Livescribe Echo Smartpen

Jeffery Battersby
6 April, 2011
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Livescribe Echo Smartpen


  • Captures lecture or meeting audio and links it to your written notes; notes can be shared as Flash, PDF orAAC files
  • Heavier and larger than a typical pen; lecturers may not want lectures recorded

$199 (4GB); $299 (8GB)


You’re at a uni lecture or a business meeting. Someone is speaking and you’re scribbling like mad. All the while, you hope the notes you’re scratching out bear a reasonable resemblance to what’s being said so you can study them later. Livescribe’s Echo Smartpen promises to remove the mystery (and the stress) from note-taking by capturing audio and linking it to your written notes. How does it make this magic? The Echo Smartpen combines a voice recorder with a tiny infrared camera. When used in conjunction with Livescribe’s Dot Paper – paper covered in micro-dots – the pen can record what you’re listening to as you scribble out your notes and then link that text with the exact point in the audio where you wrote down those notes. You can buy Dot Paper from stores such as Dick Smith or (as an example, a pack of four A4 80-page journals costs $39.95.) Or, if you have a colour laser printer capable of printing at 600 dots per inch (as any typical laser printer can), you can print the notepads on your own paper at home. After the lecture. After the lecture’s over, the real value of the Livescribe system unfolds. Power up the Echo Smartpen and touch any word or diagram you scribbled in your notebook. The pen plays back the audio from the point when you wrote your note. Alternatively, import your lecture from your pen to the Livescribe Desktop application and organise your lecture notes. Here you can listen to a lecture and watch as your notes appear on screen; you can email your written notes as a PDF, your audio notes as an AAC file, or both as a ‘Pencast’ Flash file to share them with your friends. You can also share your notes with others on the Livescribe website. Pen and paper tricks. While the Smartpen is primarily designed to capture audio and notes, it comes with additional applications, and you can buy others from Livescribe. These range from the useless (Sexy Oracle, Butt Tunes) to the useful. For example, in the front of every notebook, you’ll find a printed calculator with financial, statistical and scientific keys. Tap on these with your pen to perform calculations. You can also buy dictionaries and phrase books in a variety of languages. Write down a word, and the translation appears in the Smartpen’s display. Caveats and cautions. One of my chief complaints about the Livescribe system is the size and weight of the pens. Even after using the Echo Smartpen for several weeks, I often found that my hand got tired 15 to 20 minutes into a lecture. Also, students should be aware that some lecturers do not like their lectures recorded. Make sure to find out your university or TAFE’s policies.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice.

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is an excellent tool for capturing lecture or meeting audio and linking it to the notes you take. While the pen is a bit hefty, especially for smaller hands, the Echo Smartpen is a worthwhile addition to the tools you use for uni or work.

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Unimpressed says:

    This pen is absolute rubbish!..
    As a full time student and long time Mac user the software for this pen is awful to say the least.. try to delete a page.. you would think simple right?? NO

    Then there is their “updates” to the software.. it seems that 90% is placed on windows updates and not Mac.. Mac updates come around once a year and never improve much at all.. and then there is the constant problems where users loose all their data when upgrading (want proof, goto their support forums and read all the comments)

    Ink refills rarely last longer than 40 pages..

    then there is the battery performance which does not last long at all.. and after you have 2 months off for holidays when you try to use it again the battery is dead in 5min even after recharging over and over.. so its back for another replacement..

    i have had 4 replaced, all for different reasons, but it just shows how poorly this item is produced, and this is reflected by the poor support offered from the company and the more useless software ever made.

    Just goto their website and head to the forums and do a search for things like, Delete a page.. reload data from the software to the pen.. and heaps of other ideas that have for years been replied with “Its coming.. will are adding it”.. and yet years later its still not added, and what has been has been absolutely useless or just causes even more problems

    After thinking that “Its Coming” and things might change, i was stupid enough to keep trying the pen for over a year..

    I still think that the IDEA of this pen is great. It just needs a real company to get it there and so far Livescribe has done very little in improving it or making it user friendly, but instead release software that causes more harm than good, produce a very sub standard product, and their support is horrible..

    Try it at your own risk, read the forums for proof that ‘I’ am not here to make trouble, but to show a different side of the story from a users perspective

    Buys advice is garbage and most likely has never even tried the pen for taking notes, and as a student myself spending $40 on a notebook to write in that has only lately become available in A4 size, plus the cost of ink refills that dont last long, plus all the time wasted on lost notes due to updates to software and waiting for replacement pens you really are better off with a 50c BIC and notepad and a $20 recorder to place on the lectures desk.

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