Livescribe 3 Smartpen for Android
Automatically save handwritten notes, diagrams, and scribbles to your Android phone or tablet
- Good overall performance for capturing handwritten tasks
- Comfortable to hold despite being thick
- Ongoing costs for paper
- The app didn't let us share an entire writing pad in one go
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
Livescribe's smartpen has been around for a while, and it has proven to be quite a useful tool, especially for professionals who still like to take down handwritten notes. It was originally released for Apple devices, but the Livescribe 3 smartpen has finally been given life for Android devices, with its Livescribe+ app now available in the Google Play store.
Essentially, Livescribe's smartpen is a Bluetooth device that can keep in constant contact with your phone once you switch it on and pair it (using another app called Livescribe Link). Through this connection, it will stream its strokes to the installed Livescribe+ app in real-time. But it doesn't have to be in real-time; you can just take notes and then synchronise the pen with the app after the fact.
It's a pen with a thicker than usual diameter because of the electronics it houses, including the Bluetooth transmitter, micro-USB charging port, and tracking devices that feed your writing and scribbles directly into the app. The caveat is that you can't just use any writing pad. Instead, one of Livescribe's own notepads is needed.
Livescribe notepads are mapped to the pages in the app via a tiny grid of dots that can be seen when you hold the pages to the light -- Livescribe actually calls it dot paper -- and they also feature controls that you can tap on with with the pen (such as to start and stop recordings, which we'll get to in a moment). The app always knows which page you are writing on.
A starter notepad is supplied with the smartpen (A5 size with ruled pages and spiral binding), which has 100 sheets. You must buy replacement pads whenever you run out. There are different types you can buy, including A4-sized spiral notebooks.
It's good for handwriting, sketching, doodling, and pretty much anything you fancy putting down onto paper and then digitising, but it also has one neat trick that makes it even more useful than that: you can record audio while taking notes, and then look at a live feed of your writing in action when you playback the recording.
The ability to record audio that is automatically synchronised to your handwritten notes (called a Pencast in the app) means you can optimise your note-taking. For example, you can jot down important points during a presentation while the app is simultaneously recording audio, and when you play it back, you can tap on each point to listen to what was being said at the time that point was being written. It can make transcribing a simpler task as you don't have to listen to an entire recording. If you've taken copious notes during a recording, then the writing will light up line by line as the recording is played back, letting you know where you are up to in your notes.
In addition to Pencasts, the Livescribe+ app allows you to simply view all of the pages that have been digitised, and you can also see a feed of your digitised pages according to the date they were made. Furthermore, you can send individual pages (as PDFs) to Cloud storage accounts such as Google Drive, or even email them to people. There is an option to 'share' an entire notepad when you hold your tap on it in the app, but this didn't bring up any avenues for us to actually share or save the notebook to the Cloud during our tests.
Pencasts can be sent to the Cloud and shared as well (again, as PDF files), then downloaded to a computer, and played via the Livescribe player on Livescribe's Web site -- you just drag and drop the downloaded file onto your Web browser.
Handwritten notes are digitised automatically by the app, and this means that you can search for words in your documents as if they were proper, typed documents. However, if your writing is very messy, it might not find all instances (if any) of the word that you're after. It worked well enough for us -- considering that the mess we call handwriting these days more closely resemble a scribble.
In order to convert handwriting to text, you must be in 'Feed' mode within the app, which will show you notes according to date and time. To convert them to editable text, you can simply swipe right on each individual note. The text can then be sent to your Cloud or emailed for proper editing. Again, how well this works will depend on how neat your handwriting is.
We've seen natural handwriting capture for Android via devices such as HP's Pro Slate 8 tablet with Duet Pen, which allows you to write on a regular writing pad with HP's special pen, but only in a strict position in relation to the tablet. We were less than impressed with the results and overall comfort level of that type of implementation.
We're much more impressed with the Livescribe 3 smartpen: it's portable, efficient, and offers a more natural way of taking notes. We think it's a highly useful tool for journalists, as well as anyone in the corporate world who has a need to take handwritten notes in meetings. Students should also find it to be invaluable in a lecture hall, though the price might be a barrier for most. The pen on it's own costs $199 (about $280 in New Zealand). Be aware that notepads and ballpoint refills will be ongoing costs.
However, if you have a laser printer, you can print your own dot paper and make your own books. Livescribe's Web site has the details for printing your own dot paper.
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen): Full, in-depth review
- 2 Dell G5 review: Easy to live with
- 3 D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD DSH-C310 review
- 4 Ring Video Doorbell review
- 5 Sony Bravia 2017 TVs: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Intel kills the Compute Card, a small-form-factor modular computing product that didn't stick
- 15 years later, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is finally happening
- Your Steam library is getting a massive visual overhaul this summer
- The Epic Games Store won't always push for exclusives 'at this scale'
- Apple issues updates for Final Cut Pro and iMovie
PCW Evaluation Team
This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.
I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.
- Everything we (already) know about the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10e, S10+ and Galaxy F
- Razer Phone 2 review: One for the fans
- Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will launch on Feb 20
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies