The Reinkstone is a very innovative product and the company is making some very compelling reasons to open up your pocketbook and support them on Kickstarter. The R1 is employing a new type of color e-paper, a technology never seen before. It is running Android 11 and users can sideload their own apps. Most importantly, it is a 10.1 inch digital note taking device, that allows you to freehand draw, take notes and edit PDF files.
Thousands of people on all over social media, such as Reditt, forums and YouTube have been wondering if this is a real product or not, or some type of scam. We received our review unit a couple of weeks ago and have been putting it through the paces. During our testing, we noticed all sorts of bugs and things that needed to be fixed, so when the average customer received their unit, it would be a great experience. I want to give props to Reinkstone team, basically within five days of us giving them a huge list of things to be fixed, they pushed out a firmware update that solved most of the issues and will publish another update, soon.
The vast majority of e-readers and e-notes that are sold, all over the world, are employing E INK e-paper technology. They are the market leaders in this department and although competition have came and went over the years, nobody could compete against them. This all about change with the advent of DES Slurry, a new color e-paper that was designed and manufactured by Good-Displays, a company that has been in business making EPD displays for the Chinese market for the past 15 years.
DES Color Slurry is not using microcapsules or micro-cups, but an electronic slurry module. Basically each pixel is floating in a plasma field and each one has a higher resolution than E INK. Slurry offers significantly enhanced brightness and color saturation, while being ant-reflective. This tech also handles voltages better, which means the R1 will have longer battery life than other Android e-paper devices on the market.
The Reinkstone R1 features a DES Slurry color e-paper display with a 10.1 inch screen and a resolution of 1680 by 2232 with 280 PPI for black and white content and 140 PPI for color. The screen is totally flush with the bezel and protected by a layer of glass. What I find totally compelling about the color screen tech, is that it can be totally shut off and the entire screen will switch to a pure B&W mode, which significantly ups the resolution and PPI. The R1 is the first color e-paper product ever, to give users the ability to toggle the color display on/off. The color scheme has two tones on the front. The top of the device is a really nice sky blue and the rest of the bezel is black, so the e-paper screen really pops. The sides of the bezel, are also blue.
This device has a front-lit display with around 24 LED lights that provide even light distribution across the screen. If you slide your finger down from the top middle of the UI, there is a drop down menu that appears. There is a slider bar that helps you control the brightness level, you can configure it to optimal levels. If you crank it up to the max, things tend not to look so good, and there is some obvious saturation issues. If you turn it all the way down, it completely shuts off. There is also a dark mode feature, that inverts the colors, so the background is black and all text is white.
One of the big reasons to buy the R1, is because it is an e-note, which is a type of product that allows you to take notes, draw, edit PDF files and basically be productive or artistic. The vast majority of e-notes on the market are using a WACOM display, but this requires a license payment that is over $25,000. Since Reinkstone is a startup, they decided to go with a generic EMR display. The screen has palm rejection technology and the stock pen that ships with it, has 4096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, so the harder you press’s, the thicker the lines become. Drawing on the black and white display has 40ms of latency and drawing in color has 50ms of latency.
Admittingly the free stylus is not very good and the design is rather flimsy. Peter felt that the nibs kept shifting, making him feel like it was about to fall out, when clicking on various UI elements or drawing. This warranted in using the Lamy Al-Star, for the rest of the review. Hopefully Reinkstone takes a second look at their stock stylus.
Underneath the hood is a quadcore 1.8 GHZ processor, 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. It has Bluetooth 5.1, WIFI, G-Sensor and USB-C with OTG. There is a microphone and two stereo speakers, the sound is actually fairly excellent, when it comes to playing podcasts and audiobooks, although you can connect via Bluetooth a pair of wireless headphones, if you want. It is powered by a gigantic 4,500 mAh battery, so it will last around three weeks of usage. The dimensions are 236×167.7×6.8mm and weighs 425g, which is very light.
Overall, the hardware feels slick and well designed. The multi-colored bezel and color scheme makes it standout in a crowded market, where devices are all one color, normally piano black. The case, which is an optional Kickstarter tier, is polished and has a loop for the stylus, so you won’t lose it. One of the things that needs a lot of work, is the software experience.
The Reinkstone R1 is using Android 11 for the operating system and there are some stock features, normally buried in the settings menu, such as being able to turn volume levels based on specific apps, or long pressing apps and being able to create folders, or just uninstalling them. Basically, the entire writing tablet has a customized launcher that makes all of the menus and sub-menus bright and bubbly, which makes it easier to interact with your finger or the stylus.
I believe one of the best elements about the overall software experience is the sheer number of supported languages. Reinkstone kept the default Android setup, so virtually every major language is supported, which makes it extremely viable for people who speak English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, or anything else.
The main home screen comprises of all of the preinstalled apps, such as PDF Reader, Music Player, Firmware Updater, Ebook Reader, Chrome, and a bunch of stock stuff like clock or calculator. There is a clock widget at the top. There is no app store that ships with the R1, but you can sideload in your own apps. We found it not difficult to sideload in alternative app stores, which makes keeping apps, updated, easier. There are plenty to choose from, such as F-Droid, APKPURE, or using a browser based solution such as APKMIRROR.
The navigational menu is at the bottom and comprises of Home, Reader, Notes and Settings. Each entry has an icon, to help you with making sure you are clicking on the right thing. The reading software is fairly basic, you can do things like turn pages with tapes, swipes or gestures. It is easy to change the font, font-type or make color highlights. I found overall it was lacking, you might want to sideload in alternative e-reading apps with more functionality, such as Moon+ Reader, Aldiko or mainstream ones like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Scribd, Libby etc.
