Jake LaCaze

MobiScribe Wave B&W - More perspective than review

The MobiScribe Wave isn’t the best e-ink device out there. But it might be all you need.


Over the last few weeks, I’ve fallen in love with the MobiScribe Wave. Because the device is an interesting mix of value and compromises, you should do your research before you buy.

This post is less technical than you’ll find on most other reviews. I hope to instead give practical perspective to inform your buying decision. The MobiScribe Wave is not a premium device in the same class as the Remarkable 2, Kindle Scribe, or Ratta Supernote. But depending on your usage, the Wave may be all you need.

While using the Wave as my main writing and reading device for the last month or so, I’ve become well-acquainted with its limitations. But I still love the device despite its flaws.

Why I bought the MobiScribe Wave

I’d had my eye on an e-ink writing tablet for a while now. But at times I couldn’t help feeling I wanted one only because I wanted a new toy, and that buying such a device would be a waste of money.

Comparable e-ink writing tablets from MobiScribe’s competitors are significantly more expensive than the Wave–some over twice as much, depending on what specs and accessories you get.

Later in this post you’ll find a brief comparisons of the Wave and its competitors; hopefully then you’ll understand why I was reluctant to splurge on a device I wasn’t sure was truly for me. I was tempted to stick with old fashioned pen and paper. But the old ways weren’t working out great on my morning and evening train commutes.

With physical notebooks, I struggle with keeping different types of writing separate in their own notebooks. But it’s often more convenient to carry only one notebook. With the MobiScribe Wave, I can now have the best of both scenarios, at a great price.

With an e-ink notebook, I can switch between reading and writing in a snap, within the same device. And reading my writing partner’s stories on my Wave is way easier than reading them on my tiny phone screen (iPhone SE). Also, on my phone, it’s too easy to find something else to do with so many apps at my fingertips. So, for a while, I was printing my writing partner’s stories out. Making notes on an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper is inconvenient at the best of times on the train, but even more so on those days where it’s standing room only.

Having everything I need on one device cuts down on the number of items I carry in my laptop bag. Each book, notebook, pen, pencil, eraser, etc., adds weight and bulk. Maybe I’d feel differently if I got to call my own shots and could work when and where I wanted. But I instead sold my soul to The Man, so the MobiScribe Wave is a great device for me.

I resisted the urge to buy an e-ink writing tablet for a while. But when Cal Newport kept singing the praises of his Remarkable 2 on the Deep Questions Podcast1, I could no longer resist. And a certain YouTube video from Voja of My Deep Guide2 convinced me the Wave was worth taking a chance on.

What you get

Below is what you receive when you buy the MobiScribe Wave:

  • The MobiScribe Wave e-ink notebook.
  • MobiScribe’s standard Stylus.
  • Cover for the device.
  • USB-C cable for charging and file transfer (wall plug not included).

The primary device

The primary device feels solid.

The back has indentions on the side which make it easy to hold.

I wasn’t sure I’d like having a recessed screen, especially because I’d gotten used to a flush screen on my Kindle Oasis (before my wife decided she wanted to start reading again and basically stole my Oasis, thereby justifying my purchase of the Wave). But I’m happy to report the recessed screen hasn’t been an issue. In fact, I’ve forgotten it’s even an aspect of the device.

64GB of storage is very generous at this price point. More expensive devices come with much less storage.

The front light is one of those features that most e-reader fans likely take for granted. But, when you consider that no versions of the Remarkable 2 include a front light, you realize what a luxury it is.

Stylus

The stylus is fine.

From what I’ve read online, the stylus doesn’t give as much feedback as the Remarkable 2’s stylus, which may be an issue for some users. The good news is that the Wave is compatiable with most styluses that use Wacom EMR technology, so you can switch out for a better stylus if you like.

Having an eraser on the end of the stylus is nice. But I can’t help wanting to rub when I erase–like you’d expect to do with a pencil eraser–and I’m pretty sure that’s how I scratched my screen. The scratches aren’t bad and I don’t find them distracting. But it’s disappointing that I’m already seeing cosmetic wear and tear after only a month of ownership.

