GADGET WATCH: Livescribe Sky Pen

Despite the abundance of tablets and smartphones used by entrepreneurs, the old-fashioned pen and paper still has its use. And Livescribe has been attempting to make the writing experience better through its digital pen series of gadgets.

Its newest effort, the Sky WiFi Smartpen, comes packed with a lot of new features including the ability to upload documents through WiFi to an Evernote account, and the ability to sync writing to a point in an audio file.

The latest release is a feature-packed piece of tech, and possibly useful if you’re writing a lot. So take a look and see whether the Livescribe is for you.

Hardware and features

The pen itself features 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of storage, along with a microphone for capturing audio. (One of the main features of the Livescribe is the ability to touch a piece of writing on a notebook, which then triggers the pen to play the specific period of audio in which that writing was made.)

The pen also comes with connection to WiFi, a micro-USB connector, an audio jack, an OLED display, along with a built-in display. Of course, like all pens, you can replace the tip.

Livescribe

What’s the consensus?

The Livescribe is a bit of a niche product, but it’s nevertheless gaining a good following among heavy pen and paper users.

But over at Engadget, the publication notes there’s a big downside – the price. If you want to buy the 4GB model, then you’re looking at spending about $AU270, and more if you want the 8GB version.

It also noted the fact the pen doesn’t come with much notebook space – the pen requires special notebooks with specific grids that allow the pen to download your writing.

“You don’t get anything better than that with the $200 4GB version of the Sky — but frankly the whole point of this smartpen is to benefit from cloud storage, so you probably shouldn’t bother with the larger capacities anyway.”

The Verge had particularly good things to say about the company’s interaction with Evernote, with the pen able to upload its notes over WiFi to an Evernote account.

“The new Evernote-based Livescribe experience is mostly a good one – Evernote’s character recognition and in-line image displays are perfectly suited for this type of notes, and it’s great to have both your page of notes and the corresponding audio in one place.”

However, it did note there is some awkwardness when using the pen’s famed sync feature, which allows you to skip directly to a specific point in your lecture audio by pressing on a point in your notes.

“Evernote can’t do that, so you get booted to an HTML5-capable browser page — the page worked fine on every device I tested, but it’s clunky to have to leave Evernote,” it said.

PC Mag had good things to say about the Sky as well, although said uploading to the internet is a little awkward.

“Even beyond that, audio notes arrived with the wrong times attached to them and no obvious sign of which note was associated with which page.

“In my tests, clicking on ink notes to play audio spawned a separate Web window, the Livescribe Player, so you can’t play synced audio when offline, at all. You also can’t alter the speed of the audio playback, a feature from the old desktop software that I really miss.”

However, it did say all of the on-pen playbook works fine, so you can plug your headphones into your pen and everything works.

Laptop Mag was a little more impressed, however, saying that while no access to the app library is disappointing, that move is “trumped by its wireless features”.

Who’s it for?

The Sky pen is expensive, so if you’re looking at buying one you definitely need to know if it works correctly. The consensus seems to be the pen works overall, but can glitch up on occasion.

If you’re regularly taking notes at meetings, then this could be a great way to record lectures or those meetings. But you should probably try it out first before you rush out and spend your hard-earned money.

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