If you prefer taking notes with a pen but you also want to back up a copy, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Through advances in smart technology, manufacturers are now producing smart pens that take your handwritten notes, drawings, even audio recordings, and upload them to your computer or tablet. These pens make it easy to store ideas, reduce clutter, and avoid losing important notes.
Finding the best smart pen for your needs can hinge on a few factors, and this guide will help you determine how to prioritize those factors. Once you know how the pens work and which features you should look for when shopping for the best smart pen, you’ll be able to find the perfect one to suit your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen
- BEST FOR SKETCHING: Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse Smart Pen
- BEST MULTILINGUAL: Neo smartpen N2 for Smartphones and Tablets
- BEST READING PEN: Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner Wireless
- BEST WRITING SET: Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse Smart Writing Set
What to Consider When Choosing a Smart Pen
Choosing a smart pen can be a bit daunting. There are a lot of products on the market, and each of them has different bells and whistles that may or may not be useful. It’s important to understand all of these factors before shopping for the best smart pen.
There are a few different ways that you can use a smart pen, and the way you want to use the pen will help you determine which product is right for you.
If you’re primarily using your smart pen to take notes, you can find pen and pad sets that are specifically designed for notetaking. Some sets feature reusable sheets of paper that wipe clean with a damp cloth. Other sets automatically recognize a new notebook, allowing you to save all of your notes on one subject in one spot.
If you’re an artist, you might appreciate some of the smart drawing kits that are available. These sets allow you to automatically upload your artwork onto your tablet or pad, which you can then color or paint.
While you can get used to using any smart pen, most writers and artists want something that’s comfortable to use out of the box. If the pen isn’t, you might not use it enough to unlock its potential.
The way the pen feels in your hand has a lot to do with how comfortable it is to use. Most pens, particularly the ones in this guide, are ergonomically designed to fit well in your hand. Other smart pens offer rubberized grips for control and cushioning.
Another measure of how comfortable a pen is by the way it writes. Most smart pen users look for pens that roll or glide smoothly across a paper or pad, just as a standard ballpoint pen does.
Your pen’s battery life is also a pretty important consideration. If you’re a college student, you might need a pen that can take notes for hours on end without being recharged. If you’re an artist, a drawing could take several sittings, in which case you’d probably like a pen that can recharge quickly while you are taking a break.
There are plenty of smart pens on the market that can be used for more than five hours without needing a recharge. You can also find pens whose batteries can charge from zero percent to 100 percent in about an hour and a half. Before choosing a smart pen, consider how long it will be used to write within any given stretch of time.
When it comes to smart pens, compatibility is important, but “compatibility” can mean more than one thing.
The first way you need to consider your pen’s compatibility is in the operating system you want it to work with. Whether you use an Apple, Windows, or Android product, you need to ensure that the pen you choose works with your system. Most smart pens have their system requirements listed in their product descriptions. Compare your system to these requirements to make sure they’ll work together.
Another important consideration to note, is that some pens will only work properly with certain notebooks or pads. Check the packaging description before purchasing any extra notepads to be certain they are compatible with your smart pen.
Most pens connect directly with cloud services, so your storage will have more to do with your cloud than the pen you choose. You can connect to Google Drive, iCloud, email accounts, Evernote, and other storage apps.
Some smart pens also work when you are not connected to the internet. These pens allow you to write offline while memorizing your pen strokes. When you connect them to your computer or tablet, they’ll upload the pages, allowing you to store up to 50 pages of notes.
There are a few different ways to connect your smart pen to your computer, tablet, or drive account.
Most pens use Bluetooth to connect with your system. Once you connect through your device’s Bluetooth settings, it can store sketches and notes wirelessly. It’s the fastest and simplest way to upload your data.
Some smart pens will allow you to store your pages on the pen until you plug it into your device’s USB port. The information will then automatically upload to your device.
Other systems are app-based. They allow you to use a traditional but brand-specific pen on special paper. The app can be used in tandem with your device’s camera to take a picture of the page to upload it to your system.
As convenient as smart pens are, some have special features that make note-taking even easier. For instance, some pens have built-in voice recorders. You can record your voice with the pen and then upload it to your storage. You can even embed these voice recordings into your note files, allowing you to play them while you study or review your writing.
