I freely admit that this is my personal biased opinion and not really a "review" as such. For example, on my podast (Crafty Bites on Anchor) I reviewed DMC Magic Paper. I judged the product on three criteria, and tried to give an honest opinion on how the product performed based on those three criteria, and basically gave the product a pass/fail rating on each point. This is not that kind of review. I tried to wait until I had used my Mobiscribe for a while so I could be a bit more fair about things, but I find myself more mad at myself for not researching even more than I did, for trusting reviews more than I should have, and for jumping the gun because I was excited about something. So, if you're a Mobi Fan Boi, please don't have a heart attack and try and ruin my life because this product has not lived up to someone's expectations and they blogged about it. If you have such an inclination, if you don't like people criticizing Your Mobi, please go to another website with kittens and puppies and take a break for a while. Enough said.
NOW, ON TO BUSINESS
THIS IS LONG: TL/DR "Mobiscribe is OK but maybe try a Rocketbook for a while until Mobiscribe improves some of its features, it will be a good product someday."
IF YOU'RE WILLING TO WADE INTO THE ABYSS
I’ve waited a long time to organize my thoughts about the Mobiscribe (I will hereinafter refer to it as a Mobi). I knew I was going to be disappointed; I really wanted the BOOX Nova 3 color, but alas, shipping would have been $1,000, more than twice the price of the device. So, that was a no.
I was interested in the ReMarkable (RM), but it only had 8 GB of onboard storage compared to the Mobi’s 32, plus the Mobi has an SD slot which can take a mini SD card of up to 32 GB. That was the deciding factor between the Mobi and the RM. The RM appears to have a better writing experience and more features (I believe it supports layers where Mobi can’t for instance). You can make custom templates on Mobi, but since RM supports layers, that would be a non-issue between the two (at least for me).
As I said above, I was ready to be underwhelmed. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I had read about and watched videos on the Mobi, so I knew what shortcomings were ahead. It really was underwhelming. Let me tell you about it. And let me apologize up front: This post is really going to crap on the Mobi a bit. If you can’t take that, then go read their reviews somewhere else. Not Amazon. They weren’t that great either. I’m mad at myself for buying this thing, trying desperately not to be one of those people that rationalizes buying something I didn’t really need and that probably is not a fully finished product, but I’m trying to work through all that because I’m not going to return it and I at least want it to be useful. So, if you keep reading, you’re going to encounter all those feelings through my prose. Just to warn you.
First of all, the tip on the stylus appeared worn down already. I switched to one of the extra tips within days. I could tell the difference. After I used that tip for a couple days and it started to look like the original, I knew I had a stylus with a used tip. Then that stylus had to be replaced within a week! I’m thinking of putting a THIRD tip in the stylus, and it’s only been a couple weeks. I’m figuring this device was used before or maybe tested a lot at the factory? I don’t know. One thing I noticed….it had somebody’s Wi-Fi network already saved in the saved networks. Hmmmmmmmm.
I would recount to you the emails back and forth to Mobi support, but I have so many you just don’t want to hear about it. The thing was glitchy as hell, it’s tough to find where your files are, the SD card is basically just sitting there because you can’t choose to save files to it (but I’ll get into that later), the famed eraser on the stylus (that they make so much of) doesn’t work for me, I erase things, but then they come back, plus it automatically erases everything in a line. What freaking eraser is supposed to do that? There is a spot eraser function that erases just what you touch, but you don’t use the eraser on the end for that. So, I don’t ever use that eraser anymore. From what I’m told, the stuff coming back after you erased it was a bug that was fixed with the last firmware update, but I’ve updated my firmware and it still exists. I’ve had to factory reset multiple times in a couple weeks. I’ve lost most of my files because the backup function is spotty, I was told by Mobi support to manually use my computer to move files to backup (which is dicey because if you don’t backup properly, the Mobi won’t recognize those files to import as a backup, so you wind up not using backup anyway. So why does it exist? I actually have an answer to that and it has to do with terminology but that’s going off on another huge tangent so I’m leaving it at that for now).
The thing I knew about going in, the thing I hoped would not be as much of a problem as it is, is the fact that you can transcribe text with it (and I’ll grant the Mobi that, it transcribes pretty well) and you can transcribe multiple written pages, but you can't save them to the same document. At least, it’s not set up that way. You can do it, but it’s a pain. A complete and utter pain. And if you’re taking notes in a meeting or writing out a story or a blog post, why would you want to have to save multiple documents? I had hoped that would be a minor annoyance, but since I can so easily scan in multiple pages with my Rocketbook (RB) and send them as one document, why would I bother with Mobi for that purpose? Oh, about the SD card. So it's a bit of a difficult time trying to use the SD card for everyday storage of your notes. You don’t have a choice where to save documents at the moment you save them. You can't tell the device to pull documents from folders on the SD card. You have to manually move them with your computer. (Although, your computer's going to treat the Mobi and the SD card like just another folder so you don't have to download any special software to transfer files, that's a plus.) You can move them around afterward, but I really expected to be able to define in the settings where to save documents. You can’t. Most of the settings are just about brightness and contrast, there’s not much you can change in the settings otherwise.
