Livescribe 3 Smartpen review

Is the smartpen mightier than the keyboard?

LiveScribe SmartPen 3
Three is the magic number

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Whether you're an occasional jotter not keen on leaving the familiar feeling of pen and paper or somebody that wants to build a digital archive of everything you write, the Livescribe 3 Smartpen will match your ambition.

It certainly packs enough features when used with the tailored Livescribe+ app, but you'll have to spend time becoming familiar with them to make the most out of your investment.

We liked

The Livescribe 3 Smartpen's basic purpose - that of translating handwritten text into pixels on a screen - is fast, accurate and works for a decent length of time before the pen's battery gives up the ghost.

The additional features that work with iOS 7 - from adding entries into the Reminders app to saving telephone numbers and addresses with a swipe - extend that functionality further. Other features, such as Find My Pen and the ability to sync with up to four different devices, are more subtle but equally useful.

Additionally, Livescribe's decision to use your iDevice's microphone now gives you much more flexibility when making audio recordings, particularly as the microphone quality in Apple's devices is higher than what the company's pens have offered in the past.

We disliked

The Livescribe 3 Smartpen falls short of a higher mark due to its rotund nature. If the company finds a way to slim down the pen to the size of a normal Biro and make it work with normal paper (though let's be honest, printing your own isn't that difficult if you own the kit), it would be difficult not to award it a perfect score.

Also, though a temporary caveat, the fact that an Android (or Windows Phone) app still hasn't been outed is still a major gripe if you're not keen on digging deep to pick up a fruit-flavoured device.

Final verdict

Is the Livescribe 3 Smartpen worth the cost of entry over a cheap notebook and pen combo? That depends entirely on what you're planning on doing with it.

It's much easier than writing notes and drawing on a screen with a mouse, still less painful than writing on glass on devices such as the Galaxy Note 3 (as impressive as Samsung's S-Pen functionality is) and far less time-consuming than scanning or taking photographs of copied notes.

Those time savings are ultimately what gives the pen value - whether that's for business users, students or anybody else. If you don't write a great deal and don't have any need for saving time (or additional convenience), you should ask the question of why you're picking up a smartpen in the first place.

If you don't already own an iDevice and aren't interested in Android but are keen on the idea of using a Livescribe smartpen, both the Echo and the Wi-Fi smartpen are viable alternatives that rely on the cloud and USB respectively instead of iOS - and you might be able to get hold of one cheaper - too.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.