Some devices allow you to use their surfaces to scroll and navigate through drawings. This allows users to create fine details that you might not be able to with a standard pencil and paper.
Many of the best smart pens also feature pressure-sensitive tips. They adjust the thickness and boldness of the line according to your pressure. Others are also multilingual compatible and can recognize writing in many languages.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’re familiar with the ways these products can streamline your note-taking and drawing, you’re ready to start shopping for the best smart pen. These products are some of the best in their particular category, so you will certainly be able to find the ideal smart pen for your needs.
If you’re looking for a smart pen with good all-around capability, the Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen is worth investigating. This smart pen works with both Windows and Mac operating systems and can record tons of notes and audio. In fact, its 2GB onboard storage can record up to 200 hours of audio, allowing you to record lectures or meetings and review them later.
The Livescribe Echo comes with the USB wire required to sync your notes and audio recordings with your computer. The Echo also comes with the desktop software required to manage your files.
The Echo’s only major downside is that it will only work with Livescribe’s dot paper. It uses the dots as a GPS-like system to record pen strokes. You can buy compatible notebooks separately.
If you’re on the hunt for a smart pen that you can use for sketches, drawings, and doodles, be sure to check out the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse. This smart pen captures each pen stroke when you use it in Moleskine’s Ncoded paper and notebooks. You can also record audio from your classes or meetings, in case doodling begins to distract you.
With this pen, you get a small notepad for recording ideas and drawings and one pen tip ink refill. It also includes a USB charging wire, though you can connect to your computer via Bluetooth to upload your data. While this pen does require Ncoded paper, Moleskine offers a compatible notebook with plain paper to help capture your creations.
If you’re looking for a smart pen that can transcribe several different languages, the Neo Smartpen N2 Bluetooth Digital Pen should definitely be on your list. This pen features a high-speed processor that records 120 frames per second, taking accurate recordings for spot-on notes. It can also connect to your smartphone to activate audio recording.
The Neo Smartpen N2 does require that you use Neo’s paper to record your notes. It can transcribe 16 different languages including German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Chinese (Traditional and Simplified). It’s also extremely comfortable to write with and hold in your hand.
For a different approach to reading books and text on paper, the Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner might be the answer. This smartpen reads and records written text, allowing you to take notes quickly and accurately. It also works for both right- and left-handed users and scans text that is between 6 points and 24 points in size.
The Scanmarker can read and translate text in over 40 different languages including Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. It can scan up to a full line of text per second and 3,000 characters per minute. This smart pen works with Mac, Android, iPhone, and Windows products, and connects via Bluetooth (included in the package is a Bluetooth dongle for your computer).
The Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse Smart Writing Set has everything you need to start storing your handwritten notes, stories, and poems onto your device or cloud account.
This kit comes with the Pen+ digital smart pen, a Moleskine paper tablet with encoded paper, a USB recharging cable, an ink refill, and instructions. The pen is compatible with Windows, Apple, and Android products, connecting via Bluetooth 4.0 technology. It also works with over 15 different languages and uploads to Google Drive or Evernote.
When you run out of room in your paper tablet, you can buy other special Moleskine notebooks that are compatible with the Pen+ system. You can also buy refills for the pen separately.
FAQs About Your New Smart Pen
The following are the most common questions about how smart pens work and what they can do. If you still have questions about specific smart pen products, reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service department.
Q. Do I need a laptop or tablet to use a smart pen?
If your goal is to record notes and audio, your Apple or Android smartphone can take the place of a laptop or tablet. However, you might not have the text- and image-editing functionality on a phone that you would have on a laptop or tablet.
Q. Do smart pens need special paper?
Yes, most smart pens do require special paper. Each manufacturer designs their pen to read their paper’s encoding sequence in order to record the pen strokes.
Q. Is a smart pen the same thing as a stylus?
No. A stylus doesn’t have ink, while smart pens usually do. Also, the stylus won’t record pen strokes off of the screen surface as a smart pen can.
Q. How long does a smart pen’s battery last?
Battery life depends on several factors. Generally speaking, smart pen batteries last between 5 and 10 hours before they have to be recharged.