Ratta is a Japanese manufacturer, which makes interesting eInk tablets because they are well finished and equipped with a stylus for writing, like on the Onyx or the reMarkable e-readers. However, Ratta differs from these two manufacturers by a certain minimalism, coupled with quite varied functionalities. The perfect balance?
The SuperNote A5 is based on a 10.3-inch screen with a WACOM layer. The resolution is 1872×1404 for 226 PPI. Regarding the CPU level, there is an IMX6 Single Core, as on the reMarkable 1, 1 GB RAM and 32GB internal storage space. The battery is 2,850mAh, and the dimensions of the device are: 245mmx178mmx7mm for 366g.
So it’s a good e-reader on paper, quite basic in terms of hardware: the specs are close to the reMarkable 1 or the Inkpad X with a Wacom layer (which allows to write with a stylus on the e-reader, and thus to take notes). Here again, it’s more an eInk tablet than a “simple” e-reader, like the Inkpad X, but the CPU and RAM levels are still something more basic (and a bit older) than what Boox Note 2 offers. Is this a problem? Not necessarily, because as we’ll see, this e-reader doesn’t run on Android (which requires a high-performance hardware to run smoothly) but on a “home-made” system based on a Linux kernel and very well optimized, which allows the tablet to offer great fluidity with a modest CPU, and to keep a good autonomy.
In use: efficient, minimalist but quite versatile
The SuperNote A5 is pleasant to use. The writing is a little less pleasant than on the reMarkable (which really did a big work on this aspect, notoriously on the reproduction of a “paper” feeling) but the stylus included breathes quality and is pleasant to use. On the software side, it is still a rather minimalist system (similar to what we find in the PocketBook and the reMarkable, as on the more basic e-readers: system based on GNU/Linux and developed in-house) but with several features: you can use the device to read documents in many formats, to take notes or make drawings, and it is possible to annotate your PDF documents; but it is also possible to view and reply to your emails!
We therefore find a minimalist approach allowing to stay centered and not to disperse (main problem with tablets for some users!) while having the possibility to work seriously with the device. We are thus far from an approach that could be described as too minimalist, adapted to note-taking but limited for all other uses – like the reMarkable 1 or the future reMarkable 2. In my opinion, there is here a good balance between a basic and light system and the possibility to really use one’s device in a versatile way, without the need to install any additional software.
If the Onyx Boox Note 2 is a great eInk tablet, and that it is very versatile thanks to the choice to use Android, one can wonder how these tablets will evolve over time: the manufacturer has not provided updates to recent versions of android for its first e-readers, will these devices be updated over time? With Ratta and its eInk tablets /”SuperNote” e-readers, it seems likely that updates will be followed over the long term: the operating system is developed in-house, and the team is extremely responsive to user requests and feedback.
Bang for the buck vs competitors.
The Ratta Supernote A5 can be found for 599 dollars (USD) without postage and custom fees, on the official Ratta website. It is currently not available at Amazon or major European merchants, which complicates the purchase. For this price, which we can consider to be around 650 euros with VAT and shipping, the Supernote A5 seems quite expensive to me. The Onyx Boox Note 2 can be found for just over 500 euros at Amazon or on eBay, with in both cases certain guarantees and the assurance of not having to pay customs fees. For 500 euros in France, this e-reader would clearly be interesting. For this price and the necessity to import it from China, it is more difficult to say, especially since the reMarkable 2 is available in pre-order for 400 euros and that one can find the reMarkable 1 at a very good price on eBay…
In my opinion, at the moment, a second-hand reMarkable 1 or a pre-order reMarkable 2 are more interesting. If on the other hand it becomes more widely available in France, it can be a very good alternative to both the reMarkable and the Boox Note 2: less minimalist than the first one, you can accomplish most tasks without having to modify your device. Based on a minimalist GNU/Linux system and not on Android like the second one, the follow up of the developers is very good and the reactivity and the attention to the users’ feedbacks suggest good evolutions for the future.
It is clearly a very good eInk tablet for those who are looking for a versatile but relatively minimalist working tool to stay focused and not to disperse. It is probably one of the best devices for researchers or students, or for those looking for an e-reader to read PDF documents. To be seen in the future if it becomes more available in our countries…