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Livescribe Pulse Smartpen - Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Of course the Pulse Smartpen's core functionality remains recording audio and written notes simultaneously and linking them. At this it excels. Tapping any written word, symbol or scribble made while recording triggers playback of the audio representing what was going on at the time.

We can definitely see the appeal for the target student and business markets, since instead of furiously scribbling down a whole lecture or meeting you can just jot down the main points and then tap on them while revising to hear what the lecturer/presenter said on that specific topic. We found the 300mAh lithium battery lasted throughout our three-day testing, too, so you won't need to charge your pen too often.

To archive your notes and recordings you'll need the Livescribe Desktop software (for Windows XP, Vista or Mac), which must be downloaded as no software disc is provided. You should install it before connecting the pen to your PC and once recognised you can give your pen a name just like any other drive.

You can then choose to upload and delete 'sessions' using Livescribe Desktop, or even turn them into online videos. However, since the software doesn't do Optical Character Recognition (OCR) conversion, you can't transcribe your handwritten notes into word processor-editable 'machine text' - though you can get third-party OCR software to do this.

This deficiency is made stranger considering you can type any word into a search box and the software will unfailingly find it (it matched words with 100 per cent accuracy in our testing) in your handwritten notes, so there must be some form of OCR functionality. It's a great pity Livescribe didn't choose to include conversion by default, as this is offered by almost every other digital pen package on the market.

Essentially then, while its practical functionality is more limited than it should have been, thanks to its superb recording abilities and intelligent linking (not to mention future application potential) Livescribe's Pulse Smartpen still manages to offer a unique and genuinely useful proposition in a crowded and relatively niche market.

However, it doesn't come cheap - it'll cost you nearly £150 for the 2GB model we reviewed here, with the 1GB model a slightly cheaper £120. At their very cheapest, flip notepads cost £10 in quantities of four, meaning you pay about 2.5 pence per page (1.25 pence per side). You also have the option to print your own dotted pages, though laser printers are recommended for this. Just keep in mind that you can't use two identically-numbered pads, as the Smartpen isn't smart enough to distinguish between them and will just 'overwrite' the older text and recording.

If Livescribe could lower the price a little or at least include fully-functioning OCR software, we would have no hesitation recommending this product. Even without these two things, though, this is still a potentially invaluable tool if you can afford it.


As digital pens go, the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen is an unusual proposition. Its focus on linking written notes and recorded audio is genuinely useful, even if the lack of OCR software and the high-price may put off some.

Overall Score



September 14, 2009, 6:11 am

I wish I understood from the review what this product does! So its like a pen, and you write on paper and then you can make it a digital document to pc? Confused

Michael Atkinson

September 14, 2009, 12:10 pm

It writes on paper, translates, records etc... Looks darn nifty!!! Check out a few youtubes: http://www.youtube.com/watc...


September 14, 2009, 1:14 pm

Like Kaiser I did not understand what this product does either.

A video review is a must for this product so you can understand it.


September 14, 2009, 4:49 pm

Seems a pointless product and excercise to me, I am sure better products will eclipse it.


September 14, 2009, 7:07 pm

I don't understand what this pen does either. From the review I couldn't deduce if it writes over plain paper with an ink and digitizes the movements (how can it have play and stop buttons drawn on a paper then?) or it writes over some kind of OLED display (but then how can it have 100 pages?).

What is it and what does it do, those are my questions after reading the review...

That's not a very well written review is it? :-))


September 15, 2009, 12:25 am

I think it achieves the same result as using a pen and paper along scanning it in to your pc, so it does what a 5p pen and a 50p pad and a scanner does for £150 but it just remembers when you wrote it and inserts the audio recordings in a note-recording timeline

well that's what I think it does


September 15, 2009, 5:09 am

I don't normally comment on these reviews and such but...

I assumed it did what Jay said from reading the first two paragraphs when the review first popped up and was uninterested so didn't read the rest. But I read the comments about not knowing what it did and thought "what idiots"...but upon reading the review...I, too, have no idea what it does...what on earth is the drawn piano keyboard about? what do you do to it? how can the paper make sound? Am I really reading it wrong? I'm at something of a loss...maybe we need to know what digital paper is before reading the review? I'm sort of intrigued about the whole thing now that no one knows what the hell it does.


September 15, 2009, 1:35 pm

Good lord - I hope you all can at least manage to fork the food into your mouth.

"a ballpoint pen with an embedded computer and digital audio recorder. When used with special paper, it records what it writes for later uploading to a computer, and synchronizes those notes with any audio it has recorded. This allows a user to replay portions of a recording by tapping on the notes he or she was taking at the time the recording was made. It is also possible to select which portion of a recording to replay by tapping on the relevant portion of a page on-screen, once it has been synced to the Livescribe desktop software." - Wikipedia; you might have heard of it.

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