I replaced the nib after three weeks of usage. I haven’t had the device long enough to know if this will be the average lifespan for my nibs. Also, your mileage may vary.

After owning the Wave for a month, I bought the Staedtler Noris Jumbo stylus3, which is much better at a great price (~$35). The stock stylus had stopped working as expected. For some reason, it would only erase, no matter what tool was selected. My research prior to buying the Wave did not lead me to believe it’s common for the stock stylus to crap out so quickly. So I can’t say you should factor the cost of another stylus into the budget/risk factor. I appear to have just run into a bit of bad luck.

Case

The case is simple, light, and functional.

The front cover folds around with no hitches, making the device is easy to hold with one hand. The pen loop ensures you never lose your stylus. Cutouts along the top and bottom edges give access to the charging port and buttons for power and the front light.

But how well does it protect the Wave? I haven’t dropped it yet, so I can’t really say. But the device isn’t as fragile as an iPad, which uses a glasses screen, so I imagine the case works just fine.

The MobiScribe Wave vs. similar devices

The complete package of the MobiScribe Wave can be tough to gauge. For $230, you get a complete bundle including the MobiScribe Wave, case, stylus, and USB-C cable.

Now, let’s glance at how the MobiScribe Wave compares to its peers in terms of price and value:

  • $450 for the cheapest bundle (device, stylus, cover) from Remarkable
  • $275 for a refurbished Remarkable (device only); $299 for new (device only)
  • Nearly $400 for a comparable Kindle Scribe bundle (with only 16GB of storage)
  • ~$550 for a similar bundle for the Supernote Ratta A5X (a comparable device to the Remarkable 2 and Kindle Scribe)
  • ~$420 for a similar bundle for the Supernote Ratta A6X (comparable in size to the MobiScribe Wave

Please note: The prices listed here are normal MSRP and do not account for potential sales. Also, you may save money if you don’t buy a full bundle.

The Wave comes with 64GB of storage. The Kindle Scribe bundles start at 16GB. The Remarkable 2 has only 8GB of storage, with no expansion options.

The Wave includes a front light, which is not available on any of the Remarkable 2 devices at any price point.

None of the Wave’s competitors claim to offer waterproof devices. (Is the Wave really waterproof? No idea, as I don’t plan on testing that feature any time soon.)

The Wave lets you download other apps via the Google Play Store. This feature helps to make the Wave a more nearly complete reading device by making it easier to check in on your RSS feeds and saved articles. As far as I know, the Remarkable 2 doesn’t let you download any extra apps. And Kindle wants to limit you to their store and ecosystem. With the Wave, you can read ebooks via apps including Kindle, Kobo, Libby, and Hoopla to name a few. If you care about other apps and doing things beyond reading and writing, then a full-fledged e-ink tablet from Onyx’s Boox line may be more up your alley. But keep in mind the Boox devices are much more expensive than the MobiScribe Wave (and most of the other devices mentioned in this post).

Initial setup

After connecting to WiFi, I downloaded the tolino app for ebooks and the Adobe PDF app. You can download these apps from the MobiStore app–no account required.

Then I transferred my ebooks via USB-C and I was ready to go. (NOTE: If you’re using a Mac, you’ll have to download the Android File Transfer app. Sometimes I have to connect the device multiple times before the app works. I don’t know if this issue is unique to the Wave, or if it’s typical with most Android devices and Macs.

UPDATE: Since the original post, I have since transferred books via USB-C on Fedora Onyx, which was a much smoother experience, so Linux users may have better luck.)

I’ve also enabled the Google Play Store on the device and have downloaded apps including Firefox and wallabag.

How I’ve been using the MobiScribe Wave

As a writing device

Since I got the Wave, I’ve used it for every version of writing I can think of:

  • Journal entries.
  • Short stories.
  • Blog posts.
  • Doodles.
  • Meeting notes.

I’ve yet to find a reason to go back to physical notebooks and pens.

E-reader

When it comes to reading, the Wave feels like a Kindle on steroids.

