As everyday life moves further into a digital realm dominated by smartphones and tablets, few need to tote around notebooks and pens anymore. But many of us still do because it’s often much easier to jot down notes by hand instead of typing. Smart pens help bridge the gap between digital and analog by letting you turn your device into a notebook.
Some of these tech-based implements even record spoken presentations and sync them with notes written on special paper. They are especially useful for students, who can record whatever the teacher says and then replay the most important parts of a presentation later. They can remove the time-consuming task of transcribing whole presentations by facilitating access to any part of a lecture with a tap. Digitized notes are easy to store, organize, search, and share.
We've rounded up some of the best smart pens, with something here to suit most budgets. All are compatible with most note-taking apps and will help you get your ideas or class notes down on (digital) paper.
Livescribe Symphony Smartpen
- Compatible with iOS and Android devices
- Recognizes up to 28 languages
- Automatically sync with Dropbox, Google Drive, Ms Onenote, and Evernote
- Supports audio recordings
- Not the sturdiest construction
- The app can be unreliable
The Livescribe Symphony smart pen works in conjunction with Livescribe's dot paper (available to buy separately) and the free Livescribe+ app on iOS, Android, Windows, or MacOS.
You can convert your notes to PDFs, text documents, or images, back them up to OneDrive, Google Drive, Evernote, or Onenote, and share them quickly and easily. The smartpen recognizes up to 28 languages and also lets you create audio recordings to sync with your notes, which is great for extra context.
The LiveScribe Symphony also offers up to 90 days of battery life in standby mode, and you can store up to 1,200 pages of notes on the phone — great if you're away from your computer and need to store notes on the go to sync later.
Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set
- Comes with companion app for iOS and Android
- Send notes as PDF, image, vector or text
- Pen comes with a refill
- Refill notebooks are quite expensive
The Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set includes the pen and paper tablet with encoded paper in a dotted layout designed with code technology that works with the pen to facilitate the capture of your strokes. The companion app — for both iOS and Android — transfers your notebook scribbles to your device, digitizing your analog notes and allowing you to notate, share, search, edit, and organize your notes. You can record audio to sync with your notes and diagrams and save it as a PDF or upload it to Google or Evernote. It comes with a USB recharging cable, one pen tip ink refill, and a user manual.
- Support for 66 languages
- Can transcribe and translate mathematical symbols
- Capture 360-degree note angles
- Supports audio recording
- Quite expensive
NewYes has overhauled its SyncPen to introduce the upgraded SyncPen 2. This new writing implement is more flexible and adaptable to all pen-holding habits and can capture 360-degree note angles. Its interior motion-tracking sensor turns your handwritten scrawl, doodles, and sketches to digital text and editable digital files. The pen records notes to your smartphone, letting you transition between handwriting and digital recording. That means you search for topics by word or date, just like your phone’s note-keeping app. A 10-inch LCD pad lets you take notes in various colors, share notes via email, collaborate with shared notes, and record audio logs with your text. The SyncPen 2 uses Bluetooth 5.0 to send a written text to a smartphone app, which converts your notes into Microsoft Word, PDF, or JPEG format. SyncPen works in 66 languages and can even transcribe and translate mathematical symbols.
Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Digital Pad
- Realistic writing experience
- Refillable pen
- Includes two A5 notepads
- Compatible with iOS and Android
- The pen may not work with regular paper
RoWrite’s ink pen delivers an intuitive, natural, and realistic writing experience, which you achieve by using it just like a normal ink pen and paper. It’s a refillable ballpoint pen with built-in pressure sensor circuitry to capture 2,048 pressure points for comfortable and accurate sketching and note-taking. Ink pen refills are included in the package. The device uses sensitive, capacitive flexible sensors to accurately track where the pen is located on the notepad to capture every stroke. Pair a mobile device with the RoWrite App and you can select different writing instruments, change stroke thickness, erase, or add color. When paired, your content transfers quickly and seamlessly, but absent pairing, your work is still saved to internal memory for future editing or sharing. You can even capture a video of every stroke.
iskn The Slate 2 + Pencil & Paper Graphic Tablet
- Removable ring works with your own pens or pencils
- Compatible with any kind of paper
- Works with your tablet, smartphone, or computer
- Supports export in various formats
- Sketched images may appear distorted when digitized
So here’s an intriguing concept: You can use your own implements and writing or sketchpad paper for note-taking or drawing on the Slate tablet while relying on a small removable ring that fits over your pen or pencil circumference to help digitize your work. The Slate 2+ Graphic Tablet connects to your tablet, smartphone, or computer, letting you immediately view your output. The related Imagink app, which gives you all sorts of pencils, felt-tips, and airbrushes, assists with your creations. Via the unit’s graphic tablet mode, you can use the Slate with popular desktop drawing software from Adobe and others and then share and export your creations in a variety of formats, including PNG, JPEG, MP4, PSD, and SVG.
Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook and Pen
- Reusable notebook saves paper
- Works with all Pilot Frixion pens
- Syncs with most cloud storage providers, plus Evernote, Onenote, and Slack
- Affordably priced
- Writing takes a while to dry and can smudge
This reusable notebook — which works seamlessly with the Pilot Frixion Pen — offers an environmentally friendly way to jot down notes and doodles and transmit them to Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Box, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, and even email via the free Rocketbook app for iOS and Android. Just wipe the 32-page dotted grid notebook clean with a damp cloth. It takes about 15 seconds for ink from any Pilot Frixion pen, marker, or highlighter to dry for it to bond to the Rocketbook pages. Artificial intelligence facilitates Rocketbook’s smart titles, smart search, and email transcription for easier labeling and searching of notes. The Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook and Pen package includes one Rocketbook Core 8.5-inch by 11-inch notebook, one Pilot Frixion Pen, and a microfiber cleaning cloth. It comes in eight vibrant colors.
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