supernote Pen (Heart of Metal 3, perhaps?) but this is pure speculation on my part.
The folio also allows auto-sleep and auto-wake when the cover is closed/opened.
It is very difficult for me to find any fault with the folio at all. If I was being pernickety, I might highlight the fact that there is no clasp to prevent the folio from falling open but this is something that I neither want nor need (I’m not a fan of the flap on Boox cases that just feels untidy to me, and I’ve never had an issue with folio opening unintentionally). Another small issue is the colour of the folio. Although the white looks really nice when new, I’m sure it will get grubby and less desirable over time – fortunately, there is also a dark blue version available.
One of the first things I noticed when using the A6X2 is that it feels quicker and snappier than previous generations of the Supernote. Not by a great deal, I should add, but tapping on menus and the on-screen keyboard, and switching between tasks felt perceivably quicker. This is most likely due to the improved processor (1.8GHz, compared to the previous generation’s 1.3GHz) and increased memory (4Gb, compared to 2Gb).
In terms of battery life, I have been getting about 5 days of very regular use out of it before it falls below 10% and needs a recharge.
The screen size is 7.8″, which is approximately the same as an A6-sized sheet of paper. Admittedly, I find this a bit too small for my note-taking needs, preferring at least a 10.3″ (A5-sized) screen. I think this is because I tend to take a lot of long-form notes and I just don’t feel as though I have enough canvas space on a 7.8″ tablet.
However, this is a purely personal preference, and this form factor will perhaps suit users that are used to a smaller canvas (or not as familiar as myself with a larger canvas). It is more than adequate for notes and todo lists and, I must confess, is also suitable for long-form notes – I guess I am just too used too acquainted with a larger screen.
Other advantages of the Nomad’s 7.8″ screen are that it is lighter and has a smaller footprint, which will appeal to some users. I should also note that all Supernote tablets are monochrome (there is no colour).
A new hardware addition to the A6X2 is the g-sensor. This means that the screen will auto-orientate the screen between landscape and portrait when the tablet is rotated.
It is worth noting that landscape is only available within the native note-taking and reading apps. The screen will auto-orientate between the two portrait modes when rotated 180-degrees within the operating system and other apps but landscape modes can only be used when reading or note-taking.
I found that rotating the tablet 90-degrees into landscape mode is very useful when reading PDFs (which can be too small to read in portrait mode on a 7.8″ screen). The software automatically splits each page into two (top and bottom) without me having to play around with any configuration settings.
The A6X2 also has a MicroSD slot, with support for up to an additional 2Tb of storage.
As mentioned previously, the MicroSD slot is located behind the rear panel, so it would be a little unwieldy to move the card between devices regularly to transfer data. However, I guess that most people that use this functionality would do so primarily to expand the storage capacity of their Supernote.
I didn’t have an SD Card to hand during my review, so I haven’t tested this functionality.
Although previous Supernote tablets could connect up to third-party Bluetooth keyboards, they were quite impractical to use because there was too much lag between pressing a key and the character appearing on the screen.
So I thought I’d hook up a Bluetooth keyboard to see if this functionality has improved with the latest iteration. Unfortunately, it has not. Although the delay is less than a second (and you could conceivably use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Supernote), it is just too frustrating for me.
Whilst the new push-up pen that ships with the A6X2 does its primary job (writing) pretty well, I must admit that I don’t really like it all that much.
Part of this is due to the writing feel, which I will go into in the next section but there are a few issues with the design that, in my opinion, are not quite right.
First off is the colour. It has a sort of yellow-white hue which looks totally mismatched with the whiteness of the tablet and the folio. It’s not the colour per-se that I dislike, but the way it contrasts with the rest of the product. It just seems like they aren’t supposed to be together – as if I’ve lost the original pen and had to replace it with the first compatible pen that i found.
