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Best Overall: Livescribe Aegir at Amazon
"Effortlessly converts handwritten notes to a digital format."
Best Budget: Sanb Thinkpen at Amazon
"Easily share your notes to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Dropbox."
Best for Comfort: Neo N2 Smartpen at Amazon
"It almost feels the same as writing with a regular ballpoint pen."
Best on Any Surface: Equil Smartpen at Amazon
"Ensures that you have the flexibility of using it with any kind of paper you want."
Best for Artists: Wacom Bamboo Folio Smartpad at Amazon
"You can write or draw to your heart's content before turning the results into digital files."
Best Multi-Lingual Smart Pen: Neo Smartpen M1 at Amazon
"You can write in over 14 different languages and its Neo Notes app will correctly transcribe it."
Best for Students: Livescribe Echo Smartpen at Amazon
"Combines both writing and voice recording all into one neat package."
Courtesy of Amazon
Livescribe offers many different smart pens but it's the Livescribe Aegir that's the absolute best of the bunch. Simplicity is the paramount feature here, as the Aegir effortlessly converts handwritten notes to a digital format (provided you use the related Livescribe notebooks to write your notes). You can store up to 1,200 pages of writing before syncing later with your phone. With ten hours of battery life, it’ll last you throughout the day without a problem. It's also possible to record audio using the Livescribe+ app so you can add voice snippets to your notes to playback at a later date.
Once you've finished with a file, you can easily save it to numerous different formats, including TXT text files, PDF, PNG images, and Microsoft Word. Different cloud services are also catered for, like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneNote, and Evernote so there's no shortage of options for how you want to save your files.
It's not necessary to spend a fortune on a smart pen if complex features aren't required. The Sanb Thinkpen looks quite stylish and works just as well. It tracks handwriting at a rate of 120 frames per second before storing up to 800 pages of notes for future reference (it has 32Mb of internal storage memory). It lasts for eight hours too, albeit with lower intermittent usage of about three days. It can save notes in the form of pictures, text, and even video clips so you can look back on them easily. Sharing functionality extends to Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and WeChat too, so it's easy to send your notes around. Just bear in mind you need to use the pen's supplied dot matrix notebook for it to pick up on your words. And if you own a Samsung tablet, this smart pen is compatible with every model in Android 4.3 or above.
Another popular name in the smart pen world, the Neo N2 Smartpen is designed specifically for capturing your handwriting as quickly as possible. It has a Dual Core ARM9 processor that captures more than 120 frames per second along with 256 steps of pressure. That means it won't fall behind when you're writing fast on its specialist paper. And speed is certainly possible here as the Neo N2 Smartpen is also very comfortable to use. Unlike some other smar tpens, it almost feels the same as writing with a regular ballpoint pen.
Once your notes have been recorded, you can change font colors around so they stand out more to you, before saving the file to multiple different services such as Dropbox and Evernote. It's also possible to save to SVG - Adobe Illustrator's format - which is sure to be a help for designers. Expect to be able to use it for about five hours constantly with that translating to normal usage of about three days. Its standby time is an impressive 125 days which is convenient for those that use it very infrequently.
Many smart pens require special paper to work properly but that's not the case for the Equil Smartpen. Instead, it uses a receiver that you slot on top of your pad of paper before writing. It's a little bulky but a great way of ensuring that you have the flexibility of using it with any kind of paper or pad you want. You can even use it with a napkin if you really wanted to, as well as all kinds of notebooks and journals. The pen recognizes 600 different levels of pressure for precise accuracy and saves automatically to iCloud once you're done.
It's possible to use the pen for both writing tasks and sketching with some impressively accurate pressure sensitivity ensuring that it never misses a beat. You can set up custom pen-based gestures for moving around the dedicated apps too. Battery life is a respectable eight hours of constant use. It might seem like older technology as it’s been around since 2013, but there’s little that compares to the Equil Smartpen when it comes to smart pens that work with any kind of paper or surface.
Smartpens are immensely useful to the avid graphic designer or sketch artist; no mouse can compare with the tactile quality of holding a pen and drawing that way. Wacom has designed many great graphics tablets over the years and they've extended that thinking to smart pens with the Bamboo Folio Smartpad.
Wrapped up in a folio case, you can write or draw to your heart's content (with up to eight hours of continuous battery life) before turning the results into digital files. It's a great space for letting your imagination run wild before converting images to JPG, PNG, PDF, SVG or WILL files. Best of all, you’re not even tied into using special paper, although that does explain the slightly higher initial price. Use the Wacom app to gain access to more features, which is compatible with your iPad, Samsung, Nokia, Nexus, Fujitsu, or Android device.
The Neo Smartpen M1 is a lightweight ballpoint digital pen that can last you a long while (six hours of writing time and 125 days of standby). The M1 offers extensive multi-lingual support and several colorful designs; you can write in over 14 different languages (includes Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish, just to name a few) and its Neo Notes app will correctly transcribe it before allowing you to search by date, tag, or keyword.
The pen feels comfortable to hold and use for extended sessions and works just as easily as a regular pen. Just lift the cap off and start writing your next masterpiece, or aim the camera and capture your work for later. It's easy to share both illustrations and notes via e-mail or social networks, as well as in formats such as text, JPG, PDF, or SVG.
Smartpens are particularly great for writing notes during important meetings or lectures, but they're still dependent on how quickly you can write. The Livescribe Echo Smartpen appreciates that by also recording everything you hear, allowing you to replay everything back simply by tapping on your notes. It has 200 hours of audio content (2GB capacity), so you won’t even need to erase anything that often.
Expect to be able to use it for about six hours before you need to recharge it. It’s an older device than many other smart pens but it’s yet to be beaten when it comes to combining both writing and voice recording all in one neat package. It comes with a micro USB cable, two ink cartridges, and the Echo desktop software for both Mac and Windows.