Hands on Review of the Reinkstone R1 Color E-paper E-note
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The Hands on Review of the Reinkstone R1 Color E-paper E-note
The Reinkstone is a very innovative product and the company gives some very compelling reasons to open up your wallet and support them on Kickstarter. The R1 uses a new type of color e-paper, a technology never seen before. It runs on Android 11 and users can sideload their own apps. Most importantly, it is a 10.1-inch digital annotation device that allows you to draw, annotate and edit PDF files freehand.
Thousands of people on all social media like Reditt, forums and YouTube have wondered if this is a real product or not, or some kind of scam. We received our review unit a few weeks ago and gave it a try. During our testing, we noticed all kinds of bugs and things that needed to be fixed, so if the average customer received their device, it would be a great experience. I want to give the Reinkstone team props, basically within five days of us giving them a huge list of things to fix, releasing a firmware update that fixed most of the issues and will release another update soon.
The vast majority of e-readers and e-notes sold around the world use EINK e-paper technology. They are the industry leaders in this division and while the competition has come and gone over the years, no one could compete with them. All about change with the arrival of DES Slurry, a new color e-paper designed and manufactured by Good-Displays, a company that has been making EPD screens for the Chinese market for 15 years.
DES Color Slurry does not use microcapsules or microcups, but an electronic slurry module. Basically every pixel floats in a plasma field and every pixel has a higher resolution than E INK. Slurry offers significantly improved brightness and color saturation while being anti-reflective. This technology also handles stress better, meaning the R1 has a 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 completely flush with the bezel and is protected by a layer of glass. What I find absolutely compelling about the color screen technology is that it can be turned off completely and the whole screen switches to a pure black and white mode, which significantly increases the resolution and PPI. The R1 is the first ever color e-paper product that allows users to turn the color display on/off. The color scheme has two shades on the front. The top of the device is a really pretty 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 an illuminated display with approximately 24 LED lights that ensure an even light distribution across the screen. If you slide your finger down from the top center of the UI, a drop-down menu will appear. There is a slider that allows you to control the brightness level, you can configure it to optimal levels. If you turn it on up to the extreme, things usually don’t look so good, and there are some obvious saturation issues. Turning it all the way down will turn it off completely. There is also a dark mode feature, which inverts the colors so that the background is black and all text is white.
One of the main reasons to buy the R1 is because it is an e-note, a kind of product that allows you to annotate, draw, edit PDF files and basically be productive or artistic. The vast majority of e-notes on the market use a WACOM display, but this requires a license payment of over $25,000. Since Reinkstone is a startup, they decided to go for a generic EMR display. The screen has palm rejection technology and the standard pen that comes with it has a pressure sensitivity of 4096 degrees, so the harder you press, the thicker the lines get. Drawing on the black and white screen has a latency of 40 ms and drawing in color has a latency of 50 ms.
Admittedly, the free stylus is not very good and the design is rather flimsy. Peter felt that the nibs kept shifting, making him feel like he would fall out if he clicked or drew on different UI elements. This was justified when using the Lamy Al-Star, for the rest of the review. Hopefully, Reinkstone will take a second look at their stock stylus.
Under the hood is a quad-core 1.8GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. It has Bluetooth 5.1, WIFI, G-Sensor and USB-C with OTG. There’s a microphone and two stereo speakers, the sound is actually quite excellent, when it comes to playing podcasts and audiobooks, although you can connect wireless headphones via Bluetooth, if you like. It’s powered by a massive 4,500 mAh battery, so it will last you about three weeks. Its dimensions are 236 × 167.7 × 6.8 mm and it weighs 425 g, which is very light.
Overall, the hardware feels smooth and well designed. The multicolored bezel and color scheme make it stand out in a crowded market, where devices are all one color, normally piano black. The case, an optional Kickstarter layer, is polished and has a loop for the stylus so you don’t lose it. One of the things that takes a lot of work is the software experience.
The Reinkstone R1 runs Android 11 for the OS and there are some stock features, normally buried in the settings menu, like being able to adjust the volume based on specific apps, or long-pressing apps and creating folders or just deleting them. Basically, the whole writing tablet has a custom launcher that makes all menus and submenus bright and vibrant, making it easier to interact with your finger or the stylus.
I believe one of the best elements of the overall software experience is the sheer number of languages supported. Reinkstone has kept the default Android configuration, so almost every major language is supported, making it great for people who speak English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch or anything else.
the most important home screen contains all pre-installed apps like PDF Reader, Music Player, Firmware Updater, Ebook Reader, Chrome and a lot of stock stuff like clock or calculator. There is a clock widget at the top. There is no app store that comes with the R1, but you can sideload in your own apps. We didn’t find it difficult to sideload into alternative app stores, making it easier to get apps up-to keep up to date. There are plenty to choose from, such as F-Droid, APKPURE, or using a browser-based solution such as APKMIRROR.
The navigation menu is at the bottom and consists of: Home, Reader, Notes and Settings. Each item has an icon to help you make sure you click the right one. The reading software is quite simple, you can do things like turn pages with tapes, swipes or gestures. It’s easy to change the font, font, or create color accents. I noticed it was generally lacking, you may want to sideload alternative e-reading apps with more functionality like Moon + Reader, Aldiko or regular apps like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Scribd, Libby etc.
This gargantuan 10.1-inch device just isn’t good for reading ebooks, but the full color screens make magazines, newspapers, webtoons and comic books look really good. We tested Comixology, Manga Rock, Press Reader, and Navi Webtoons and all of these apps worked flawlessly. The stock refresh system sometimes struggled with animated page turns or guided rendering, but not as bad as E INK, this outperformed E INK.
The settings menu is where you go to control things like refreshing the full page and adjusting the volume on a per-app basis. You can also establish a Wi-Fi network, pair Bluetooth devices, set security parameters, such as a system password. Here you can see which version number you have and search for firmware updates. The update we got, after doing the review, wasn’t a system update, but one that we had to install ourselves.
What was in this latest update? Well, they fixed the speaker issue. This happened when you already had the volume on the stock settings. When you click navigation menu items or submenus, a small audio loop plays. Instead of it being instant, like 0.4 ms, it was 4 seconds. This caused a lot of lag when clicking things, as you could see in our video review. They reduced the latency when writing in the notes app in black and white mode and color mode. They also fixed the frame rate issue, which reduced auto full brush detection times. They are going to fix the ghosting issue in a future firmware update but no word on when it will be released.
I wish this device had an A2 mode or some kind of speed mode to improve 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 even playing casual games.
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