My second critique is the push button at the top of the shaft that retracts (and protracts) the nib of the stylus. It wobbles around slightly within the housing of the stylus so that when you are writing there is a slight rattling sound. This may not be an issue for some, but was a slight annoyance for me. I had a similar issue with the LAMY Safari Pen, which can switch between a stylus and an ink pen. For me, the unnecessary moving parts detract from the writing experience rather than improve it.
And, finally, the retractable nib means that the push-up pen has no lid like the original standard pen and Heart of Metal Pens, and the clip (to attach to the folio loop) is built into the single-unit body. For some, this will be preferable because there are users that have lost pens that have fallen out of the lid during transport. But, personally (as someone that has fortunately not lost a pen this way), I really like having a lid. The main reason for this is that when the pen is in the folio’s loop, I can simply pull downwards on the pen to release it from the lid and start writing. I find it slightly more cumbersome to remove the whole pen from the loop in an upward motion.
Reading back over my critiques of the push-up pen, I appreciate that my views may come across as overly-fastidious, however, these are some of the things that I really loved about the unique design of Supernote’s previous pens and I feel a little like the new pen is somewhat of a backward step.
However, in the interests of fairness, the push-up pen does feel rather nice to hold, writes okay, appears to be very durable, and uses Ratta Supernote’s awesome ceramic nib that never needs to be replaced.
During my first impressions, I noted that the tactile writing feel of the A6X2 Nomad felt a bit too rough and scratchy following the introduction of Supernote’s FeelWrite2 screen protector that has been designed to provide a more paper-like experience.
I couldn’t decide if I preferred the rougher FeelWrite2 screen protector to the smoother and less grainy original FeelWrite. Don’t get me wrong – it is very pleasant and maintains the high precision and accuracy of mark-making that I’ve come to expect from Supernote. And I’m sure that a rougher and more paper-like feel will be welcomed by users that intend to make full use of the new Atelier drawing app (see below).
But, for me, I guess I just really enjoyed the non paper-like original screen protector. Whereas my A5X felt like I was writing on a pad of soft premium paper, the A6X2 Nomad felt more like a single sheet of paper on a hard wooden desk. And the hard ceramic nib compounded the rigidity of the experience.
However, this was my experience ‘straight-out-of-the-box‘. After continued use for a couple of days, the screen became a little softer and easier to write on. This is because the screen protector is malleable (or ‘self-healing’, as Ratta describes it). Basically, when you write, it creates tiny imperceivable indentations in the screen, which pop back into shape of their own accord. It seems that by doing a fair bit of writing, the screen protector gets ‘primed’ (for want of a better word) and the writing experience improves.
I’m pretty sure that I had a similar experience with my A5X. So, my advice would be that if you buy a Supernote and do not like the initial tactile feel of writing on it, use it for a few days before you decide if it’s right for you or not because I do feel that the experience becomes more refined with usage.
So, out-of-the-box, I didn’t really like the tactile feel of writing on the A6X2 but after a few days of use this improved immensely. And this was not simply me becoming more familiar with the tablet – the texture did actually change and became smoother. However (if I’m completely honest) I do still slightly prefer the texture of the original screen protector that does not have the paper-like feel.
Another point worth noting is that other styluses with soft plastic nibs felt really nice on the new FeelWrite 2 screen protector of the A6X2. The styluses for the Kindle Scribe, reMarkable 2, and Boox offered a more pencil-on-paper feel than pen-n-paper feel of the Supernote styluses. But, of course, if you use these styluses, they do not have a clip to fit in the pen loop of the folio and you will need to change the nibs from time to time. For those that prefer a softer nib, Ratta Supernote does offer the LAMY Al-Star pen as an option.
Dual Side-swipe bars
One of the things that I really love about Supernote products is the touch-sensitive side swipe bar on the right bezel. A swipe up refreshes the screen and a swipe down brings up the quick access menu. This customizable menu makes it very easy to flick between notebooks, documents and apps and is always accessible (because it it is not part of the main screen).