This giant 10.1 inch device is just not good for reading ebooks, but the full color screens really make magazines, newspapers, webtoons and comic books looks really, good. We tested out Comixology, Manga Rock, Press Reader and Navi Webtoons, and all of these apps worked without a hitch. The stock refresh system struggled sometimes with animated page turned or guided view, but not as bad as E INK, this performed better than E INK.
The settings menu is where you are going to go to control things like full page refreshes, adjusting the volume on a per app basis. You can also establish a WIFI network, pair Bluetooth devices, establish security parameters, such as a system password. Here is where you can see what version number you have and search for firmware updates. The update that we got, after conducting the review, was not a system update, but one we had to install ourselves.
What was in this latest update? Well, they fixed the speaker issue. This occurred when you had all volume on stock settings. When you click on navigational menu entries or sub-menus, a little audio loop played. Instead of it being instant, such as 0.4ms, it was 4 seconds. This created a lot of lag when clicking on things, as you might see in our video review. They decreased the latency when writing in the note app in B&W mode and color mode. They also fixed the framerate issue reduced the detection times of automatic full brush. In a future firmware update they are going to fix the ghosting problem, but no word on when it will be released.
I wish this device had an A2 mode or some type of speed mode to increase the performance of running Android apps. Many apps have animated page turns or other UI elements. The lack of A2, prevents you from watching Youtube videos, or playing even casual games.
There are many use case scenarios for using the Reinstone R1. Since it can either display all content as B&W or full color, it will make viewing and editing PDF files very easy. It will seriously be a replacement of paper in the office, because you can basically keep everything synced up to the cloud, using services like Google Drive or Dropbox. I like e-notes because I can sign contracts in full color and just email them to the person who needs it. If multiple people need to sign it, I just upload it to the Good e-Reader Cloud Storage service and other people can sign it too.
The PDF rendering engine can handle small PDF files, that are mostly text. Heavy PDF files that are big, as in over 300MB tend to struggle. The Beckett Baseball magazine we have been using for all of our reviews looks really good in B&W or color and is a good bench mark. Every single e-note we have tested, have had no problems. I guess there is a major issue, just turning pages became a huge struggle. Although with smaller ones, we could turn pages quick. You can use the stylus to interact with it, such as underlining, using colors to highlight or even copy and paste text. Big PDF files was a big letdown. Although, when we installed Acrobat for Android, everything worked great. So, i would recommend if you want to buy this device, just for PDF files. I would look at alternative apps such as Easy PDF Reader, Adobe Acrobat or Xodo PDF Reader.
When it comes to note taking the main screen comprises of all of the different notebooks you have, but if you just bought the device, you will likely find nothing here, but the default notebook. The note taking functionality is really good. There are over 30 different colors and shades to draw with, this amount of colors is now leading the industry. The previous model with the most amount of colors, was the Onyx Boox Nova 3 Color, that had 12. You can share notes via social media, email or cloud storage and export them as different graphic file formats, such as .png.
There are 10 preinstalled templates to choose from, nothing is very interesting, but it has the standard college rules, grids, lines, dots, and a few different designs for blank pages. There are navigational elements that assist you with undo/redo, save, create a new page, eraser, color selection and also choose your brush size and line thickness. You can really flex your drawing muscles, with so many color options and brushes, which is great for character art, environmental or professional designs, like CAD drawings. There are no layers, which is a bit limiting, Onyx Boox, Supernote and Remarkable, all have this feature.
I might seem a bit jaded from this review, but when it comes to drawing, nothing beats color e-paper. It is so refreshing to just not see a large screen e-note hit the market, but something not running E INK? But a real alternative? Once they figure out all of the software bugs, this is going to be a note taking juggernaut.
The Reinkstone R1 is not ready for prime time, when it comes to the software. There are simply too many bugs that are evident on this device, it is mind boggling that little to do quality assurance was done it. With the sheer amount of emails we are exchanging with the company to get them to solve bugs and address issues, I felt more like an unpaid bug bounty chaser and less of a reviewer.
Here are the most glaring problems, the refresh and ghosting issue is a very serious thing and basically makes everything you do, creating all of this staining all over the screen and there are no refresh buttons to solve it. The stock PDF editor can’t handle big files, audio recording makes it crash. On a hardware level, everything is nice and polished, color looks really great and it is well designed. It is made of aluminum and not cheapo plastic. I just hope they revisit the stylus, it is reprehensible.
Aside from the review, I am a bit worried about the company, because they had a partnership with another crowdfunded e-note called the Wisky EE Write, which was an unmitigated disaster, I believe less than 30% of all backers got their unit and it was the same song and dance when we reviewed it, it was a software mess, that NEVER got fixed. At least Reinkstone seems like they are investing engineering power in fixing all of the issues we find, which is excellent.
Should you support the company on Kickstarter? This is the million dollar question. If you look at all of their GIFS and product pictures, everything they show you looks really good and polished. In reality it is a bug riddled mess that needs some serious fixing. If you have $360 to $450 USD to reserve one, go for it. This is all new color e-paper tech, that has never been released in a commercially viable product before. I just hope they have a good supply chain and infrastructure for mass production.
- Solid Design and good hardware
- Bluetooth and Stereo Speakers
- It's using a new type of color e-paper
- Front-lit display
- You can turn color off or on
- Audio Recorder Crashes
- Severe ghosting problems
- Large PDF files unrepresponsive
- Stock Stylus is flimsy
- No speed modes to increase performance
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.