Updated: November 8, 2017

Pulse Smartpen Review:

We have all heard that the pen is mightier than the sword, but what about the Pulse Smartpen? This ingenious pen/computer hybrid was surely not what the great bards had in mind when they waxed poetic about the power of the pen. What can this digital pen, that has been called "mightier, smarter, and louder than the pen" actually do? Besides the undeniable "wow" factor, does this pen have the goods to challenge the mighty pen? You have to see it in action. There is no question that this digital pen has all the sophisticated technology that we expect in the 21st Century, but it also has something that has been in use for thousands of years and continues to be relevent: a pen. The Pulse Smartpen was created by Livescribe, an award-winning company committed to bringing pens into the next century.
pulse smartpen

The Pulse Smartpen in Action - Livescribe's founding goal is to change the way people "capture, access, and share information with pen and paper." In a time when computers and smartphones dominate our information gathering and sharing, Livescribe has made the pen even more relevant than ever. What is the Pulse Smartpen? It looks like a regular pen, albeit a bit larger. Inside are an infrared camera, microphone, and computer that can be used for virtually endless applications. One example of practical use is in school. If you are going to a lecture and want to take notes, you can do so with the Smartpen. But you can also record the lecture. Not only can you just replay the lecture, you can tap your notes for any portion of the lecture, and the Smartpen plays back that portion. This way, you don't have to listen to the entire lecture again; you can play back, but in a non-linear fashion. Let's look at the specs:

*ARM 9 Processor
*96x18 OLEC display
*High speed infrared camera that captures over 70 images per second
*Storage capacity of 2GB (over 200 hours of recording time) or 4GB (over 400 hours of recording time), depending on your Smartpen model
*Rechargeable lithium batteries
*3-D recording headset
*Audio jack
*USB batter charger
*PC connectivity so you can transfer your notes/audio to computer
*Included Livescribe desktop software

The Smartpen is best seen in action. You can do so at the Livescribe website to see various applications of the Smartpen (http://www.livescribe.com/smartpen/videos.html) or here at YouTube:

One of the drawbacks of the Pulse Smartpen is that you need to use Livescribe's specially designed notebook paper in order to record your writing and drawing. This Dot Paper looks like a regular notebook, but you will see little symbols at the bottom for record, play, etc. These help you navigate the digital pen's features. To record a lecture, for instance, you hit the record button. Then start writing and the camera captures what you write and syncs it to the lecture if you want to replay it later. As you can see in the YouTube video, the applications do not end with school lectures. The demonstrator in that video drew a mock piano and then played it. It can help you learn a different language. Again, the possibilities are endless because not only can you record your writing and the accompanying audio (handy for lectures, meetings of all kinds, and more), you can share it and send it. Say a coworker misses a project meeting. You can convert your notes to a PDF file and send either just the audio or both audio and writing as a Pencast. Share it online or email it. Apps aren't just for your iPhone anymore. You can visit the Livescribe Applications Store and download paid and free apps that will increase the functionality of your Smartpen even more. Check out the Smartpen on Amazon.com here.

What Do the Experts Say about the Pulse Smartpen?:

"Wow." That's a pretty common reaction when this digital pen is demonstrated, but does its usefulness extend beyond an initial interest? According to review after review, yes, it does. The Pulse Smartpen has won award after award since its 2008 launch including: Popular Science Best of What's New 2008, Popular Mechanic's 2008 Breakthrough Award, MacWorld's Best of Show in 2009, Mac/Life Editor's Choice Award, LapTop Magazine's 2009 Innovations Award, and the SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association)'s Most Innovative Education Product or Service. A review in LapTop Magazine said that this product deserved high recognition indeed as a writing experience and would rival the feather quill. PC World said it was "innovative" and could prove to be a ground-breaking device for students and professionals, particularly journalists. Livescribe Pulse Smartpen Pros and Cons - We've covered the pros so far - note-taking, recording, sending, sharing, lots of storage space, transfer to PC or Mac, print, and more. But there are a few drawbacks to the Smartpen that you should be aware of before you buy. If you read reviews of the older version (way, way back in 2008), you will see that the software was a little "buggy." It was a little clunky, but the newer versions have corrected this and the operation is much smoother. Apple.com put the Smartpen on its Best Product List because of these updates. Another concern from the older versions was the lack of OCR (optical character recognition) or handwriting recognition software. Again, this has been rectified with the newer models. So that's not as big a drawback as it would have been a few years ago. One other thing that you may have issues with is the need for the special Dot Paper. This costs about $20 for a 4-pack of notebooks, each with 100 pages (buy notebooks here ). Livescribe addressed this with an update to Livescribe Desktop: you can print your own notebook paper from a PC. Two problems with this: you can't do it with Macs, and according to ComputerShopper.com, the home-printed paper doesn't work as well as the Livescribe notebooks. They were gaps where it didn't pick up what the digital pen wrote. So, great with the Livescribe notebooks, not so great when you're trying to save money. Write really, really small to conserve those notebooks!

How Much Does the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen Cost?:

This is perhaps the biggest factor in your decision. The 2GB Smartpen lists for about $150, sometimes it can be found online for less. The 4GB model is about $170. It is geared towards students and professionals, so this might be either a lot or a great deal, depending. With the 2GB digital pen, you get: Livescribe Desktop Software via Download, 3-D recording headset, starter notebook, USB charger, case, 2 black fine point ink cartridges, and an Interactive Getting Started Guide. The 4GB offers this, as well as: Tips & Tricks Guide and internet connection with Dot Paper. To operate the Smartpen, you will need Windows XP 32-bit SP2 or higher, Windows Vista 32 or 64-bit operating system, or Intel Mac with Mac OS X 10.5.5 or newer, 600HMz CPU or higher, at least 300MB of free space, USB port, and internet connection. When buying, make sure to get the newest model so you have much improved functioning. And in the case of the 2GB, the newer model is actually cheaper. Win win. The Pulse Smartpen is one of the most innovative products that you can add to your arsenal of work or school tools. Besides being fun and interesting, it is actually very useful and practical.