Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2020
FYI: If you want just the “too long don’t read” (TLDR) shortened version of this review, you can start reading further-down into into it and finishing the review from there. So press ctrl + f on your PC's keyboard, copy (ctrl + c) this phrase exactly as it appears into the search box, and press enter: *Does this Product Convince Me to Buy It?*
As a creative writer during my free-time, I was intrigued by the Rocketbook because I absolutely-hate my notebooks lying around and cluttering my desk. The following claims really resonated with me:
-Writes just like paper
-Endless Reusability, thanks to the Pilot Frixion pen’s ink that erases with water and a microfiber cloth (pen and cloth are included)
-Easy to erase
-Ability to “blast” my work into the cloud
-Light weight, as you won’t need as many pages
-An app that allows me to also store my work and keep everything together
-OCR Transcription, which means that the app can recognize your handwriting and convert it into text
*Writes just like paper*
For the notebook itself, this claim is partially-true. It's a lot like writing with a runny pen on a glossy postcard. You have to write very carefully and let the ink dry for about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, myself and dozens of users find that it takes *much* longer than the company’s claimed 30 seconds - even when using the recommended Frixion pens. The ink drying may not sound like a big deal at first. Then I realized that if I were in a business meeting and quickly had to turn the page to write more notes, the ink would smudge and thus be illegible.
For the included Frixion pen, you get the 0.7mm version by default. For someone who has to write carefully to ensure my handwriting is neat, the 0.7mm pen is a no-go. In fact, I had to put my Rocketbook-writing on-hold just to get some 0.5mm Frixion pens. Fortunately, the 0.5mm pen works much better for me. However, until the company gives users the choice between the two pens, be-prepared for the (inexpensive) added expense of buying those 0.5mm Frixion pens.
For the “paper” within the notebook, during the two erase cycles i’ve gone through; so far, so good. I’m guessing I won’t have any problems because this notebook wouldn’t have sold over a million units if this claim wasn’t true.
For the long-term durability of the notebook, that remains to be seen. I get a little uneasy when I see the company selling a $35 folio; not only because it is overpriced, but because it suggests that you need some exterior protection to ensure your Rocketbook lasts.
I ran to my local office supply store and purchased the “At-A-Glance Business Jacket Professional Planner Cover, 9” x 11" for just under $25. It’s thin, light, durable, and actually has three interior loops to put your pens in.
*Easy to erase*
I did not find this claim to be true at all. Despite carefully reading the instructions and looking at the instructional videos, it is not nearly as straightforward as simply wiping a slightly-dampened microfiber cloth across the page.
In fact, I had to resort to using a slightly-dampened paper towel to wipe the pages clean. I could easily see someone using multiple damp paper towels just to erase the content within the whole notebook. For me; however, I just kept reusing my paper towel by rinsing-off the ink and wringing the towel out. After that was done, I had to dry the paper with the microfiber cloth.
Drying was also a pain for me because, if you aren’t careful, you could accidentally rip-out the page because the “paper’s” surface is slippery. Fortunately, that never happened to me, so now I use a small binder-clip at the bottom of the page i’m working on erasing with the wet and dry cloths. The binder-clip prevents the force of your hand-wiping from ripping-out the page; at the same time, it protects the rest of the pages clipped underneath.
With the use of paper towels just to erase each page, I'm dubious now that this notebook is actually eco-friendly.
*“Blasting” my work into the cloud*
No problems here; again, the notebook wouldn’t have sold as well as it has unless this claim was true.
*Rocketbook Mobile App*
This was my absolute-biggest gripe about the whole Rocketbook ecosystem. It’s ironic because, compared to competitors that offer a similar erasable notebook/app ecosystem, the folks at Rocketbook update and support the app a lot more. As someone who has used different scanner mobile apps over the years, the Rocketbook app was a disappointment for the following reasons:
-Can’t upload from your phone camera’s memory - It feels like EVERY scanning app has this capability. What if you took a picture of your Rocketbook page? Nope, can’t use it, so you’ll just have to scan it again.
