Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

I bought myself a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen recently when All IT had a promo for the 2GB smart pen version. The Livescribe pen was in my mind for quite some time, but the price tag sort of put me off. The idea of digitizing what you wrote as well recording notes while writing your notes is an intriguing idea.

When the offer price of RM399 for the 2 GB Livescribe Pulse Smart Pen came about, I decided to do a bit more research before plunging into it. I found that the smartpen is also offered in Amazon and at a much cheaper price too! Even if I were to include the shipping cost all the way from USA to Malaysia there is indeed a huge cost savings! Especially if I were to go for the Livescribe Echo Smartpen with 4GB memory storage the savings were very substantial.

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

I didn’t order it via Amazon was due to the warranty issue. Since nowadays digital products defect rate is rather high. I can attest to the fact of the many warranty claims that I have gone through for the various IT and electronic products. The defect rate is hovering between 5 to 10% so a 1 in ten chance that I might get a defective unit. So better pay more for locally sold product. Would have like to get the Echo 4 GB smart pen though! But the price wasn’t very attractive at RM699! Besides, I’m not too sure whether I would be able to fully make use of it.

The 2 GB Livescribe Pulse Smart Pen Review

Having played around with it for a month, it was rather fun, still haven’t gotten around to using it seriously yet. One of the issues with the smart pen was the big fat shaft; it gets tiring for even a minor extended writing. I could feel my muscle aching and the slippery surface makes it difficult to grip. I finally worked around the grip problem by using rubber bands. At least that will lessen the tiredness but the fat shaft still makes it less comfortable for any extended writing. To have a nice look, I used the ladies hair bands as they were thinner and I didn’t have to pull them out when I dock the smart pen to the cradle for synchronising and charging.

The recording function was not too shabby, and I could record my own voice without too much problem. I probably won’t use it during a client meeting, because it is not nice to record down the conversation. Unless of course I ask for permission. However for lecture notes, now that’s a different matter and would be useful to record the lecture explanation.

My idea for this Livescribe Pulse Smartpen usage was to draw up maps and provide explanation to the various tourist spots for my travel website guide. Or use it sketch travel details and post it online either as an image or as a pencast embedded into my website. I think this idea is good, if I drew on ordinary paper and scan it over, the scan image also captures the paper shades the lines don’t really looked nice. But if I used the smart pen, the pen lines are clear, and if I use a pencast, the recorded audio give added explanation!

How Livescribe pen works

Livescribe dot paperThis is very interesting, the Livescribe pen has an infrared camera and working together with the special Livescribe dot paper, where there tiny little dots printed on the paper which provides the information about the page location and from which book of the series it came from. Together with software in the Livescribe smart pen it will record your written notes and if there is a recording, match your audio recording with your writing.

To view your notes, you will need the Livescribe desktop software. Transferring the data to the desktop Livescribe application is a breeze and rather quick. And from there you can do additional task like exporting your written notes and audio recording. When exporting, if you want the audio to match with the written notes, it has to be in their proprietary format, if you don’t care about the matching, you can export it out as a PDF or JPG file. The audio also can be exported out by itself only.

Pencast

One useful feature is the marriage of Livescribe online pencast with your Livescribe smartpen. You can export your note as a pencast online and make it available publicly for all to view or kept privately. I think for good use, the public option would be very useful especially since you can use it to embed the pencast onto your blog or website. Thus you get to increase useful content on your website and that would translate to more web traffic for your blog!

Perhaps you could draw cartoons or funny doodles with this too! However note that you only have 500 MB of free storage from Livescribe. So if you have a lot of pencasts, you will need to purchase more storage.

Livescribe Smart Pen Stationery

The Livescribe smart pen however only works with their special dot paper. You could try to print it out yourself. The Livescribe desktop gives you this option. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my printer to print! It needs a huge print buffer in order to work and it needs a laser printer to get the fine dots printed on the paper. I read online that some people manage to print out the dot paper but it took ages to get it printed and one chap even managed to print out using the inkjet printer and it worked too!

Livescribe Smart Pen in the box plus Green notebook sold separatelyNo such luck for me. My office aging old HP LaserJet printer and the Ricoh all-in-one printer photocopier just freezes up due to the high spool buffer required to print. And neither did my HP inkjet printer at home worked either.

For fun, I made a photocopy of the dot paper and guess what? It actually works! You need a very good quality photocopy machine in order to copy over the tiny dots.

Anyway, the Livescribe notebook and journal books aren’t very expensive. Thank goodness Livescribe didn’t try to milk the profit from their customer unlike the printer companies where the printer companies sell you the inks at very high prices! The Livescribe dot paper notebook and journals were rather reasonably prices at about RM20 and RM17.50 respectively per book.

As an idea, I was thinking of using notepad for jotting down ideas and little notes. That stationery item, the Livescribe Flip Notepad is not worth it for the price tag. According to the sales guy, it wasn’t a popular item, thus the price was rather higher. They suggested that we tear out the pages to be carried around if we to avoid carrying too much weight. That’s one idea. Since my Ricoh photocopy machine could make copies, I decided to make my own mini notepads by copying out some pages from the Livescribe Notebook and cutting them into notepad sizes. I didn’t tear out the pages because I wanted it on one side, so that the side of the paper will be use for notes that don’t require recording. Anyway this idea may not work for you, and it might be better to just tear out the pages instead.

Some Interesting Livescribe Applications

You can increase the Livescribe Smartpen functionality by buying software and installing it into your smart pen such as language translator, Sudoku, etc. I find I didn’t have such great need for it besides I could do it much better with my Sony Ericsson X10 Android phone, installing stuffs would take up the smart pen storage space. There are some free software and even games that you could upload into your smart pen. Since they were free, I experimented with a couple of them. And old text based game classic called Zork was available for download and I gave it a spin. It was an interesting way of playing this old classic. I didn’t play very well then and I’m still very poor with it now with this text based adventure game. Decided to put off to another time to play when I have nothing better to do! Haha!

Overall

Well my brother teased me and asked me why I waste my money on this Livescribe Smartpen as he didn’t see the point with it. Well, this tool is not for everyone. If you think you may have use for it and can afford to spare the cash, yes, do go for it! If you have a lot of notes and audio to record the Pulse 2GB memory may not be enough for some and it may be better to go for the newer Echo 4GB model which has a better design and grip. And the ability to post your pencast online for blogging and creating content for website is another good point to have a smart pen. And if you are like me who like to experiment with gadgets and stuffs and figure out a good use for it, the Pulse 2 GB Livescribe Smartpen would probably be good enough!

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