PROS / This digital pen has a battery life of 14 hours, which is longer than most smart pens.
CONS / The pen relies heavily on your smartphone or tablet, and currently is geared toward iOS.
VERDICT / The Livescribe 3 Smartpen does a fantastic job at converting handwritten notes and sketches to digital counterparts and pairs seamlessly with your iPhone or iPad.
The Livescribe 3 Smartpen may look and feel like a standard pen, but it does much more. This digital pen converts your handwritten notes and sketches to digital copies and it even captures audio. The Livescribe 3 is the best digital pen and it will change the way you take notes and will help you get organized.
It has an outstanding battery life of 14 hours and includes great apps that complement your smartphone, tablet or computer. Together, these characteristics earn it our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best smart pen.
Whether you are an artist or just someone who takes a lot of notes, you'll find this electronic pen does an excellent job at capturing sketches and recognizing handwriting. It works by pairing the pen with your iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth. Currently there is no Android support, but Livescribe tells us an Android app is in the works.
The pen writes smoothly, and it is comfortable to hold. It's thicker than most ballpoint pens, and sports a grip diameter of 0.59 inches. The body resembles a fountainpen and weighs just 1.2 ounces. However, other digital pens feel more durable. This one could have a more solid build.
At the top of the smart pen is a small nub that lets you use it as a stylus for your touchscreen. There is a LED that flashes yellow when 15 percent of the battery power remains, but the pen lacks a display and a battery meter to give you precise way to tell battery life. The light also illuminates when the smart pen is powered on or is attempting to pair with your device.
Since the pen pairs with your cellphone or tablet, it can use your device's microphone to capture and sync the audio of a lecture or meeting with your written notes. This comes in handy, especially if the presenter is long-winded or is a fast talker. Some digital pens have a built-in microphone, but this one does not.
You get a total of 14 hours of battery life with this digital pen, which is longer than most. This should almost certainly get you through the workweek, unless you are a heavy user. In order to write with this pen, you will have to purchase Livescribe Dot Paper. A 50-sheet Livescribe notebook is included with the pen. If you want, you have the ability to print your own dot paper. However, your printer must be Adobe PostScript compatible and print at 600dpi or higher.
This special type of paper has a pattern of tiny dots that allows the smart pen to capture everything you write or draw. The paper lets you tag certain words, and when you tap on flagged words, the audio you recorded on your smartphone or tablet will be played back. It comes with a black ink cartridge, which is replaceable and has a medium tip. You can purchase replacements from Livescribe, but the pen is also compatible with common replacement cartridges you can get at most office supply stores.
Livescribe designed the pen with a mobile-first approach. You can download an app, Livescribe+, for your smartphone or tablet. As you write on the paper, the app will create a digital version of your notebook pages. On your tablet or phone you can convert your handwritten notes to editable, typed text. This makes easy to search documents using keywords or email notes to friends, peers and colleagues. The app recognizes Japanese, Chinese, English, German, Spanish, French and Italian.
The Livescribe smart pen is not a standalone gadget. To create a digital copy of your notes, you need to have an iPhone or iPad. You pair your pen with your smartphone or tablet through Bluetooth. Some pens rely on a Wi-Fi connection, but Bluetooth generally results in longer battery life. You can also pair this Bluetooth pen with your laptop or desktop computer. Since there currently is no app support for Android devices, there are a few workarounds for seeing your notes with your Android smartphone or tablet. You can access your notes using Microsoft OneNote, or you can send your notes as a PDF or PNG file. The pen can even sync with your Evernote account.
One convenient feature the app brings to the table (or should we say desk) is that if you lose your pen, you can tap a button that causes the digital pen to beep. However, if the pen is out of Bluetooth range (about 32 feet) this feature won't work.
Help & Support
Livescribe includes a one-year warranty with its digital pen. If you need some extra help getting it set up or can't get the smart pen to sync with your devices, you can reach Livescribe in a handful of ways. The company has a FAQs page and tutorials online. There are also forums where you can connect with other Livescribe users to get tips or advice. If you would prefer to speak directly to a Livescribe agent, you can do so via phone or online chat.
The Livescribe 3 Smartpen has a wide feature set, and it captures your handwriting and converts it to text seamlessly. Combine that with the fact that the pen has a great app and also records audio, and you have the makings of the best digital pen on the market. Its only major downfall is that it currently is geared toward iOS devices, but Livescribe says Android support is on the way.