Echo Smartpen 

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Not the first version of this, but the first I have seen. Earlier versions had only 1GB of memory, now they come in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions. There are also other improvements to this interesting unit that is not just a pen.

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While this functions as a pen on ordinary paper on the special paper (coated with almost invisible tiny dots) it does far more. You can set it up to record – ideal for students – and just write the odd word or phrase as a reminder to a salient point. Press the pen on the paper at that point and once you replay the recording it will skip to that point. If you have recorded a two hour lecture and the point you want is five minutes before the end you can see the time that can be saved.

The pen is 16cm long and as the back is oval in shape between .7 and 2cm thick. The weight of the pen is 36grams.

The first 7cm is rubberised and black and feels nice to hold, the last 9cm is shiny black plastic this latter area has a 2x.5cm one line display just above this is the on/off button that is used to start or stop your audio recordings.

The top of the pen has a 3.5mm jack to allow you to attach a set of earbuds should you wish to monitor or replay while out and about. It also has a micro USB socket that uses the supplied USB lead to transfer data to the PC.

This also allows the pen to charge but the battery life is certainly sufficient for a goods days worth of recordings.

The pen cap is not a great part of it, first its rather hard to remove or replace and second its small so is liable to get lost when off as you have no where to put it. This part of the design needs to be improved without any delay.

In fact there is a spare one provided with the unit as well as an ink cartridge for the pen and a notebook and documentation.

When replaying a file it is weird to see your words being overwritten at the appropriate point in the recording but this has a purpose so you know exactly where in the recording that note was written, you can save items as .PDF.

Dependant on the audio quality and what other applets you have installed in memory the 8GB pen can store up to 800hours of audio.

A standard recording is in mono but should you want a stereo recording then this can be achieved if you buy the Echo Premium Headset, ideal for a theatre environment where you can tell where the sound came from in relation to yourself, but the mono is fine for normal purposes.

You need to use their special notebooks but it is possible to print the paper yourself if you have a post script capable printer, their notebooks have a number of symbols at the foot of each page and these activate the pen in certain ways.

Various applets are supplied such as a calculator where you write the sum and it does the calculation. Others can be purchased from the Echo site some are free some require a small payment and then transferred to the pen the next time you sync it.

Data is transferred to the PC in the same way and it is possible to send drawings etc by email amongst other methods. The Echo Litescribe Smartpen is available from the first link below for £165.99 delivered free.

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OverallEcho Smartpen rated 68 out of 100

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