Retro Writing 13 – the Pomera DM30

In one of the first articles of this series – exploring various weird and retro writing devices – I mentioned the Pomera DM30 as may go to distraction-free mobile word processor. Even though this device is not exactly retro – it was made as recently as 2018 – it is unique and worth further delving into.
So far, I have used it as a comparison point for a few of the retro devices I tested, but I did not write an in-depth review – let’s remedy that!

I got interested in the Pomera DM30 because of its portability, English language support, and the outdoors-friendly e-ink screen. After it was discontinued and replaced by the DM200 model, I picked it up quite cheaply on Japanese Amazon. Since then, I have written a few longer texts with it and used it mostly outside the house in places where I knew I would have a table of some sort to put it on.


The Pomera DM30 is unique hardware-vise because it has not only a screen that folds down like in a miniature laptop but also a keyboard that is split into three parts so the left and right “wings” can fold up too. When the device is fully folded, it makes a dense, heavy brick, even though it’s all made of plastic. (It weighs 450 grams without batteries).

The whole thing feels relatively solid, and the screen folds out with satisfying resistance and smoothness to the hinges. The keyboard folding mechanism, however, feels a bit flimsy with a lot of moving plastic parts, with some amount of play and rattle between them. When placed on a flat surface and folded out, the Pomera feels secure and easy to work on.


The screen is an 800 by 600 pixels e-ink display. Relatively to its size (6 inches), the resolution is a bit on the low side, but it doesn’t bother at all when writing or reading the menus. The screen has very good contrast, even for an e-ink display. The light-gray background of the screen is comparable to my Amazon Kindle Oasis – which is indeed an impressive feat.

But, of course, because this is an e-ink display, it has significant lag – the letters don’t appear on the screen immediately as you type them as they would on a laptop computer, for example. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but as I can’t touch-type and look at my fingers when writing most of the time anyway, the text almost always manages to finish rendering before I glance up to confirm what I’m doing.
The lag becomes more bothersome when editing the already written words – moving the cursor around, deleting or adding passages (which makes big portions of text move on the e-ink screen), and navigating between different sections can be a pain.

The Pomera, like other distraction-free devices (and especially e-ink ones) is meant rather as a tool for writing first drafts or stream-of-thought things like meeting notes and not as a tool for editing and word processing. For this intended use, in my opinion, the lag is tolerable.

The screen’s e-ink character forces one more issue – refreshing. If you have and use an e-ink sporting e-book reader (like a Kindle), you probably noticed that when you change the contents displayed, the screen briefly flashes black to turn to the next page – this is done to “clean” the screen from the previous contents. While writing on the Pomera, the device cannot just flash the whole screen at us with each written letter, so it uses a technique called “partial refresh” – just changing the parts of the picture that need updating. This works fairly well when we are just typing the next word, but any bigger action – adding or moving portions of text, displaying menus, etc. produces artifacts – after images of the previously displayed contents that remain on the screen as darker gray “smudges” under the text.
Personally, the after-images don’t bother me so much, even though they get more and more visible as we continue to write. The device sometimes refreshes the whole screen automatically, and we can always use a “refresh” key in the F-row of the keyboard whenever we want to clean up the screen manually.

On the other hand, the benefits of having an e-ink screen can’t be overstated – excellent battery life (20 hours), text that is very easy on the eyes, and outstanding visibility in bright spaces or direct sunlight. No glare or weak LCD backlight here – the brighter the ambient lighting is, the better we can see the screen. Again, those of you who use e-book readers know how better they are suited to reading black-and-white text than an iPad. Writing sessions at an outdoor cafe seat? The Pomera DM30 is perfect for that.

I tried to compare the Pomera to my iPhone’s display at 100% brightness and capture some after-images on the last photo:


The folding-out keyboard is surprisingly nice to type with when used on a proper flat surface. The side, “wing-like” parts have weird supports on their bottom sides, so one really needs a flat desk to make the whole thing stable – I wouldn’t recommend trying to use the DM30 on a lap.

The complexity and fragile look of the folding mechanism also don’t inspire trust in the device – I think the move to a more standard laptop-like form factor in the newer iterations of the Pomera line was an overall wise move.

The keys on the DM30 are smaller than in a laptop keyboard and more spaced apart, but because they are also nicely stable and “clicky” a bit, the typing experience is not bad at all. I actually enjoy the slightly retro feel it gives. The keyboard has an additional F-key row that can be programmed with your favorite menu options (I put some homemade stickers there to know what is what) and a MENU key for accessing the device’s menus and file management options. We also get a power button that allows us to sleep and wake the device without needing to fold it each time.

Apart from the screen and keyboard, on the back of the device, we get an SD card slot, a USB port (sadly of the micro variety), and slots for batteries. Pamera DM30 takes two AA cells and a smaller button battery to back up the memory while we are changing the main cells, which, by the way, should last for about 20 hours of continuous writing.

I really like the SD card slot here – the built-in memory (8GB) is more than enough for writing, really, but the SD card is just such a nice quality-of-life thing to have – just pop out the card and stick it into a laptop or a card reader for the iPad/iPhone – so easy to transfer files! Curiously the DM30 also supports a WiFi-enabled SD card from Toshiba, the FlashAir – which enables wireless file transfer with any other WiFi device – these cards were a popular thing to use in digital cameras. The USB connection allows us to plug the Pomera into a PC and browse the files, but it also works as a power supply, so we can use the DM30 plugged in on our desk without draining the batteries or take power from a powerbank.

