Pros New Echo pen solves design problems with previous Pulse pen. The audio is surprisingly good. Desktop software allows notes to be combined into "virtual notebooks". Can share notes with audio using Pencast or online.
Cons Notes containing audio cannot be exported to other programs (like OneNote or Evernote.) Very tricky to sync or move your notes using more than one computer. Limited notebook types containing special paper. Hard to print your own dot paper.
Summary I have been using the Pulse Smartpen (previous version to the Echo) every day for over a year now. The new Echo pen solves all the problems with the older Pulse. The rubber grip makes it more comfortable to hold, the edges prevent the pen from rolling away, and the standard USB port does away with the docking cradle, which exposed the contact points on the pen, and made syncing the pen to the computer unreliable over time. It's clear that the Livescribe folks have been listening to their customers when designing the new pen. The Pulse pen is being sold at a discount, but I would buy the Echo given a choice.
You need special notebooks containing "dot paper" to use the pen. You get a starter notebook with the pen, but if you're going to use it for different classes or clients, you'll have to pick up more, and they're a little more expensive than a standard notebook. There are different styles available, but I'm still looking for a standard planner with dot paper to make my workday more useful. You can print out your own dot paper with the software, but I haven't been able to get it to work. I believe a good quality laser printer would help.
Software doesn't come with the pen, so you'll have to download the latest version online. Both Windows and Mac are supported. They have been slowly making improvements to the software over time, becoming more stable and adding some features. Be advised that the pen and software are designed to work on one computer only. The software can support multiple pens, however.
The reason I like this so much is because there's practically no learning curve. Once you have the pen and software setup on your computer, turn on the pen, tap the REC icon on the paper, and start taking notes. Audio will be recorded at the same time you're taking notes. When finished, connect the pen to your computer, and the notes with audio will be transferred. There are some rules you have to follow (like making sure you don't use two similarly numbered notebooks at the same time), but they're easy to figure out. Like everything else, if you take the time to understand the full capabilities of the pen and software, you will get the most out of it, but you'll be able to use it within an hour of picking it up.
Once the notes and audio are transferred, you have other organizing options. You can search your notes for a particular word, and the software can interpret what you wrote (to a degree) and find all occurrences of that word. Pretty impressive. There is optional software (for a fee) that tries to convert your handwriting to text notes for import into a word processor, but it didn't work that well for me except when my handwriting was nearly perfect. I don't find it that useful and its not needed to use the pen.
The software has a fairly new feature in which you can organize your notes with virtual notebooks. So, if you use one notebook for class or work, you can pull out notes and collect them into a "virtual notebook" in the software. All your organic chemistry notes can be grouped into a virtual organic chemistry notebook, for instance. This makes it even easier to organize and find what you want later.
There is limited exporting options. If you have a friend or coworker who also uses a Pulse or Echo pen, you can send them a pencast of your notes (with audio) so they can view and listen to your notes. You also have some online storage, so you can upload notes and share online. What I would like to see, however, is integration of the notes with OneNote or Evernote. You can do this now through PDF export, but you will lose the audio tied to it. However, if they do add audio support to PDF files, then the Pulse or Echo pen would be an ideal tool to integrate your notes with other software you may use.
Out of all the gadgets I've bought over the years, there are only a few that I can honestly say changed my life. This is one of them. It takes something tried and true (pen and paper), digitizes the output seamlessly, and ties it with audio so you know the context of what was being said at that moment in time. And there are now more options to organize, search and share your notes. I will give it a full 5 stars once they have that PDF w/audio export feature rolled out, and have a few more notebook designs introduced. This is a must-have device for a student or professional who takes a lot of notes.
Pros Does what it says: syncs your recordings to your handwritten notes.
Cons Cheap rollerball writes like old bic pen. Hard to remove and replace ink cartridge. Scratching from the rollerball can be heard on recordings. Proprietary paper is low-quality but costly. Tiny, oddly-shaped cap is easy to lose. Poor build quality.
Summary This pen is a great idea, but the execution is abysmal. The ink cartridges are of terrible quality--somewhere south of an old bic ballpoint. This matters not simply because one expects a better writing experience with a $200 pen, but because the roller ball scratches against the paper and this sound is picked up by the mic, which makes listening to recordings extremely annoying. Pen's construction is cheap-feeling (unlike its predecessor the Pulse, which had some heft to it). The pen is strangely shaped: in order to prevent it rolling off the table, they have given it an oval shape that is uncomfortable in the hand. Why they couldn't just add a clip (think old parker pen) is beyond me.
One particularly glaring example of this pen's myriad design failures: to replace an ink cartridge, you are expected to grab the tip of the roller ball with your fingers and yank it out. I cannot explain how difficult this is: the cartridge has a diameter of 1mm, and it is pretty well jammed into the slot. Get ready to break some fingernails. The old Pulse had a tool on the usb cradle that helped with this, but the Echo has no such thing. It's this kind of thoughtlessness that makes one lose confidence in a product like this very quickly.
Overall, this was a huge disappointment. I've lusted after this product for two years, but thought I'd wait until they ironed out the kinks with the Pulse. Alas, if the Echo represents the apotheosis of the smartpen, then I'll have to pass. This awkward contraption is neither an excellent pen nor an excellent recording device, and the whole is most assuredly less than the sum of its parts. It was with great relief that I returned it a mere 12 hours after having purchased it. Do not buy this product.
"Great tool!"on by markwb2000
Pros I sketch in my notes, so it's great to document those ideas. Forwarding my notes and customer requests to my inside guy to follow up on or create proposals saves me from rewriting or typing everything at the end of the day.
Cons It's a bit big for a pen, but it doesn't keep me from using it. The cap does disappear eventually, so keep some on hand.
Summary As a person who takes several pages of notes every work day, this tool is great. I travel every week, covering 16 states and half of Canada, speaking to literally hundreds of people within a few months, plus notes I take while on the phone. Everything is documented and forwardable. This tool allows me to search my notes and recall a specific event that may have happened months ago. I find it invaluable.
Pros the pen is one of a kind, and does provide the features it says at a great level
Cons the product has too many bugs, like any other recording device it can skip and also when taking notes it only gets about 60-70% of the writing, if you draw anything complex, it wont get it.
Summary it not a great a product, im actually a little disappointed to see CNET rate such a bad item so high, Target and Best buy sell so few of these each month. its really more a gimmick pen and it does not record notes well at all.
Pros Great for taking notes, scribble your thoughts and doodles. Will capture most of your writing.
Cons Absolutely not for complex drawing, structural design or any diagrams. The pen will not capture most of the data.
Summary Bottom line: It's reliable for class notes, meeting notes and lecture notes. But if you have to draw, that's where the pen will get lost. For drawing of any kinds, I often find myself back to Bamboo tablets.