Livescribe Wi-Fi Smartpen - Is The Pen Mightier Than The Keyboard?

8/31/2013 11:27:04 AM

Livescribe’s smart pens let you write digital notes using some very clever technology. A tiny built-in infrared camera tracks the nib’s exact location on the page, recording everything you write and draw onto special paper. Conveniently, this new pen has built-in Wi-Fi for transferring your notes to your PC, instead of the wired USB connection used in older models. We reviewed the version with 2GB of internal storage, but it’s also available with 4GB and 8GB.

Livescribe Wi-Fi Smartpen

Livescribe Wi-Fi Smartpen

Although the pen is quite chunky, it’s still comfortable to hold. The pen not only saves an image of what you write, but can also record audio. Pages are stored online in Evernote, a note-taking program that lets you share notes across multiple computers and mobile devices.

Any audio you’ve recorded while making notes can be played back and you will see the notes you made appear on the page at the appropriate point in the recordings timeline. You can also click any written part of a note to jump straight to the audio recorded at the time you made it. This is particularly useful if you’re making notes during a long meeting or lecture.

Livescribe Wi-Fi Smartpen

Livescribe Wi-Fi Smartpen

At the front of the notebook that accompanies the pen are pictures of a keyboard and Wi-Fi setup buttons. Tapping these with your pen triggers the associated functions in the pen itself.

If you don’t have access to a wireless network at any given point, you can alternatively synchronize the pen with a computer later, but this still has to be done using a Wi-Fi internet connection. A reliable internet connection isn’t always available, so we’d prefer the option of a direct USB or Wi-Fi connection.

Other settings can be found via the pen’s onscreen menu system or elsewhere in the Livescribe notebook. The basic documentation that comes with the pen doesn’t go into much detail about configuring many of its settings, but further information is available online. This is helpful as it’s not always immediately obvious how all the settings work. You can set the format in which the date and time is displayed using the pen’s onscreen menu system, for instance, but to do so you must use a pad of control buttons on the last page of the notebook.

Unfortunately, the Livescribe Wi-Fi Smartpen suffers from a number of problems. At the front of the notebook is a button to email your notes, and shortcut buttons for uploading content to Google Drive, Facebook and Dropbox, Sadly, tapping these sharing features currently just displays a ‘coming soon’ message. This has been the case since we first saw the pen demonstrated last year. It’s a pity, because integration with Google Docs, in particular, would be extremely useful. Only Evernote synchronization works at the moment.

The notebook also has buttons that act as scientific calculators, with answers appearing on the pen’s screen. You’ll have no problems doing basic arithmetic, but sine, cosine, tangent and most other scientific functions didn’t work properly. Crucially, the device also lacks handwriting-recognition software, unlike older models. Without this, the smartpen is little more than a very expensive capture device for line drawing and audio dictation.

The lack of app support and promised features that remain unimplemented mean that the Wi-Fi Smartpen feels half – finished, particularly compared with previous models. Its basic features work, but until it supports handwriting recognition and a wider range of sharing options, we recommend buying the older. US B-dependent Livescribe Echo Smartpen instead. The Echo not only has features missing from the Wi-Fi version, but it’s also much cheaper too.


·         Brand: Livescribe

·         Model: APX-00013

·         Weight: 449g

·         Dimensions: 22 x 17.8 x 6.8 cm

·         Size: 2GB

·         Point Type: medium

·         Tip Type: ballpoint

·         Pricing: $246


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