I’ve always thought the folks at reMarkable were missing a trick by not offering a keyboard for their e-paper tablet. I’m a fan of portable, distraction-reducing writing machines, and when my brain gets too cluttered, I go stand by my window with a keyboard-equipped iPad in front of me. reMarkable’s community has already found ways to jerry-rig a keyboard to the machine, but I’d much prefer to get a finished package than something knocked together on the fly.
So I was excited to learn that the company is now launching its own keyboard, stand and cover accessory in the form of the Type Folio. It’s the company’s take on the cover-stand-keyboard unit offered for pretty much every other tablet on the market. But it’s also blessed with its own quirks, designed to ensure that it won’t ruin the skinny silhouette of the existing hardware.
For the uninitiated, reMarkable 2 is an e-paper tablet promising paper-like responsiveness, letting you read, amend and write documents with a stylus. Its low weight, long battery life and the stripped-down nature of its offering has earned it plenty of plaudits from its hardcore fans. But while it makes many of its (intentional) limitations into virtues, it is still quite niche. As my beloved former colleague Chris Velazco said two years ago, “This is a device for people who care about writing and reading to the exclusion of just about everything else.”
To get started with Type Folio, you just slide reMarkable 2 into it, connecting to a small chin on the slate’s left hand side/bottom. Unfold the case and the stand will hold it upright to expose the keys underneath, and once it’s clicked in, the tablet reorientates itself to landscape mode. Flip the tablet back down to cover the keys, and it’ll jump back into portrait mode, in a way that feels natural, and seamless.
reMarkable opted to make the letter keys full size, sat over rubber dome switches with 1.3mm of travel. The number and other keys are compressed to fill space left over, but while I expected to need some adjustment time, it all came together fairly instantly. I was also delighted that the arrow keys (vital when moving the cursor around) were left in space to help your fingers find them.
In fact, I think I probably made just two more errors writing the first draft of this piece on the slate than I would on my regular keyboard. The lack of autocorrect and spell check could be an issue if you enjoy, or need, the assistance offered by most normal systems these days. If you use this for nothing more than first and second drafts, before finishing things on a different screen, then I can’t imagine it being an issue.
And for people who need something a little more limited to help keep their minds focused, this is a delight. I could well imagine myself taking this, rather than my iPad, over to the window when I need to avoid the numerous temptations of the internet. I especially liked the ability to make live notes with the stylus when proofing the draft while sat eating lunch, too. It’s as close to being able to print out and amend your work as I’m likely to get until I finally give in and buy a printer again.
Type Folio comes in two faux-leather finishes, the Sepia Brown I tried and an Ink Black. It’s slim and light enough that it doesn’t feel like too much bulk has been added to the already pretty slender tablet. Given that you’re now able to do a lot more with it than you could before, it feels like there’s been very little trade off or sacrifice made here.
If there’s one place I feel compelled to take points off, it’s in the price, which fails the “would I spend my own money to buy this” test. The slate itself is $299, and only really works if you buy a stylus priced at either $79, or $129 if you opt for the built-in “eraser.” So it’s hard to swallow when the keyboard folio is $199, a full two-thirds of the price of the main hardware itself, as much as I think it’s a beautiful and well-engineered piece of gear. I do imagine that, for most would-be reMarkable buyers, price is less of a consideration than it is for other gadgets. But, in aggregate, the sticker gets close to the point where you start asking questions about how much you’d need this over, say, a 9th generation iPad and its own stylus and keyboard folio. By comparison, reMarkable remains a product that you’ll need to fall in love with before you start forking over that much cash, but mercifully, it’s also very easy to fall in love with.