As you would expect, I can read ebooks on it. Most of the ebooks I read tend to be EPUB files. But I do read PDFs on the device as well. Being able to directly markup both EPUB and PDF files with my stylus makes it feel as if I’m reading an old fashioned printed work, but with the benefits of technology.

As I’ve already mentioned, downloading a couple extra apps on the Wave lets me keep up with my favorite blogs. With Firefox, I can access miniflux (my RSS service provider) and with wallabag, I can catch up on my read-it-later articles.

Who the MobiScribe Wave is for

The Wave might be a great option for you if you’re:

  • Cost conscious, whether generally or because you’re not sure if you’ll like this type of device and so don’t want to spend too much.
  • Someone who’s never used a premium alternative such as the Remarkable 2 or Kindle Scribe. (I haven’t used any Remarkable or Scribe tablets aside from demoing them in the store, but in general, it’s hard to take a step down if you’ve had something perceived as being in a higher product class.)
  • Someone who commutes or travels and you’re tired of carrying multiple books, notebooks, pens, etc.

Who the MobiScribe Wave is NOT for

You may want to pass on the Wave if you’re:

  • Someone who expects a premium experience or has already gotten used to a premium device.
  • Someone who doesn’t understand the value of e-ink and may be better served by an iPad or similar full-feature tablet.

Pros

Below are some features that make the MobiScribe Wave a great value purchase:

  • Cost - For $230, you get a writing tablet, stylus, cover, 64 GB storage, and more.
  • Great writing experience.
  • Access to apps like Kindle and Libby that extend your reading options.
  • Unlimited paper (and the flexibility of deleting, copying, inserting, and rearranging pages however you want or need).

I’ve already covered why I think the Wave is a great value at $230.

I usually prefer more feedback when writing. The Wave doesn’t give as much feedback as I get from certain fountain pens, but the writing experience is much better than writing on an iPad without a paperlike screen protector, which feels far too slick.

Being able to download extra apps extends the usefulness of the device, but I don’t think you have to worry about it becoming as distracting as a smart phone or backlit full-color tablet.

And knowing you can rearrange your writing later gives lets you focus on getting your words down now.

Cons

  • Battery life.
  • Laggy at times.
  • Pen doesn’t attach magentically, so the cover is pretty much required. (On the plus side, the cover is light and thin.)
  • Glitchy (sometimes opens previous notebook or PDF rather than the file I most recently chose).

The battery is by far the device’s greatest disappointment. With heavy usage, the battery lasts over a day. But I’m not sure it can make two days. We’ve come to expect e-ink devices to last weeks between charges, so the shorter battery life feels like a major step back. If you plan on taking the MobiScribe Wave on a multiple-day trip in the wilderness, you might want to take a power bank with you–maybe one that can be recharged by the sun.

The Wave does lag sometimes. This usually results in me pushing a certain button twice and messing up what I was trying to do. In a perfect world, a device would never lag. But such a device will cost you much more than $230.

Sometimes I try to load a notebook or PDF, but a previously opened file pops up rather than the one I selected. Yes, it’s annoying when it happens. But it can be fixed by closing out the app and then opening the desired file again. I’ve never seen this bug repeat twice in a row. Hopefully the developers can fix it in the future.

A note (concern) about customer service

I mentioned earlier that the stock stylus stopped working as expected about a month after purchase.

Before I bought the replacement stylus, I emailed MobiScribe support to see if they had any troubleshooting tips for me. As of the time of this post, I have not received a response after a day and a half. Now that I know the stock stylus is the root of the problem, I’ve followed up to see how I can make a warranty claim. I’ll try to update this post with a more complete picture of the customer service experience when/if this issue is resolved.

UPDATE: MobiScribe customer service got in touch with me. After a little back-and-forth via email and sharing a video of the problem, MobiScribe sent me a replacement stylus free of charge. Thank you to MobiScribe for the handling of this issue.


Jake LaCaze is constantly in search for the simple ways in which technology can improve our lives.


  1. Cal Newport’s Deep Questions Podcast ↩︎

  2. In-depth video review of the MobiScribe Wave from Voja of My Deep Guide on YouTube ↩︎

  3. Staedtler Noris Jumbo stylus on Amazon ↩︎