With the A6X2 Nomad, Supernote has introduced a second side swipe bar on the left bezel. A long press on this bar allows you to easily flick between the pages in your document or notebook and is much more efficient (less actions) than using the previous page preview option. It can be a little fiddly at first but with some practice it becomes much easier.
Another highlight of the left side-swipe bar is the ability to erase by resting two fingers on the bar and selecting the area that you wish to delete. This works a lot more accurately than the previous gesture, which required placing two fingers on the canvas and making a selection because you had to place your fingers within a particular arc of the area you wished to delete and it wouldn’t always work. Using the side swipe bar, this worked every time for me (although you need to make sure there is a slight gap between your two fingers).
A swipe up and down on the left bar will carry out the undo and redo functions respectively. However, I’m not quite sure why Supernote decided that these would be the best functions to put behind these gestures. My reason for this is that the undo/redo button for notebooks are located on the toolbar that is adjacent to the left bevel side swipe bar. So, it is easier for me to tap the buttons than swipe the bar. I guess this may be for users that move or hide the toolbar.
Atelier Drawing App
Atelier is Ratta Supernote’s brand new drawing application.
For total transparency, I am not much of an artist and do not intend to use this app very much, so I am perhaps not the best judge of whether this is a useful addition or not (when I find a good review of Atelier by somebody that knows what they;re talking about, I’ll link to it here).
I would assume that it is something that has been requested by the community (and I do remember that Ratta sent out a survey to their users several months ago asking what they want from a drawing/painting app).
It is an optional free installation from the Supernote Store and files are saved in SPD format or can be exported as PNG.
It is monochrome (black-and-white) only, supports layers, has square/circle/irregular selection tools, and has a large number of brush tools as shown below:
Other than that, I am not qualified to say much else about it other than I am sure it will be a valuable asset to a subset of Supernote users.
I won’t go into too much detail about Supernote’s native writing app because I already cover this elsewhere on the website.
However, I make it no secret that I absolutely love Supernote’s writing app and, for me, it is the best in the industry (closely followed by Boox).
There are several reasons that I love note-taking on the Supernote, and I’ll provide a few here.
Firstly, the handwriting search is really fast and very accurate because it converts into text (behind the scenes) in real time. So when I want to search for certain words or phrases, even across several notebooks, I get the results lightening fast.
Next is the simple but very powerful ‘Headings‘ feature. When I start a new section of my notebook, I write a title at the top, lasso-select it and set it as a heading. The app then automatically builds me a table of contents containing all my headings. This makes it very quick and easy to navigate and notebook that has a lot of pages.
And, finally, there is the star-marking system. I can draw five-pointed stars in my notebooks to flag pages as important or something that I need to address. I can then do a global search for all my ‘stars’ and get them completed. It is sort of like a todo list or reminder system and it works really well.
I’ve always said in the past that Supernote is excellent for writing and note-taking (their moniker is ‘For those who write’) but perhaps not as good for sketching/drawing. With the introduction of Atelier and the paper-like screen protector, this could change.
I wouldn’t say that the Supernote is the best reading device out there (Boox and Kindle tablets win that accolade), however, it is very capable and has some great tools for annotating books and documents.
The Digest feature allows you to make highlights and attach handwritten notes in PDF files and then extract them into a separate PDF file. You can also make handwritten notes directly on top of PDF files and export them.
It also supports a fairly wide range of file formats, including PDF, EPUB, DOC, DOCX, TXT, CBZ, FB2, and XPS. And you can also install the Kindle app to access your Kindle library.
Ratta: The Company
Without wishing to sound like a fanboy, I do genuinely like the way that Ratta Supernote conduct their business.
Although they do not have the resources of larger manufacturers such as Amazon, Kobo, Boox, or even reMarkable, they appear to have a sincere desire to develop a truly awesome product, make their business financially sustainable and follow their core values.
I find them to be a breath of fresh air amongst other e-ink tablet manufacturers that seem to be driven by their sales and marketing departments.
