After Hours

Geek Gifts 2009: Livescribe Pulse smartpen

Find out why Nicole Bremer Nash thinks Livescribe's Pulse smartpen will be one of the most sought-after geek gifts this holiday season.

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2009.

Geeks like high-tech toys, and the more usable and portable, the better in my opinion. I came across Livescribe's Pulse smartpen on Facebook, and I had to check it out. Upon investigation, it seems that the Pulse smartpen is likely to become one of the most sought-after geek gifts this holiday season.

Product features and specifications

  • Livescribe offers the Pulse smartpen with two memory options: 1 GB and 2 GB. According to the company's site, the 1 GB smartpen will store about 100 hours of recording time, and the 2 GB smartpen will store about 200 hours of recording time.
  • The smartpen weighs 1.3 ounces.
  • A microphone with noise-canceling software
  • An infrared camera, which records everything you write
  • 3D audio headphones
  • A USB charger
  • A 300 mAH rechargeable battery, which connects to the computer via an included USB charging dock
  • Replaceable ink cartridges (so the pen should last for years)
  • You must use Livescribe's Dot paper for the smartpen's functions to fully work. The paper uses microdots to allow the smartpen to record everything you write. It also features control buttons along the bottom of each sheet, so you can more quickly and easily turn smartpen controls on and off.
  • Livescribe features desktop software that allows you to manage your smartpen applications, maintain a Livescribe account, and view and replay your notes, so you aren't limited to the built-in speaker.
  • Development tools for creating your own Pulse applications are available via the Livescribe Web site.
  • OS information: Mac OS 10.5 and above, and Windows XP with SP3 and Windows Vista, with plans to support Windows 7 when it is released.
  • Cost: 1 GB $129.95, 2 GB $169.95; 4 pack of single-subject notebooks $19.95
  • Where to purchase: The Pulse smartpen is available through the Livescribe Web site, Amazon.com, Target, Best Buy, Costco.com, and the Apple Store. Visit the Livescribe site for the locations of retail stores that carry the smartpen and for information about international resellers.

What I like

  • The Pulse smartpen delivers what it promises.
  • It's easy to set up and use.
  • It's a really novel idea with lots of practical uses.
  • I think the Dot paper is cool, and I think the benefits are amazing. For instance, you can even attach specific audio to certain areas of written notes (this feature seems great for meetings and classes).
  • Noise-canceling software and the ability to attach specific audio to certain areas of notes seems like it would be great for meetings and classes.
  • Additional applications, including translators, are available.

What I don't like

  • The most obvious drawback to the Pulse is that you must use Livescribe's Dot paper for the pen's functions to fully work. Also, there are significant limitations to printing your own Dot paper, including you must have a laser jet printer that is Adobe enabled, and it must be able to print 600 dpi. Also, this option is currently only available for Windows users.
  • The price tag
  • It might be too fussy.

Geek bottom line

LiveScribe's Pulse smartpen is a great gift, particularly for people who frequently need to write down specs for projects, and it really delivers what it promises. Plus, the Pulse is practical, which means it's a gift that will likely be used again and again.

Check out the TechRepublic Livescribe Pulse smartpen photo gallery for a closer look at this geek gift.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: *****
  • Geek factor: **
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ****

About Nicole Nash

Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...

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