-OCR Transcription - Unless your penmanship is PERFECT, there will be letters juxtaposed. What’s more, you can only do 16 pages at a time, which seems silly to me.
-Cannot edit your scans - Want to reorder your scan pages? Add a folder for your scans in the app? Add or delete pages to an existing scan? Mark-up your scans? You can’t do any of that, which to me, defeats the purpose of the app. Almost every single scanner app that I have used allows you to do all of this (and more) to ensure you send the perfect scan each and every time. Having an app that can scan well in and of itself just simply isn’t enough.
-No built-in dictionary - For those juxtaposed letters, it would have been great if the app included a built-in dictionary to act as a “spell-checker” prior to sending-off each scan.
-Cannot preview transcriptions prior to sending your scan(s) to their destination(s). You will just have to rely on getting back on your computer to make the edits yourself, which is an outdated mindset in today’s smartphone-dominated world.
*Does this Product Convince Me to Buy It?*
For it’s price and partially-true claims, absolutely-not. To show you my reasoning, let’s go through what those features would be like with a regular spiral notebook:
-Save your work:
There are free mobile-scanning apps out there that work just as good as the Rocketbook App’s scanning capabilities. My personal favorite is Tiny Scanner.
-Blast work into the cloud:
Again, there are free mobile-scanning apps out there that will do this for you as well. Tiny Scanner, for example, can “blast” your PDF or JPEG notes to Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, Evernote, and a few others.
I’ve found a couple of free mobile apps that are on-par with the Rocketbook App. However, to get the really good apps, you’ll either have to pay a one-time app purchase fee or subscribe to a monthly service. If you would like to go with the free option, I would go with the Handwriting Recognizer app.
For small mistakes, whether it is plain notebook paper or Rocketbook “paper,” Frixion pens still erase just the same.
-Save the weight:
Notebooks aren’t very heavy to begin with.
Take your pick of using paper towels or ripping-out pages, scanning them, and tossing them into the recycling bin.
-Notebook: 3/5 Stars. While it is reusable and works well with the mobile app’s scanning capability, it is difficult (for me, at least) to write cleanly within the notebook. The fact that the drying and erasing times are not as claimed definitely hampers my penmanship and productivity, which is why i’m knocking off one star for each unfulfilled major feature.
-App: 2.5/5. The mobile app utilizes your smartphone to take very good pictures that sends them to the specified cloud and/or email locations with ease, so that’s +2 stars. OCR Transcription is a mixed-bag, but works (sort of), so i’ll be generous and add another half-star. But that’s about it. The fact that you cannot edit the scans by digitally marking them up, reordering a batch of scans, adding folders for the scans within the app, add/delete individual scans, preview your scan’s transcription, uploading photos of Rocketbook pages, or spell-checking your transcription, etc. I could go on and on. Fortunately, this is the easiest aspect for the manufacturer to fix.
2.75 out of 5 stars - Averaging the notebook and app yields this score, which signifies that this is a below-average product. However, I will round-up to 3 stars for the purpose of this Amazon review. Harsh-rating? Yes, but it reflects exactly how I felt using this half-baked product. I hate giving bad ratings, especially to products with so much potential.
However, it is a rating for the product as it stands now, which could be partially-fixed by rebuilding the app from the ground-up with all the features that rival a standalone scanner mobile app. That way, this product would be slightly above-average and passable for the money you spend. A more-permanent fix would be to release a second-generation notebook that addresses the poor drying and erasing times.
If you are spending ~$30 on a notebook, you better believe that you shouldn’t get a product that isn't fully-realized.
Wait for the next generation - the creators of the Rocketbook (literally) need to go back to the drawing board. As it stands now, the Rocketbook launches as a slightly-below-average notebook - minus the fully-realized, unique features that could make it an out of this world office essential.
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