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Livescribe Echo Smartpen – a pen that can write, record, and play piano. Huh, what?

Livescribe Pen

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – What is your definition of a Smartpen? An electronic pen that can automatically convert your handwriting into texts? Or perhaps a pen that can record a conversation? How about all of them, plus more?

With the Echo Smartpen from Livescribe, you can write just like a normal pen and at the same time record your meeting, lecture, or presentation. BUT! How about a pen that knows every single stroke you make on the paper (paper, not a touch screen) and can smartly play back the recorded audio just at that exact moment in time? Amazed? I am.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – Packaging

DSC_0138.NEF-001Livescribe Echo Smartpen packaging back

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – the Echo Smartpen

The Echo Smartpen is larger than the traditional pen but the size is acceptable and does not make it uncomfortable to grip and write. The Echo Smartpen has:

  • A Micro-USB Connector (to recharge its internal battery and sync your notes + audio to your computer)
  • An Audio Jack (3.5mm jack so you can listen the audio back with your own earphones OR if you have the Echo 3-D recording headset, you can use it to enable 360 degrees binaural recording)
  • A built-in Microphone (to record audio)
  • A built-in Speaker (to listen to the audio playback and menu feedback)
  • An OLED display (to view the smartpen settings and its battery level)
  • A built-in storage (4 GB or 8 GB)
  • A removable ink cartridge

It’s amazing how all of these can be squeezed into a single pen without being gigantic in size. The Micro-USB port and the audio jack are located at the back tip of the pen.

echo_photo5

The ink cartridge is removable and disposable, so you can quickly replace it in with a new cartridge when the ink runs out.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen  ink tipLivescribe Echo Smartpen cap

The Echo Smartpen looks pretty slick and professional, although the size and design will definitely attract attention and questions (which actually serves as a good ice breaker if you are using it in a group or interview situation). The rubber grip makes it comfortable and steady when writing.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – How it works

The Echo Smartpen only works with Livescribe dot papers (if you want to take the full advantage of it) so it can be quite costly if you have to write heaps of notes with the Echo Smartpen (because you have to buy these special notebooks). Thankfully though, an A5-sized book with 80 sheets only costs around A$10 each so it is not really that big of a deal, considering what you get.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen books

Well, what do you actually get with these special sheets? Well, for a start, these paper sheets are extra ordinary. It is as if you are actually writing on a touch screen where each pixel on the screen can be monitored and processed. These sheets actually record your sketches and all your interactions with the Echo Smartpen!

DSC_0164.NEF-001

The buttons drawn on the sheets are “REAL” buttons – you can use the tip of your Echo Smartpen to execute the command associated with each button on the sheets, which is amazing. You can also draw rectangles and play piano through one of the installed apps (and other possibilities in the future)!

Livescribe Echo Smartpen  buttons

I couldn’t believe it myself when I first tried the Echo smartpen with these magic sheets, seriously.

The best of all, as mentioned in the introductory paragraph, you can do an audio recording while writing your notes at the same time. When you want to play it back, you can either play the whole audio from the beginning or simply use your Echo Smartpen tip to point to a specific area of your notes and listen to the recording made during that moment!

This works really well most of the cases – during a lecture, presentation, seminar, or a church sermon (when I tested this out). Normally, a speaker would convey their message in a series of key points. So when the speaker starts to say “The second point is…” and you start writing “2. ” on your notes, the Echo Smartpen will make a record of this point in time. Later on, you can simply use the tip of the pen on that “2.” note and listen to the audio.

You can also look at your notes and listen to them on your desktop with Livescribe Desktop. You can even see the strokes live!

Livescribe Desktop all notes

Notes live

You can customise the sound quality of the recording though I recommend just setting it to High. A 40-minute audio file only takes around 12 MB so you’ll have plenty to go along! The audio quality is really good and clear when I tested this last Sunday.

Audio

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – Accessories

You can also buy the accessories to further complement your experience with the Echo Smartpen from Livescribe.

SMARTPEN PORTFOLIO

An elegant way to carry your Livescribe A5 Notebook (or Livescribe hardbound journals) and the Echo smartpen with you.

SMARTPEN PORTFOLIOSMARTPEN PORTFOLIO opened

You can also fit some business cards in and the portfolio has a ribbon bookmark.

ECHO 3-D RECORDING HEADSET

ECHO 3-D RECORDING HEADSETECHO 3-D RECORDING HEADSET ear buds

These earphones have embedded microphones that enable 360? binaural recording, useful for large lecture halls or conference rooms. The in-ear design also helps in minimising the outside noise and the quality is also decent. I even use it casually with my iPhone 4S to listen to my podcasts (and the voice clarity is actually better than my old earphone).

The microphone feature only works with the Echo smartpen.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – Video

Here is a great commercial video about the Echo Smartpen in case you are still wondering what else it can do and how it works.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review – Conclusion

Livescribe Echo Smartpen review

Livescribe Echo

I’m really amazed with this magic pen. Don’t try to understand how it actually works, just use and enjoy its magic features! It’s amazing how the writing and audio recording work together to create the best note taking experience! There are other things that I haven’t shared here yet, such as playing games by drawing and interacting on the sheets and also the notes sharing on popular cloud services.

I will definitely use the Echo Smartpen for my future blogging interview sessions and also when I get invited to attend a product launch event. Writing key notes on the sheet while having the full audio recorded at every stroke of the pen, will definitely come in handy!

I’m not sure whether students will buy this pen though, as it might be a bit pricey for them. However, despite of saying that, if you are serious in taking notes and don’t want to lose out any information from the speaker at the same time, the Livescribe Echo Smartpen is a definite must-have!

Rating by Michael Aulia: 9/10
****1/2

Note: Livescribe Echo Smartpen review sample and accessories were provided for the review.

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