Amazing! is the first reaction to this device. Here are the things it can do, and generally well.
1. Write like a regular pen.
2. Record voice or sound like any digital recorder.
3. Link the written notes to the recorded sound. So if tap on a written word it will play the sound recorded at the time that word was written.
4. Upload handwritten notes and voice to computer.
5. Share your written notes and audio (Pencasts).
The sound quality is fairly good. There are lot of add on apps available like games, language translation, piano etc. which I have not used so far except MyScript, which does not work very well. It comes with two fine black ink cartridges, no medium, and I wish there was one included. The writing was faint with fine tip and it was scratchy to write. So I had to order an extra pack of five Livescribe ARA-000007 4 Medium Blue and 1 Fine Red Ink Cartridge
cartridges. Sometimes the writing is faint on the computer even with medium tipped blue cartridges.
1. BUGGY MAC LIVESCRIBE DESKTOP SOFTWARE: Echo pen does not come with any software, you have to download that from the web site. LiveScribe Desktop for Mac software is very sluggish and glitchy. You will be watching the spinning wheel for a while (3:48 minutes) when it starts, it will keep on asking you for email address and password and not let you use the program until you do. And if you are not connected to the Internet, the LiveScribe won't stop spinning until you connect the Echo pen. Windows software is actually better, faster and does not hang up like that. After you connect the pen, it takes a while for the notes to show up. Although you can archive the notes from one pen to one computer, there is no way to transfer notes to multiple computers because archiving the notes removes them from the pen. The first time I connected the pen, it updated the firmware automatically.
2. DIFFICULT TO PRINT CUSTOM PAPER: Another problem is that you have to buy notebooks and paper from LiveScribe. As far as I can make out, they do not sell A4 size paper. You can print the paper on some Postscript color laser printers. I could not print the paper on Dell 5100cn color laser printer, either with Dell Postscript driver or with Adobe generic Postscript driver but I was successful in printing the paper on Brother MFC-9840CDW Color Laser Multifunction Center with Wireless Interface and Duplex
- but only from the Mac LiveScribe. It took a long time - 2 hours - to print 25 pages! Interestingly, the custom notebooks could be printed only in Mac Livescribe, not from the Windows version. The file was 200MB. You have to print one full notebook of 25 pages at time and you cannot print partial notebooks, say pages 1-10. And you can only print total 100 pages (4 Notebooks with 25 pages each). So if you want to use more than hundred pages, you have to archive a notebook before you can do that. That limits active pages to 100 at a time! This is the biggest drawback I found for my purpose because I need to have hundreds of active records at a time where I can write information on multiple days. The same limitation also applies to their notebooks. Despite using 1200 dpi resolution for printing, the quality of writing was still poor when it showed up on the computer. So I ended up using Livescribe Single Subject Spiral Notebook ANA-00017, 4-Pack, Nos. 1-4
which have A4 size paper, but punched.
3. NO EASY WAY TO BACKUP: The data transferred to the computer is saved in one of those obscure and hidden Windows & Mac folders that are hard to find for non techies and will not back up unless you do global backup like Windows Backup or Mac Time Machine. You cannot save your data in custom folders. Even though, I had everything backed up, I could not restore the the data when my hard drive died and lost all archived notes. Three technical support reps from LiveScribe could not restore it. First two said they will call back and let me know but never did. The last technical support rep did get back to me in Email and said they could not restore my backed up data. After losing lot of data (300 A4 pages), I now save all notes as PDF files in my custom data folders and also upload to Evernote. I do not record lot of audio and so far the free Evernote account has been sufficient. Integration of Windows LiveScribe with Evernote works well.
4. POOR HANDWRITING RECOGNITION ADD ON MyScript: My main purpose in buying this pen was to convert handwritten notes to computer text. For that I had to buy a thirty buck add on called MyScript for LiveScribe which does not work so well. Even with clear cursive writing it does not recognize many words and has particular difficulty with technical words, so you have to add each word one by one into the dictionary, and cannot import your Microsoft Word or Pages dictionary. Very tedious process. But it has Auto Replacement, which works like Microsoft Word Autocorrect, e.g. if you write 3m, you can program it to expand to 3 months. That is the work around to poor handwriting recognition.
5. ANNOYING UNTETHERED CAP: Like every one else, I found the loose cap very irritating, it can be easily lost. Are you supposed to keep putting and removing the cap all day long? It is not clear to me why they couldn't make a retractable pen or why the cap cannot be held in place on the back of the pen or tethered with a small cord. There is no clip on the pen to clip it to your pocket either. You will find this very annoying.
6. NO AUTO ON & OFF: If you forget to turn the pen on by pressing the on/off button, the pen will not record anything. I cannot understand why the pen does not have auto on, it should turn on as soon as you start writing on the paper. The on off button should be behind the ink cartridge, so it turns on just by the process of starting to write. Or may be they can fix this with a firmware upgrade.
Overall, it is great for students to record lectures, attorneys, journalists, conference attendees making notes etc. and you can later on refer to the written notes and /or speech. You can write or record speech or do both and link the two. Those who are going to record a lot of audio should go for 8 Gb; for most users 4 Gb should suffice. If you use LiveScribe notebooks and Windows software it works fairly well. But if you have a Mac, need to print your own custom A4 paper, or need handwriting recognition, then it is a work in progress and needs lot of bugs ironed out before it can become a mainstream product. May be they can have a wi-fi card like Eye-Fi so that notes are automatically transferred to your computer. It sure has the potentiel.
ADDENDUM (8/4/2013): This review was written for ECHO pen and not SKY Wi-Fi pen, Amazon has transferred the review from Echo Livescribe to Sky Wi-Fi pen. I have never used the Sky pen and this review only applies to the Echo pen, NOT Sky Wi-Fi pen.