LiveScribe Echo Smartpen (8GB) Review



  • Comfortable to use
  • Organises, shares and stores written content
  • Support for GoogleDocs, Evernote and Facebook


  • High initial cost
  • Expensive apps
  • Takes time to get used to software
  • No OCR software

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £179.99
  • Infrared camera
  • Rubberised grip
  • In-built microphone and speaker
  • LiveScribe Connect

Trying to describe what it is a LiveScribe Echo Smartpen
does is quite tough. To say it’s a normal pen that simply records what you write does not really
do it justice. It also indexes what you hear at the time of writing,
converts what you have written into an interactive PDF file, allows you to jump
to any point in the page and hear what was being said at that time and now allows
you to share it with anyone directly from the page you are writing on.

While the system will not appeal to everyone, anyone who
takes notes while listening to someone else or wants to get across a visual
idea to someone on the other side of the world could find this tool invaluable.
But what about a fax I hear you say, or indeed that costly flatbed scanner
sitting on your desk? Well who wants to listen to the annoying screech of a fax
which will inevitably fail the first five times you try it, before you realize
that most people stopped using faxes sometime in the mid-90s. Scanning is not
much better. By the time you have powered up you scanner, connected it to your
PC, repositioned the document four times to the correct orientation, uploaded
the file, attached it to an email and sent it, your working day will be pretty
much over.

On the other hand, by just writing one word, the LiveScribe
pen gets rid of all these steps and automatically emails your document to who
ever you want. But more of this later, first of all lets look at the pen itself
and see just what makes it work.

LiveScribe Echo Smartpen

We are looking at the 8GB Echo Smartpen which also comes in
2GB and 4GB versions, with the larger pen offering up to 800 hours of recording
time depending on audio quality. Two years ago we looked at the Pulse Smartpen and besides cosmetic differences, the pens offer practically identical functions. Doing away with the grey anodised aluminum we saw on the Pulse, the Echo replaces it with a black rubberised grip below a black plastic top. It all looks very nice and is easy to hold. Powering everything is an ARM 9 processor but
what makes this pen tick is the high-speed infrared camera situated above the
nib, which takes up to 70 images per second to record exactly what you are
writing. The pen measures 158mm in length and is 19mm wide at the top, tapering
to 11mm at the tip. While this is certainly chunky in pen terms the soft rubber
grip makes it very comfortable to hold and at just 36g feels nice in the hand.
At the top there is a micro-USB port to allow you charge the lithium battery as
well as a 3.5mm headphone jack – replacing the proprietary 2.5mm jack on the Pulse pen.

Audio is recorded via an integrated microphone, which only
makes mono recordings, which is fine for one-on-one meetings/interviews or if
you are just outlining your ideas as you draw and you can listen back to your
recording via an in-built speaker. If however you want to record something in a
larger space such as a lecture theatre, you will need to purchase the Echo 3-D
Premium Recording Headset which gives you stereo recording via a pair of
microphones located on the exterior of the earbuds. This headset is included with the Pulse pen but will cost an extra $30 if you’re buying this pen, as it has been omitted from the Echo packages – a rather miserly move if ever there was one.

 A 96 x 18 OLED display is your windows into what is going on
with your pen. When nothing is happening it displays the time and the amount of
battery charge left. The first time you turn on your pen you set the language,
date, time and display orientation depending on if you are right- or
left-handed. All the set up can be done on your own or with the handy little
interactive leaflet that comes with the pens.

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