Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The Zpen digital pen uses an external sensor that clips to your paper similar to IOGEAR's Mobile Digital Scribe. A nice feature of this digital pen is that the external sensor doubles as a flash drive that allows you to store your own files including music; however, we found getting started with this device less straightforward.
To get started, we found everything we needed in the included instruction booklet, as well as the companion desktop software and user guide, which were downloadable from the external sensor/flash drive. However, we had to do some searching on the flash drive before we found the file for our handwritten notes. Our first note was saved under the MyNotes file as NOTE0001.eli.
We recommend reading the electronic user manual in its entirety before using this product. Setting the clock on the sensor device will provide accurate date stamps on your notes files.
The Zpen claims to allow you to download notes files from any computer, such as a public terminal at the library. However, you must be able to install its software onto the computer before you are able to open the .eli files. Not all public computers allow you to install software, so we recommend sticking with your own computer.
The product uses ultrasound and infrared technologies, which measure a certain kind of soundwaves. The user manual says that the technology knows how to ignore out-of-band noises, those generated below 25 khz and above 80 khz. This means that if you are taking notes in a noisy place such as a café, your note taking should not be compromised.
When you want to begin writing, turn on the sensor device and clip it to the top middle of your paper. Look for the "pen down" icon to light up on the sensor device when you begin writing. If you go for more than 10 minutes with no activity, the device will automatically shut off, but if you hit the pause button on the sensor device, you can go for 30 minutes instead. When you begin writing again the pause mode will automatically turn off and return you to you session.
The software for this digital pen includes optical character recognition (OCR) that will convert your handwriting to text. In addition, the software includes a quick function to transfer your text to an MS Word document. You can also easily copy and paste text into the body of an email. While the sensor is connected to your computer, the pen can be used as a mouse.
Although you can store other files on the flash drive within the sensor device including music or video files, you must connect it to a computer before you can access those files or listen to your music.
This pen was able to record what was written within an A4 margin, 8.27 x 11.69 inches, or basically a standard piece of 8.5 x 11-inch paper, however, we weren't sure when the pen was working and when it wasn't. We found the buttons and lights on the sensor device to be confusing.
The pen is ergonomic -- light weight with a rubber grip.
Since this pen works by sending signals between the pen and the sensor device, there cannot be anything in between the two when you write. This means you have to be careful how you hold your hand so that it doesn't block the signals. In addition, you should not hold your hand around the tip of the pen for the same reason.
The pen must be charged for six hours before use, so there was some delay in getting started. We found that getting oriented with this pen was not very straightforward, as the accompanying desktop software and user manual were hidden on the flash drive built into the sensor device that comes with this product.
Other Smart Pens reviews
We found the user manual stored on the sensor device's flash drive was easy to read and helpful in getting us oriented once we found it. The Getting Started file starts in French as the default, but a tab at the bottom of the screen allowed us to quickly convert to English.
The companion software for this product is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7. The accompanying multiplatform software, which allows you to view your notes on any computer terminal, is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7; Mac OS; as well as several Linux OSs.
Another nice feature of this pen is that you can refill the ink cartridge with any standard mini ballpoint writing tip.
The Zpen does not have all the bells and whistles of some of the other digital pens we reviewed, but it was a functional device once we found the data files we created on the Flash drive. Although the buttons and lights on the external sensor were confusing, the device seemed to record everything we were writing.