Livescribe Pulse Smartpen review

We review the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen to see if it's a help or hinderance to the modern-day note taker.

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
  • • Crisp OLED screen• Great lightweight alternative to a laptop.• Robustly designed.• Linked audio notes work seamlessly.• Share your minutes or lecture notes in seconds.• 3 hour charge equates to 2-3 days of moderate usage.
  • • Pen may be too thick for some users.• No OCR solution included.• Notebooks and refills come at a cost.• Desktop software needs improvement.

The Livescribe Pulse Smartpen is a device aimed at students and professionals, offering the ability to record everything you write down and upload it to your computer for editing and sharing.

Audio notes can be recorded on the on-board microphone and linked to the text you write. In theory, the option to leave the encumbrance of a laptop at home and handwrite your notes and diagrams is an attractive one. Does it work out that way in practice though?

Our retail package included a 2GB Pulse smartpen, 3D headset, ink cartridges, dock/charging station, sleeve and a 100 sheet, ruled notebook of the special 'dot paper' required to record your scribblings.

The pen itself is smartly designed and light, it might be too bulky for smaller hands but on the whole it felt comfortable. Getting started was very straightforward. Having downloaded and installed the software from the Livescribe website you simply have to set the date and time of the device and start jotting. The text capture is accomplished by a tiny infra-red camera in the nose of the pen, which records your handwriting and compares it to the minute dots on the paper, giving the digital rendering of your page scale and accuracy.

Once you've finished writing you simply put the pen on its cradle and watch your page appear on your desktop. It can then be exported as a .PDF file or an image, both of which can be easily shared or edited. In our tests the Pulse captured text flawlessly though the lack of optical character recognition was a let down. If converting your written word to computer text is a must, there are third-party software packages available, but they will have to be bought separately.

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