Review: Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

by Khalid Hosein on December 28, 2009

Livescribe Pulse SmartpenOnce you start using a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen, you won’t want to go back to using traditional pen and paper. Yes, even pen and paper have received an e-age tech makeover.

So what does the Pulse Smartpen do? First, it records the audio it ‘hears’ either directly from the pen, or via the stereo microphones embedded in the headset if it’s connected to the pen.

Second, it maps that audio exactly to what was written on specially printed micro-dot paper. You can go back to your notes, press the tip of the pen at any point in the notes and the pen will start playing back the audio at exactly that point in time. This works amazingly well.

Third, you can (optionally) sync the contents of the pen with a desktop application (Windows and Mac OS X) that also performs OCR (optical character recognition) on the text you’ve written and makes it searchable as well. I was quite surprised at how well the OCR worked at recognizing my scribbles.


Fourth, you can synchronize your notes up to your Livescribe account on the Web and share them with your colleagues or friends of your choosing. Livescribe has coined the term ‘pencast’ to describe your recording of notes + audio.

Fifth, Livescribe has recently launched an app store (a la Apple, Google, Palm, etc) to supplement your Smartpen with additional functionality. The Pulse already comes with a few basic ‘apps’ such as a calculator, date and time, and more that are driven via dot paper inscriptions in many of their paper products.

What I found with using the Pulse was how much more time efficient I became with processing notes. For example, when I interview someone, I’ll take notes and record the audio. However, those 2 things were not in sync, and hours after an interview, your brain can play tricks on you or just plain lose info (a.k.a. forget!). With the Pulse, I only need to click on my notes for the audio that accompanied that note. Brilliant, and instant. Later on, I can always perform a search for a word or phrase that I wrote.

If you’re a student, you’ll love this capability. And being able to instantly pull up the audio of a lecture will aid your recall tremendously.

Livescribe sells a few different models of the Pulse Smartpen. There are 2GB and 4GB models; the 2GB comes in a Titanium color, while the 4GB comes in both Titanium and Black.

The 4GB pen stores over 400 hours of audio and thousands of pages of text.

While I recommend you purchase Livescribe’s dot-paper products – nicely-bound notebooks in various sizes, you can also print your own micro-dot paper on your home laser printer.

Buy now!
More info from the manufacturer
Price: starts at $149.99
(Please note prices are subject to change and the listed price is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of posting)