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Livescribe 3 Smartpen review

The pen that turns your scribbles into editable text
Fri Dec 06 2013, 12:50

Product Livescribe 3 Smartpen
Specifications ARM 9 processor, high speed infrared camera, integrated stylus, tungsten-carbide ink cartridge, microUSB charging cable, Bluetooth 4.0 LE Smart, rechargeable lithium battery, 50 sheet starter notebook, 162x14.9xmm, 34g
Price From £129.99

SMARTPEN COMPANY Livescribe launched its Livescribe 3 Smartpen electronic pen in the UK this week, after an announcement in October that touted some major changes from previous versions.

The smartpen, which is known for its ability to take a note of whatever its user is scribbling and copy it on the fly, does this now using Bluetooth Smart LE technology, transporting everything that is written on special Livescribe dot paper to an iOS device via a Livescribe+ app.

The Livescribe 3 pad pen and ipad

However, since launch the pen has received a mixed reception, especially from Android users, due to its new limitation to iOS 7 devices, eliminating the microphone from the pen and instead using the microphone in either an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Design and ergonomics
The Livescribe 3 Smartpen has undergone some dramatic design changes over earlier models, and is now much sleeker. Unlike previous iterations, the Livescribe 3 Smartpen has no LCD screen or built-in microphone and instead relies on Apple's most recent iOS 7 mobile operating system, taking what you've written onto Livescribe Dot paper and throwing it onto an iOS 7 device via a new Livescribe+ app.

From the outside, the Livescribe 3 Smartpen looks like a much chunkier version of an average note-taking utensil. However, there is a lot of nifty technology built into the device. At the tip of the pen, under the retractable nib, is a high speed infrared camera. This camera delivers the technology that reads the text written and then transferred to the app.

Livescribe 3 Smartpen app and Dot paper

This is the first Livescribe pen with a nib that is retracted and protruded, done by twisting a textured centre portion of the pen, which also turns the device on or off, signalled by a short beep. The pen itself feels solid in the hand with a rounded body, although it does look and feel quite plasticy and thus a little cheap for its £130 price. However, it's an improvement over previous Livescribe smartpen releases, looking desirable and more like a normal pen.

It's wider than an average pen, however, so some users might think it feels a little too fat to use for writing. But it felt natural and comfortable to us resting in our fingers during use, even for long periods, as it is slimmer towards the nib, making it easier to hold.

Livescribe 3 Smartpen app and Dot paper - nib and camera

At the top of the pen you'll find a metal clip and a capacitive rubber tip that can be used as a stylus. This cap pops off to reveal a microUSB charging port underneath, which also allows you to connect the pen to a PC. We found that this stylus was a little too thick and clumsy, though, especially for use on the small iPhone screen.

Nonetheless, the LCD screen seen on earlier models has been replaced with a simple LED indicator light, which flashes to show if it paired with the iOS device (blue) or not (green) or when the connected app is recording audio (red). The simple design of the Livescribe 3 Smartpen makes it intuitive to use and overall is definitely an improvement, as it looks and feels a lot more natural and pen-like than its predecessors.

Next: Performance.


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