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Livescribe Echo Smartpen review

The ideal smart pen for college students

Livescribe Echo Smartpen Review
(Image: © Livescribe )

Our Verdict

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen offers perfect accuracy for both writing and drawing which is the most important feature of a smart pen. Unfortunately it’s uncomfortable to use due to shape and weight. The audio recorder is a nice touch, but we think you’d be better off with a separate audio device to keep the weight down.

For

  • Incredible accuracy for writing and drawing
  • Good battery life
  • Built-in audio recorder

Against

  • Chunky
  • Expensive
  • No voice-to-text transcription

Livescribe Echo Smartpen: What you need to know

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is our top smart pen pick for college students because it lets you record higher-quality audio recordings than your smartphone and you don’t have to have your smartphone out – something that many college professors don’t appreciate. However, the lack of a dedicated companion app means that you can’t view any of your digitized notes without plugging your pen into a computer.

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen comes in two different memory options with a 2GB and 4GB option available. We tested the 2GB version, but there are no differences between the two models apart from the storage capacity.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen: Writing and drawing accuracy

  • Perfect accuracy for writing and drawing
  • Requires proprietary notepads

In our writing accuracy test, we wrote out the Gettysburg Address by hand to see how many errors each pen would produce. The Echo Smartpen was one of the most accurate pens we tested and didn’t record any wrong strokes or errant marks. 

It was a similar story in our drawing tests. The Livescribe Echo performed wonderfully and we didn’t find a single error in any of our test drawings. Whether you're using it to take notes in lectures or sketching out a drawing, the Livescribe Echo offers fantastic accuracy.

You need special Livescribe notebooks to use the Livescribe Echo. The notebooks have recording and bookmark icons printed on each page so you can easily start and stop recordings with the press of a pen tip.

Livescribe Echo

(Image credit: Future)

Livescribe Echo Smartpen: Apps and connectivity

  • 12 hour battery life
  • Audio recorder built in

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen has a 12-hour battery life, which should be long enough to get you through even the driest history lecture. It charges through a micro-USB port located at the top of the pen, and you can connect the pen to a computer through the same port to upload your notes and audio recordings to the desktop app. You can also plug a pair of headphones directly into the pen and listen to your audio recordings through the pen itself.

We didn’t perform a setup time test on this pen because there’s no app to download or launch. All you need to do is press the power button on the pen and start writing, which took under five seconds in our testing. The downside of this is that you can’t view your digitized notes unless you plug your Livescribe Echo into a computer.

The Livescribe Echo can work with either Mac or PC desktops. The software is very intuitive, and the desktop app wasn’t cluttered with needless features and options unlike many other smart pen apps. To listen to a recording, you simply select the appropriate page from the notebook and click on the play button in the bottom left corner. Alternatively, you can click on words in your actual notes and jump to the part of the recording that corresponds to when you wrote the note.

Livescribe Echo

(Image credit: Future)

Livescribe Echo Smartpen: Comfort and ease of use

  • Biggest, heaviest pen we tested
  • LCD screen to display battery and time

Because it has a built-in audio recorder and headphone jack, the Livescribe Echo Smartpen is much wider and heavier than the other digital pens that we tested. Thanks to its hefty weight and size, this pen can feel awkward and uncomfortable to use. It’s also top-heavy, which means if you write with your fingers close to the point of the pen, you may feel the weight shifting as you write.

There is also an LCD screen which displays the time and battery level on the side of the pen. Another neat feature that unfortunately contributes to the Livescribe Echo Smartpen's weight problem.

Livescribe Echo

(Image credit: Future)

Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen: Extras

  • Built in audio recorder
  • One year warranty

One of the Livescribe Echo’s party pieces is the addition of a built-in audio recorder, which allows you to record audio files and upload them directly to your computer. This is useful for interviews and lectures where you need to capture exactly what a subject is saying and don’t have time to write it down manually. There is even an audio port on the Livescribe Echo, meaning you can plug in a pair of headphones and listen to your recording without uploading it to a computer first.

Sadly, there is no transcription software to go along with the audio recorder, so you won’t be able to get a written version of your recording unless you write it out yourself. Still though, it’s a nice feature that furthers solidifies the Livescribe Echo as the student’s choice.

This Livescribe Echo Smartpen has a warranty for one year. The Livescribe website has a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section as well as tutorials that can help you use all the features included with the pen.

Livescribe Echo

(Image credit: Future)

Livescribe Echo Smartpen: Verdict

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is a useful tool for college students who want to make audio recordings and have them synced to their written notes. The pen itself is heavy and awkward to use, but the ability to listen to recordings directly from the pen and the easy-to-use desktop app makes this a solid smart pen choice. In the end though, you’re probably better off with a dedicated audio recorder and a smaller, more comfortable smart pen.