I’ve been using Astropad’s Rock Paper Pencil iPad screen cover lately. It has a silly name, puts a gray film over the iPad screen, and is just ever so slightly thick enough that the Magic Keyboard with Trackpad won’t close all the way with it on. And because the folder it comes in is basically paper, there’s no good place to put it short of just leaving it on. But! It does feel like paper.
I’m not a huge fan of it, but it works cheaper than a Remarkable 2. Both are inherently overpriced for what they are. The Rock Paper Pencil screen protector is $50 when you get it for the 12.9” iPad Pro. Various reviewers over on YouTube say the Pencil tips wear down. It looks like metal (probably some alloy of aluminum?) and I’m scared to try the Pencil with the Rock Paper Pencil tip on without the screen protector.
If you’re curious if you’d like it or not, ask yourself this:
- Do you appreciate the higher-quality, crisper audio of Apple Music vs. Spotify?
- Do you appreciate rich, deep blacks in your screen?
- Are you someone who notices things like the 120hz Pro Motion display of an iPad Pro and appreciates that?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, congratulations, you are just picky enough not to like either the Remarkable 2 or the Rock Paper Pencil thing.
The Rock Paper Pencil cover puts a slightly opaque film over the screen, which makes blacks — already a premium on the non-OLED iPad Pros — a little milkier. I find it noticeable. Screen glare is no more or less improved or diminished.
Using the iPad’s touchscreen with your fingers with the Rock Paper Pencil cover is fine. Some say they had to press harder or gesture more forcefully with it on, but I don’t believe this to be the case.
As someone who looked at the Remarkable 2, I found it to be … unremarkable. There is a noticeable lag with its marker, the screen is fine and it feels nice enough, but it’s at least $100 overpriced for what it is and the export options to do useful things with the notebooks is bleak. There’s no OCR of your handwriting unless you manually process it first.
iPad and Remarkables for handwritten journaling
My use case is simple: I like keeping a journal. I want that journal to exist in some kind of printed format, ideally bound in a book because I have no faith someone in 80 years is going to be able to open up my Remarkable or iPad or any kind of file with any success. What’s the point of keeping the journal if you’re not convinced anyone, or yourself, can read it in even 20 or 30 years?
But I also like combining some of the digital benefits of journals, like photos. That’s why the excellent Day One app is perfect. You can type, insert photos, and collect all sorts of basic information like the date, time, and weather automatically. At the end of each year, I export to its built-in printing function, where for about $30, they mail me a bound hardcover book. I put it on my shelf and keep going.
The Remarkable 2 can’t print beyond an office printer. Some people have workarounds that involve exporting to PDFs and printing booklets from InDesign, but I don’t want to deal with that. Day One makes this work well built-in.
But I sometimes like to slow myself down and write out my thoughts in long form. This is where Day One’s built-in “Draw” function on the iPad works well enough. They should add in the ability to edit the drawing later and the ability to put lines or grids on the canvas. But as-is, you tap Draw in the “More” menu and grab your Pencil and start drawing.
I can’t write worth a darn with the Apple Pencil on glass. It just feels gross to write long sentences by hand. The Rock Paper Pencil fixes this problem. It does feel quite like writing on paper and while it’s not as excellent as writing on high-quality paper with a nice fountain pen or your favorite ballpoint, it’s pretty dang close. I give that experience a thumbs-up.
But leaving the Rock Paper Pencil cover on the screen, which I am inclined to do because setting it aside seems irritating, makes the keyboard covers tilt open a few millimeters. It is noticeable. You can press and depress the little wedge.
One could also argue feeling the Rock Paper Pencil cover while using the iPad “normally” with your finger is nice. I don’t disagree. It is kinda nice to feel the texture over the glass surface.
That’s why I’m inclined to say the Rock Paper Pencil is, for the money, overpriced, but a way better deal for a much better device with less pencil lag and a much better screen refresh rate than the Remarkable 2. So I’m sticking with it.
Some people like the Remarkable precisely because it lacks the notifications and bells and whistles of an iPad. I respect that, but I don’t have that issue. I’ve got Focus Modes configured and don’t feel pressured to slip away to waste time somewhere.
If you draw a lot on your iPad, hands down the Rock Paper Pencil cover is worth trying. It would enable you to draw with the sensation of paper and is worth considering.