Product Type: Livescribe gadgets
Newest Review: ... if there is a large room or if there is a lot of surrounding chatter. To offset this somewhat, Livescribe have developed a set of headphone... more
Compulsive note-taker? Never miss a word again!
Livescribe 2GB Pulse Smartpen
Member Name: noxiuniversitas
Livescribe 2GB Pulse Smartpen
Advantages: Flawlessly syncs recorded audio with transcribed notes, useful for revision and recollection
Disadvantages: Recording quality is so-so, although can be improved with add-on accessories
The Livescribe 2GB Pulse Smartpen is a pen which comes with an in-built microphone and camera. This means that it can capture audio as well as a "video" of whatever you happen to be writing at the time. There are a few caveats, which I will explain below. There is also a built-in speaker and 3.5mm headphone jack, which allows for either personal listening, or enhanced recording (again, more details below). The pen is marketed to students, journalists and professionals who attend numerous meetings as a product which increases productivity by allowing one to concentrate fully on what is being said, rather than writing down all the minutiae.
Recording - the recording quality is decent. I have used the pen in small meeting rooms, seminar rooms for about 30 people and lecture halls with 160 people. When playing back audio, recordings from any room larger than a standard office results in quite a lot of background noise. This is present even if the recording quality is set to high. Recording is almost too sensitive (it catches everything, including the incredibly irritating scratch of the pen on paper), however, it is not too specific (doesn't hone in on the speaker). This is especially problematic if there is a large room or if there is a lot of surrounding chatter. To offset this somewhat, Livescribe have developed a set of headphones which also have microphones built into them. This allows them to double as stereo recording devices - i.e., triangulating a sound source to identify the point in space where it is coming from, thus increasing recording specificity. It works well. However, practically, it is not a great option, since wearing headphones precludes both actual listening and the appearance of listening - imagine trying to sit in a seminar room and listen to a lecture with headphones on! An alternative solution could be to leave the headphones on the table. However, I find this affects my writing speed and hence don't really use the headphones at the cost of audio quality.
Writing - the pen has a camera built in just beside the nib. This means that, provided one is writing on special dot paper (you can either buy extra note books or print them off yourself), the pen is able to capture and image of whatever you are writing, and save it. This aspect of the pen works a lot better than the audio, and in my experience, has captured my every stroke accurately. The beautiful thing is that the pen automatically syncs what you are writing to what is being recorded. This means that should you need to flip back through your notes, you can rapidly jog your memory regarding the conversation at the time by tapping on the note itself. When transferred to the computer, this allows the creation of a Pencast, where the audio file plays while the synced notes are "played" in the chronological order in which they were written. My main complaint about the pen is that the included ink cartridge is shorter than most, and hence does not last very long. Mine lasted about 6 weeks with semi-frequent writing (probably 2 hours a day)
The battery life is excellent - my pens last me about 10 hours before having to recharge. Recharging is done via mini-USB and can be done while syncing the pen to your PC. Firmware updates are also applied while syncing. Do make sure the firmware updates are complete before disconnecting, though - I made that error and as a result my audio files would not sync with my notes for a week. The storage space is generous. I have used this pen for a year and still have not run out of space.
The pen has numerous other functions which I admittedly have not explored. These are directed more at productivity and games through an app store. For example, one can play the piano on the pen! They are little more than gimmicks, though, and I would think that if these were a priority, you are probably looking at the wrong type of product.
In conclusion - this is a great device. The only downside with the so-so recording quality, which can be improved if you are willing to look strange doing so.
Summary: This is the best pen of its class on the market. Definitely recommended for target audience
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