Supernote have always been an advocate of sustainability, ensuring that their products do not become obsolete and are continuously improved through software (rather than releasing a new device every year). As mentioned previously, they are the first manufacturer to have a battery that can be swapped out by the end user. They are also offering a discount on the new A6X2 for users that are two generations behind.
They also highly value user feedback. I know for a fact that they read my reviews and act upon them as well as the comments that they receive from their customers across social media (Reddit, Facebook etc.) They are also the only manufacturer that publicly publishes a roadmap of the software enhancements that they intend to release.
Customer service is, in my experience, the best in the industry. Although response times are not immediate, they are not unreasonably slow either, and they do work hard to resolve any issues. I know of several users that have lost the lids from the top of their pens and Ratta have just shipped out new ones to them without any fuss or charge.
Another thing that I like is how direct they are in their communication. If they do not plan to work on a software feature that you want, they will tell you straight-up that it is not in their plans rather than giving you some bullshit about how they may consider it in the future.
Did I mention that they also offer discounts to first responders, students, and veterans?
Overall, Ratta Supernote comes across as a very honest, transparent and values-led organisation that aims to be fair to all their users – this doesn’t mean that they have the attitude that ‘the customer is always right‘, so don’t think you can take the piss but they will very often give you the benefit of the doubt.
As you’ve probably gathered, I’m already on the Supernote train because I use their products every day – I like the products, and I like the company that makes them.
However, I have tried to be as objective as possible in my review.
The software (including the reading and writing apps) have not really changed all that much from the previous generations – and the older generation tablets will get the same updates anyway. So, there’s not much to say in this area, other than Supernote devices have an awesome writing app, capable reading app, a write-on calendar (that syncs with Google/Outlook calendars) and a basic email client. As a focused note-taking tablet, it is (in my opinion) the best but is not as versatile as an Android tablet that you can install third-party apps onto.
I’m really impressed with the new modular design that allows users to swap out the battery (and possibly other components) when they die. I also love how securely the tablet attaches to the folio via the magnets, the USB port being located on the top edge and the g-sensor that allows me to view PDFs with small text more clearly in landscape mode.
The additional side-swipe bar means that regular actions, such as page turning and erasing are easier (although I’m still not sure that undo/redo for a swipe up/down is the best use of this gesture).
I don’t really like the new push-up pen. Not only does the colour look inconsistent with the tablet and folio, but there is also a slight rattle when I write and I have to pull the whole pen out of the folio loop (rather than just pulling the pen out of the lid). I’ve put the push-up pen aside and gone back to using my white Heart of Metal Pen with the Nomad – not only does it look better (both in terms of colour and design) but it is also easier to pull out of the loop and nicer to write with.
I’m still in two minds about the tactile feel of the paper-like FeelWrite2 screen protector. At first I didn’t like it at all, but with continued use it became more pleasant to write on. The more I use it, the more I seem to like it, however, I must admit I still prefer the smoother feel of the original FeelWrite on my Supernote A5 X.
Having said all this, will I be swapping out my old reliable A5X for the newer (and very impressive) A6X2 Nomad on a permanent basis?
Sadly, the answer is no.
And it is not because of the drawbacks I mentioned above, such as the pen or the screen protector. I can easily change the stylus (as I have done) and the screen protector is growing on me. And with all of the new enhancements available on the Nomad (modular design, extra side-swipe bar, g-sensor etc.) it would make sense to upgrade.
But my A5X has something that the Nomad doesn’t – a 10.3″ screen.
And, for me, this is a very important differentiation because I just find the Nomad’s screen a bit too small to work with productively. It’s just a little too cramped for my style of note-taking (although I’m sure it will be perfect for those that prefer this form factor).
I will certainly use it to access the notes that I make on my A5X and maybe even make a few short-form notes. But the A5X is going to remain my daily driver.
However, the A6X2 Nomad has really piqued my interest for the upcoming A5X2 (basically, a 10.3″ Nomad) that is on the horizon and should be released later this year.
This is something that I am very much looking forward to 🙂
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.