I was going to return it, but since it was not defective (all the glitches and problems are just part of how it works, apparently) I would have to pay shipping and a restocking fee. I decided to keep it, because it does have some uses, and I figured I would watch the market and wait for a color device that I could afford, and then give this one to somebody else. To me, the Mobi just does not feel finished. (I don't mean the physical feeling of the device, that is quite sturdy, I mean the OS and some of the drawing features) Hopefully, some firmware updates in the future will help with its functionality, but it’s just so frustrating to use. Finding files is a pain. Backing up is a pain. Erasing can be dicey. You can't shift pages around in a note. The stylus tips wear out (I’ve seen other users say the same, although some report they last quite a while). The stylus starts to feel uncomfortable in the hand after a while, too. The battery life was disappointing. I charge mine every night unless I don’t use it. One day when I used it pretty much throughout the whole day, I had to charge it in the middle of the day as well.
The templates were underwhelming, too. The built-in templates are too dark and there doesn’t seem to be a way to tone down how dark they are. It’s OK for the lined paper template, but the graph paper is too dark to use to draw over. Thankfully, you can import a picture file to make your own template, that’s nice. That’s one of the more useful features of the Mobi to me.
The one joy, the one thing that keeps me going, is something that completely ignores the BIG BIG BIG BIG selling point Mobi makes about their device: the OCR. Screw OCR. The Mobi’s OCR is really good, but only if you take only one tiny page of notes, and then only if you have nice tiny handwriting. What I like the Mobi for is drawing diagrams and then making notes on those diagrams. But even there I have some issues, which I’m hoping a firmware update will address. Let me give you an example. I drew a diagram on my Mobi for a pattern, ironically, a pattern for a sleeve for my Mobi because the cover they shipped it with was defective (they acknowledge this, and they don’t charge you for the cover). I drew some bits of the pattern, had to erase around it, and then found I wanted to move it to a different part of the page. Mobi does have a lasso function where you can select a part of your note and move it around. Very nice. But the Mobi wouldn’t let me move it. The old eraser marks, which I couldn’t see in a normal view, especially after refreshing the screen to remove any ghosting, were still technically there, and they were above the diagram, and wouldn’t let me move the diagram up because they were colliding with the top of the note. So, something I erased, that wasn’t supposed to be there anymore, was preventing me from doing something the Mobi was supposed to be able to do. I had to erase a bunch of stuff and completely redraw the diagram where I wanted to anyway. What a waste. Now I try not to use that particular eraser function if I’m drawing diagrams, or, at least, I’m judicious about it. Despite this frustration, I do still like using the Mobi for patterns. I can easily turn them into PDF files. That’s pretty neat. That’s the best thing about the Mobi.
However, things like the frustration with where the files are stored, not being about to choose a destination for my files, and the erasing problems make the device feel unfinished. They are proud to say they have a search function to search notes, but apparently this doesn’t search through the notes for the word you want to search on, it just searches for note titles. You can tag your notes to search on specific terms, but you have to know ahead of time what you think you’re going to be searching for. You can’t just decide you want to search for someone’s name in all your notes if you forget it unless you’ve already tagged it. This is another feature that feels like it needs some work. Despite all this, I do feel that the Mobi is a device with a lot of potential. I’m just hoping a lot of it can be solved with firmware updates, because if they skip over that step and just come out with another device, I’m going to be pissed, and I’ll be telling people about it. Not that my opinion matters much, to be honest.
Trigger warning: I’m going to be a bit caustic here. I don’t mean to be rude or to put people down, but I feel I have to make note of something I’m encountering. I’ve had some pushback against some things I’ve said about the Mobi, especially about it feeling like a “toy” or “not finished” or the stylus being a “glorified piece of plastic” and I can appreciate that, and I do acknowledge that that is merely my opinion and very subjective. But it seems like the Mobi supporters are attached to the device at all costs. Let me give you an example of a similar situation I encountered: years ago. I knew a person who owned a car he loved. It was a nice car, an old muscle car. Sadly, one day it was damaged. It wasn’t his fault, somebody else damaged it. Whoever it was paid for his paint job to be redone, as the body of the car wasn’t damaged, just the paint. He raved about the new paint job, but looking at it, you could really tell where the old paint job ended, and the new paint job began. I made a comment about it and he didn’t like it. From the way he reacted, I think he acknowledged that the paint job was bad, but he didn’t want to admit to himself that the paint job was bad, because he didn’t want to be disappointed, so he just clung to the falsehood that the car looked just as it had before. I can understand that feeling. I’ve had that feeling about laptops, or e-readers, or cell phones before. You convince yourself that the shortcomings in the device are no big deal because disappointment is a bad feeling and buyer remorse is twice as bad because you’ve put your hard-earned money on the line as well. I’ve done it myself, as I’ve said. Once you move past all that, you can get down to the work of deciding whether that laptop, that e-reader, that e-ink notebook is realistically going to work for you, even with all its faults, or if it’s a cut your losses and run type of situation. That is a personal decision, and I think some Mobi supporters are working off emotion rather than logic. If you spend $300 or so on a device, you want your money to be well spent. Sometimes, the money is not well spent, but it’s salvageable. That’s how I personally feel about the Mobi (that it wasn't a good purchase, but it's salvageable). Some people don't want to feel bad for whatever reason, so they act like attack sharks at anybody who doesn't have a favorable opinion of the Mobi. Some people genuinely love it and are using it and it works well for them. I am glad for those people. But I feel sorry for those that feel they have to go on the attack because inside they feel some remorse. Again, just my opinion. And we all know what those are like.
