• Vojislav Dimitrijevic

RATTA SUPERNOTE A6 AGILE REVIEW

Updated: Apr 22

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Supernote platform piqued my interest when it first came out because of 3 things: minimalist design, impressive-looking pen, and the dual-function side touch slider. I reached out to Ratta for a test device, and after a few months they had sent me one, along with some extra accessories that are available for the Supernote A6 platform.


Initially, I didn't know what to expect, the corona pandemic was in full swing, and there was a lot on my mind. The DHL driver arrived, handed over the package from a distance as if it was going to explode. I took it straight to the balcony, opened it up and disinfected each of the boxes. Carefully arranged on the table, they sat outside for 4 hours, while I was periodically gazing at them through my window with longing in my eyes (I'll be honest, my nose touched the glass).


Finally, the time came to bring it all inside and by that point I was quite anxious to start exploring. That is not a good starting point, objectivity wise, because expectations tend to rise and it’s easy to get disappointed. Happily, the Supernote A6 delivered.

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)


From the moment of opening the box and holding the device for the first time, you are welcomed by attention to detail, quality and thoughtfulness. Because of the smaller format, the device feels good in the hand, a little on the heavier side, but not too heavy. Precise craftsmanship and careful design decisions are present on the device from every angle. When you take the pen into your hand (in my case their premium ‘Heart Of Metal’ pen), you'll be welcomed by the same precision craftsmanship and design decisions, but elevated even further.

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)


Finally, you unpack the equally beautifully crafted flipbook protective cover, slide the device in (with a satisfactory precise fit), put the pen into the penholder and close the lid. At this point, I didn’t want to separate from the device and the package as a whole, and this was all before even turning the device on.

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)


I have to say that, for me, this was a big difference when compared to other devices. So far, only the reMarkable 1 gave me that sense of “this is something special”. The rest of the devices usually fall well short of triggering enough emotions out of me to form an emotional bond. Supernote A6 has plenty of “special sauce” and emotional bond was almost immediately formed.



Unboxing And First Impressions

You can watch the Unboxing and First Impressions video here, for more details on the overall experience.



Specifications

Supernote A6 Agile is a 7.8” e-ink note-taking and reader device that offers equal functionality and capability in both areas. Here is the overview of the specs:


SCREEN

Display: E-Ink Digital Ink Touch Screen

Screen Size: 7.8”

Display Resolution: 1872×1404

PPI: 300 PPI

WACOM Active Digitizer: Yes

Front Light – No

Color Temperature – No


CPU, RAM & STORAGE

Processor: IMX6 1GHZ Single Core

RAM: 1GB

Internal Storage: 32GB

External Storage: No


OTHER

Operating System: Linux Supernote UI

Battery: 2500mAh

Data Connector: USB-C

WIFI: Yes (2.4GHz only)

Bluetooth: No

Audio: No


DIMENSIONS

Length: 188mm

Width: 138mm

Thickness: 7.2mm

Weight: 245 g


PRICE

$369.99 - $429.99 (depending on the accessories)



In-Depth Review And Guide

You can watch my full in-depth review and guide to the Ratta Supernote A6 here, but reading the article will offer some additional information that at the time of making the video wasn’t available to me and might provide additional insight into the product specifics.



Design And Build Quality

I am a big fan of the Supernote A6 design. I love the minimalistic approach and attention to detail. It feels good and balanced in the hand, on the lap or on a table. Ergonomy is excellent and it’s never awkward to hold or use, which is very often not the case with modern tablets. It is slightly on the weightier side of things, but it never becomes cumbersome or too heavy, the weight simply gives an impression of a good quality device.


Build quality seems very good as well. There are no imprecise joining points, everything is aligned properly and overall it seems like a device that is very well put together. That being said, the test device that I received did have two negative marks in the build quality category: a very slight bend along the vertical axis and the pre-applied screen protector is showing a tendency towards “freedom” as in ungluing from the device. It’s not expanding and a slight press with the finger glues it back in its place, for a short period of time, but then it starts lifting up again, slowly.


Both of these faults may very well be simply a case of a unit that has these issues, but as it is the only unit I have tested, I have to report what I see. Generally speaking, users don’t report having these problems, so I am lead to believe that I simply have received a unit that happens to have these issues, which is perfectly normal during any mass-produced product.



Pen And FeelWrite Film

Standard Pen Options (Image Credit: Ratta)


As a standard, the Supernote A6 Agile comes with a very high-quality Standard Pen. For $49.99 you can upgrade your experience to a truly spectacular Heart Of Metal pen. Both are of stunning quality, made out of metal (mostly) and both use the same internal “driver” which is called Super Refill Gen 1. The Standard Pen has a clicker at the thumb-end of the pen that extends and retracts the nib, while the Heart Of Metal doesn’t. Neither of the pens has an eraser functionality. Both types of pens are offered in a large variety of colors and designs, so it’s possible to customize your experience.