There is also an option to send text directly to a dedicated app for iOS/Android via QR codes displayed on the screen. Pomera simply displays the text as a huge QR code that we can scan using our phone’s camera. Longer texts are divided into a few codes, so this method can become a bit bothersome in this case, but for short posts on the go – it’s very useful.

※ Pomera DM30 user Mateusz Ż, in a comment, warns about the micro USB port being possibly a bit fragile – his stopped working a few weeks into using the DM30, and now it just charges, but there’s no data transfer. The micro USB ports are known as being unreliable, so we should be careful here.

Now on to the software side:

The Pomera DM30’s text editing software looks a bit utilitarian but is actually quite capable.
We get a Japanese and English interface – which is very rare for a device like this aimed almost solely at the Japanese market (the newer version, DM200, has only Japanese menus) which, combined with the English input mode, allows us to use the Pomera for writing English text relatively comfortably.

We get the standard editing options: copying, pasting, cutting, and movement through the document, all accessible through standard CTRL keyboard shortcuts and easy-to-understand menu options so we don’t feel lost – the basics are all where they should be, just like in a simple Windows or DOS text editor. The software also adds quite a few quality-of-life options: things like dictionaries (Japanese only, sadly), inserting snippets, timestamps, or bookmarks (and navigating between them), performing search-and-replace, or saving documents as templates.

My favorite feature by far, though, is the Outline Mode. This mode displays an additional sidebar containing all the titles from the main text (titles are lines of text starting from a # hash or a . dot, which means it’s partially compatible with the Markdown nomenclature). Not only can we see the outline, but using the ALT+TAB shortcut, we can actually move into this sidebar and navigate through the text using the arrow keys. What’s more, the Pomera also supports title nesting (with multiple hashes like “### Title”), and while the Outline sidebar is on, the titles are underlined in the main window. Neat!

There is also an option to reverse the colors of the screen – which gives us white text on black background, an ability to display the invisible letter (like spaces and enters), writing vertically for Japanese novel-like text layout, soft wrap to the decided number of characters per line (margins on both sides of the screen), and displaying lines under text (like in a lined notebook). That’s a lot of straightforward but helpful options to have.

The text display itself is kept very simple – we can use only a few sizes of the same sans-serif, monospaced font, and there are no text effects or styles at all (no bold, italic, underline, etc.). Sadly, no Markdown support either.

But, we also have to remember that this tool is mostly aimed at writing in Japanese, so the device also has a powerful kanji conversion system the ATOK Professional installed – this makes writing in Japanese almost as fluid as on a regular laptop, or maybe better even in some cases! There is a downside, though – from what I can tell, the device also uses the Japanese SHIFT_JIS codepage for the text files and not UTF_8, so a bit of “conversion magick” might be necessary to open the files correctly on the laptop side.

The file manager of the Pomera is rudimentary but allows saving, opening, moving, and copying from both the main and SD card memory with no problems. We can open and edit only one file at a time, though.

Curiously, in the Pomera, we also get a simple spreadsheet and calendar tools as a bonus.


For about 430USD when it was new, and half of this price on the second-hand market now, the Pomera DM30 is a very enticing deal for a modern writing-only device with an e-ink screen and no perishable Lithium-Ion batteries inside. For people like me, who like e-ink screens and can live with the lag and refreshing issues, it’s more enticing still.

On the downside, there is the foldable design which makes the DM30 a bit flimsy and practically impossible to use anywhere where there’s no desk or a table to put it on.
Also, the Japanese character of the Pomera ads some quirks that can irritate – I already mentioned the encoding, but we get character count and not word count, and the monospaced only font is not well suited for English and can be hard to read where diacritic signs are used (it’s hard to tell if there is a space in words like “it’s” after the apostrophe or not, for example). The keyboard layout is also, of course, Japanese, so it might take some getting used to.

Overall, after about two years of using the DM30 off and on, I still think it’s a very neat device. Yes, it has some downsides coming from its Japanese word processor lineage, but it certainly is a viable distraction-free writing device that stays out of the way of the creative process while also providing most of the needed options when necessary. It is still one of my most used dedicated writing tools and my favorite e-ink one. You can usually distinguish which digital tool I actually use by how many stickers it gathered, and the DM30 has a fair amount.

6 thoughts on “Retro Writing 13 – the Pomera DM30”

  1. nice. I bought it several months ago and it’s really a great tool. I don’t use it so often though as I don’t have many opportunities to have time and be somewhere with a flat surface at the same time. But I started using it at home for my writing. I just give myself certain amount of time with Pomera on my desk and I can write distraction free. The only disappointment is that the USB cable stopped working just few weeks after I bought Pomera. The device detects my laptop but my laptop cannot detect Pomera (still charges it though, maybe laptop is to blame). When I tried random USB cables and not the original one then it didn’t work at all. So I have to rely on SD cards for now. There is also QR way that you haven’t mentioned which is quite cool but rather for shorter notes.


    1. Ah yes, I forgot about the QR codes stuff. I rarely use the app because the SD card is just so much easier to just plug into my computer. The new POMERA DM250 has WiFi file sharing, too 👍 I’m sorry about the mini USB port, maybe try to get it checked or replaced – but trying to take the DM30 apart would be a challenge, probably.


      1. Oh I didn’t even use any app for QR codes. After I scan it then the text appears on my mobile so I just copy it and send it wherever I need to send it. I didn’t know there is DM250 already! But from what I read so far it has LCD screen. It’s a bit weird that they’re going backwards and ditch e-Ink. I don’t get it.


      2. Cool! I’m keen to read it. I’m curious what is your experience with it compared to DM30. and that LCD…


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