Thus, we come to the second title: MOBI V ROCKETBOOK
I had hoped my Mobi would basically replace my RB. It’s not going to by a long shot. Even if it pretty much did, I would still use the RB at places like the grocery store or what have you, because the Mobi cost so much, I would be afraid to damage it or lose it or have it stolen. But the RB is going to remain a part of my everyday note taking, since I can scan in multiple pages and easily make them part of one document. Plus, the RB guys are really on the ball with updates to the app and stuff. I have the same Everlast RB (it’s called the Core now, that’s how long I’ve had it) and although it’s still the same old notebook, I get updates to what it can do automatically with the app instead of having to buy another notebook! They have a planner RB now too, and a totally new RB called the Axis. The beacons are cool to use with a whiteboard that you can share with ANYONE (not just another RB user, like the Mobi where you can only share with another Mobi). Actually, I think you can share the RB page now on Snapcast, too. But anyway, I’ve got access to all this new stuff with my old notebook. COOL!!! There are tons of other hacks, too, regarding combining notebooks, templates made with Sharpie markers, etc. The list is endless.
The RB’s not perfect by any means. You have to use Frixion pens, and the quality control seems spotty on the type of pen provided because they either last a long time or the ink runs out very quickly. (This is not a problem with RB, it's a problem with Pilot, the maker of the pens.) That’s something I’ve seen a lot of talk about in the RB community. I suggest ditching the provided Frixion pen and getting yourself a retractable pen, fine liner or a Color Stick instead (just make sure it’s Frixion branded). They last longer. The pages tend to ghost after a while, especially if you leave writing on the page for weeks, and you can’t just ***whoosh*** it away with a “refresh” function like you can with the Mobi. The ink will disappear in high heat, in fact, I left my crossword puzzle book in the van in the summer here in Florida, and parts of my writing I had done (although not all) with the Frixion pen had disappeared. However, you can get it to come back by making the pages cold, like putting them in the fridge or freezer. The same can happen to the pen itself, if it gets too warm, the ink goes clear. Same fix: put it in the freezer. (BTW I absolutely LOVE Frixion pens but for a completely different reason. But that’s for another day.) RB pages can crease if they get bent, and once they’re creased, that’s it. You can flatten it I guess, but the crease is there. I just discarded the one page that I had that happen on. Erasing is a problem on the RB, too, as you need to use water instead of the proprietary Frixion eraser (if you use the eraser on the pen, you will ruin your RB page) so you better keep a little spray bottle and your microfiber cloth with you if you take your RB anywhere. Erasing just one letter or a little dot can be frustrating, sometimes it’s just less frustrating to erase a larger area. The ink can smudge if you don’t wait a few seconds for the ink to “bond” (I think that’s how they put it on the website) to the paper, and I’ve seen lefties complain about the standard RB notebooks because for them, the coil is on the wrong side. And unlike the Mobi with the onboard storage and SD card, if you want to save your RB notes, you must be connected to the internet. And, eventually, the RB pages will gradually lose their ability to be rewritten, although that looks like it would take an awfully long time. When I first got the RB, you couldn’t use the OCR function with the Beacons (they are what enable you to use a whiteboard with the app). I’m not sure if that’s changed. They were planning on changing it from what I understand. I don’t use the Beacons enough to remember if it has yet or not.
So, which is it, the Mobi or the RB?
I’m disappointed in Mobi, I don’t really recommend it to anyone at this point, but I do advise you to keep an on them as well as ReMarkable in the future. As I keep saying, Mobi doesn’t feel finished, but it will be someday, and I’m hopeful it will be great.
In the meantime, if you want to cut down on paper, just get a Rocketbook, you’ll save yourself some frustration and you don’t have to charge it. Just know it’s not an end-all be-all product. As with everything in life, you have trade-offs. The main thing I can say about RB is that the devs really thought about a lot of things and worked hard to make a product that does feel finished, even if it does have its shortcomings.