Heart Of Metal Pen Options (Image Credit: Ratta)


You can read up on the exact details of the Super Refl Gen 1 technology on their website, but the bottom line is that you get a super thin ballpoint end (at just 0.7mm) of the 3H hardness level that will last you a very long time before a replacement is needed. Here is a quote from Ratta regarding their nib technology:


“The Supernote Pen has a hard 3H nib, which is very strong and abrasion-resistant, and a soft FeelWrite film that further reduces the wear of the nib, making it very durable, with the nib going about 50km in our machine tests.”

The pen nib was designed to work in conjunction with their FeelWrite soft-film that is basically a really special multi-layered screen protector. But it’s not just any screen protector.

FeelWrite self-recovery surface (Image Credit: Ratta)

“This is the microscopic Feelwrite soft film, note its self-recovery phenomenon, which perfectly simulates the recessed damping of a real pen and paper.”

These two combined, the soft feel of the screen and the hard pen nib, result in a completely unique writing feel and experience. There is just the right balance of resistance and glide to give you a very precise and satisfactory feedback and writing feel. Is it exactly like paper? I don’t know. I think that it’s somewhat of personal interpretation, and for me personally it’s not a perfect replica of a paper feel. However, I don’t care about that 1 iota, simply because what it is, is a completely unique writing feel that is precise, pleasant, satisfying, and makes me want to write on it some more.



Folio

Currently, there is only the flip-book style of folio available, but that’s perfectly ok as it is designed and built perfectly. You slide the device in until you feel a satisfying soft “click” and the device remains securely locked in place in your folio. Folio has a wake-up function, so the simple act of opening the cover will wake the device up and it’s ready to go in seconds.


I have to say that when you put it all together, the device, the pen, and the folio, it all becomes this one coherent design, and it’s very obvious that someone was paying A LOT of attention to the overall complete Supernote experience. This isn’t always the case (on the contrary), and I think that it deserves a special mention here.


Similar to the pen approach, folios come in various colors, designs, and different surface materials as well, further expanding your ability to customize your overall Supernote experience.

Tyvek Folio Series Options (Image Credit: Ratta)



User Experience

Supernote platform has another surprise up its sleeve, and that is a touch-sensitive slider bar to the left of the screen. Slide down and the Main Menu slides out offering you the ability to jump between different modes of the device, such as Reader, Notebook, Annotations (oddly called “Summary”) Email, Calendar, and some other modes. Slide up and you will perform a forced screen refresh, to instantly get rid of any ghosting leftovers, which is a very useful feature.


The sidebar functionality, combined with the overall absence of a “Home Screen” (since it has been effectively replaced with the Main Menu and a smart way of organizing each mode) brings another surprising feature of the Supernote. It is far easier to multitask, and jump between documents, or different modes, than on any other device that I have used. At first, it feels a little odd, since we are creatures of habit, but after a very short amount of time, you find yourself using this functionality constantly. This approach effectively eliminates the “mid-point” of your journey to the next task that you want to perform, and as a result, you concentration levels remain higher for a longer period of time and the productivity is also higher, as a direct result of that.


Another positive aspect of the Supernote User Experience is that when the device wakes up from sleeping, it continues directly where you left off, the same mode, same document, same page you were at, and this is persistent between different modes, for example, when swapping between document and a notebook. This may sound basic, but it’s incredibly effective in real-life use. After extensive use of this approach, going back to the “old” systems of using a home screen as a junction that leads you to all other modes simply feels cumbersome and unnecessary.


It’s not all roses though, with the User Experience on the Supernote. There are two main issues that users should be aware of:


Confusing Translation - This is something that you will instantly notice when you start using the Supernote. At the time of writing this article, Supernote UI translation to the English language is at times a bit confusing and it takes time to make a mental connection between expressions used and their actual meaning. This isn’t a huge problem, as you will overcome it fairly quickly. Watching my in-depth guide video can help you a lot in that area so that you don’t have to figure stuff out that I had to :)


Overall Performance - The Supernote platform has recently received a big update that really improved its performance. And while that is certainly a really amazing feat that the development team has delivered, overall performance impression is somewhere between fast and slow. It’s not fast and it’s certainly not slow, by any means. Its overall performance speed is medium-high. This is something that you will need to accept (for the time being) and something that you should be aware of when considering this device. The speed never bothers me and never trips me down, but I am always aware of it. It’s not like I’m constantly waiting on the device, it’s just that because of its slightly chilled-out pace, I get to slightly chill out too while using it. And for me personally, that’s not a bad thing. However, if you are looking for a performance beast and are expecting the immediacy of reMarkable Gen 1 User Experience, don’t. It’s close, but a little bit behind and that simply may not be the right fit for you.


That being said, Ratta seems to be an incredibly dedicated team to their platform, and the Supernote is constantly improved and updated literally on a monthly basis. They have big plans and are obviously taking their users feedback very seriously, which is a great thing. This fact makes it entirely possible that the Supernote platform’s current shortcomings will not only be eliminated in the near future but that the platform itself will evolve and improve.



Battery Life

Battery management in Supernote is excellent. You can easily expect to get between 10-15 days of active use of the device between charges. However, one of the most valuable aspects of its battery management is that when it’s off or sleeping, it’s not draining the battery. So whenever you pick it up, even after an extended period of non-use (say 3-5 days) battery capacity remains exactly where you left it.



Reader

The reader has good functionalities with some excellent features. For a full overview of the functionality and guide, watch my in-depth review and guide. Here I will offer a summary of the pros and cons of the reader on the Supernote A6.

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)


PROS:

Split-Screen

Annotations

Bookmarks

Searchable asterisk


CONS:

Only EPUB and PDF formats supported

No word search in PDFs

No page zoom functionality

PDF page cropping is difficult to use



Note Taking

The notebook has a good set of features that should suffice for general everyday note-taking needs, but don’t expect a sketching or drawing device, like the reMarkable is, for example. There is definitely some room for functionality improvement here. For a full overview of the functionality and guide, watch my in-depth review and guide. Here I will offer a summary of the pros and cons of the notebook on the Supernote A6.

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)


PROS:

Excellent writing feel

Very low screen lag

Very small distance between the tip of the pen and the screen display

Long-lasting pen nib

Ability to easily add user templates for Notebooks


CONS:

No layers

No colors for exporting to color displays

Black color on top of lighter shades in all circumstances is limiting

No built-in Text Recognition in the notebook

Transform tool is seriously limited

No page zoom functionality



Extras

Supernote offers a few other functionalities that are very welcome and some that are not really there yet. Smart Document is supposed to be the type of document to use when you need text recognition, but its grid-like approach is not only limiting, but the actual functionality is more on the side of not usable, at the moment. I’m pretty sure that we can see significant improvements in this area in the near future, but at the moment, this is how it is.


A similar story is with the Calendar as well, mainly because of the built-in text recognition and lack of options to customize the calendar functionality to your needs. I see a lot of potentials here and find a Calendar app an incredibly important part of a device like this. However, it can’t sync with any of the existing calendar services yet, and its own functionality is a bit limiting, at the moment.


The keyboard for touch typing, while fully functional, can definitely be improved. A simple addition of a touch calibration and some customization options for the keyboard auto-capitalization and layout options would go a long way towards an improved user experience. As it is now, it works, but because of these limitations, I find myself trying to avoid it, and use it only when necessary.


Email, however, is where Supernote redeems itself, and in a big way. You are able to synchronize with an inbox of your choosing, as long as you set up the incoming and outgoing email servers correctly (only one inbox account can be used at a time). This means that not only was I able to sync and use my Gmail account on the Supernote, but more importantly, I was able to send notes, marked documents, etc via email, receive a response, and reply to a response. This is a big deal because it means that I am not forced to leave the ecosystem and switch devices (thus introducing distraction) while working with the Supernote A6. A huge plus!

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)


Another big advantage is the ability to simply plug the device into a computer via a USB-C and have it appear as a USB Drive. Drag and drop your own custom-tailored screensaver images or notebook templates, or simply load up the device directly with documents, unplug, and you are ready to go. Yes, there is an account and cloud service available for those who prefer such approach, but this direct access is something that is extremely valuable because it means that you can, should you so choose, keep this as an Air Gap device and still use it normally. This is certainly not the case with many of the platforms out there.



Overall Impression

I didn’t know what to expect from Supernote A6, but it blew me away. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. There are plenty of areas that I hope will be improved over time and considering the price, should be. But none of its shortcomings are enough to put me off it, simply because it's functionality, productivity and focus, as a device, instantly fit into my everyday workflow and improved it. Also, it’s got that “Special Sauce”, and a lot of it.


How best to summarize it? It’s a happy device and it makes me feel happy when I use it and makes me want to use it. If you’re looking for a cold calculating performance machine, this isn’t for you. However, if you are looking for a friendly little companion that you will share your moments in life with, then the Supernote A6 Agile definitely fits the bill and is worth considering.

(Image Credit: My Deep Guide)



#supernote #supernoteA6 #ratta #eink #ereader

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