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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Price:£199.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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on 8 August 2010
I'm preparing to start a college course this autumn and I've had this Livescribe ECHO 8GB pen a week now. I feel strangely optimistic about the whole affair, now that my pea-like memory and tortoise-like note writing skills have got the ECHO to fall back on. I've used it every day, including for some serious note taking with audio (though not in a busy lecture hall as yet) - it is comfortable, relatively easy to use and very impressive.

As a very sound-orientated person, I'm finding that a link between recorded speach and the written word is an excellent memory aid, and much more engaging than plain writing.

Two quibbles though:

- my pen has frozen a couple of times, requiring a reboot to bring it back to use.
- a couple of pages of my notes have additional lines drawn on them in the pencast version, so perhaps the nib had thought it was being pressed on the paper when it wasn't?

I find MyScript handwriting-to-text converter an essential for further processing of my ECHO notes - it's purchased from a third party website and is far from perfect, but it still saves a mass of time in typing up notes. Your notes need to be legible and fairly linear for it to work well. I could just keep to the handwriting images, but converting to text allows cutting and pasting. When charts, spidergrams etc are needed, I won't bother trying to convert them to the inevitable meaningless squiggles that MyScript would make of them, though.
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on 22 September 2010
The Echo smartpen is the latest in Livescribe's range of smartpens and carries with it a few improvements over the Pulse (the "old" smartpen). The improvements are:

1) A flat area on the bottom of the pen to prevent it from rolling over.

I have used the Pulse for over a year and while its functionality is great, I often had to place the pen in its carrying case when I wanted to put it down during lectures to prevent it from rolling off the desk. This used to create a scratching sound on my audio which while not detracting from the recording, would be highly annoying when re-listening to sessions. No such problem with the Echo. You can put it down and even if it does roll over, it will stop after one or two rolls instead of falling off your notes.

2) Improved storage capacity.

In my experience I have found that around 4GB is enough to record an entire year's worth of lectures, so 8GB might seem a bit excessive at first. However, Livescribe has steadily been launching more applications for their smartpens. One might argue that the space can be used for applications (some of which can reach a considerable size, such as the English dictionary currently available) so if you plan on using a lot of apps it's best to go with the Echo.

3) Docking cradle replaced with standard USB cable.

The two main advantages to this are that you can buy a replacement cable fairly easily if your original one gets lost or damaged, and that the pen can be used while still connected to the PC. Livescribe have hinted at the future possibility that the pen will be able to be used as a graphics tablet because of this (possibly for an additional price).

4) A cap to cover the Infrared camera and ink tip.

A useful feature if you do not plan on getting a carrying case for your Echo. Otherwise a fairly useless feature.

5) A rubber grip in the bottom half of the pen.

This pen does feel somewhat more comfortable to write with than the Pulse, but not dramatically so.

Apart from these improvements on the smartpen design, there are some thing which potential buyers should be aware of:

1) The Echo is larger (physically) than the Pulse. This gives it a tendency to stand out more, as well as making it just a bit more uncomfortable to carry. It also means that the Echo will not fit into the leather case that came with Pulse.

2) The Echo does not come with its own case, headphones or A4 notebook; all these things must be bought separately. It does come with a small A5 notebook though. Moreover, the Pulse's headphones will not work with the Echo smartpen.

3) Something rather minor, but the top half of the pen has been made out of a shiny plastic which easily smudges.

The bottom line is that if you are considering buying a smartpen for the first time, then go for the Echo. It really does do everything it is advertised to do and does it well. Moreover you are ensuring that you will be compatible with all future updates (such as the tablet functionality mentioned earlier).

If however you are considering an upgrade from a Pulse to an Echo, I would reccomend you wait either until your current smartpen definitely needs replacing (i.e. breaks) or you really feel you cannot live without one of the features/improvements mentioned above.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention in my initial review is the brilliant customer service Livescribe have. You can get in touch with them quite easily and so far they've always sent a personalized reply to my queries.
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on 2 September 2010
I purchased the Livescribe Pulse when it first came out in the US in Aug 2008 and found the device excellent. My only issues were that the pen was uncomfortable to write with for extend periods, too chunky and the writing experience poor (pen cartridges overly priced). It was a relief to see an upgrade which I quickly purchased. Unfortunately, the Echo did not address the main issues of its predecessor but performed as intended. However, I had to return the first one as it failed to sync with the Livescribe desktop software owing to a faulty pen that Amazon kindly replaced. PS. I spend over 4 hours with Livescribe technical support to identify it was a faulty pen.
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on 5 October 2011
I have had this smartpen for the last 3weeks and so far I am amazed at how misleading some reviews are and how great a product it is. Before I bought this pen I had a look at all the reviews as well as a lot of youtube videos on what to expect and what not to expect. I found a lot of complaints on the following issues; sound quality(it has a scratching sound in the background), paper is expensive, ink not of good quality(and they glued the tops...supposedly so that you don't refill it on your own), desktop not working on windows,they no longer support software developers.

The biggest complaint is the livescribe desktop not working properly because you cant archive old files(so you WILL run out of storage in a month or 2 depending on usage), share and send them. I bumped into the problem and solved it in 5min, it seems as though the pen cannot be time shared between non-livescribe software and the livescribe desktop(which i don't expect it to be) I'm not sure if that solves the problem others had... the important thing for most users it worked for a while and then stopped so they must have done something... .

The scratching sounds seem to be caused by the mic being on a pen... so you are recording the sound of you writing, I haven't had this problem. I use Medium ink refills and some users tend to think that it occurs in fine ink cartridges(they "scratch" paper more). I have had a top of the range dictaphone before(olympus WS560m) and the sound quality of this is about 80% as good as the dictaphone(for its size and shape, it's an amazing feature). I wanted to use my pen for lectures so I the livescribe 3D headphones(which are the best in ear headphones I have ever had), and could be a potential fix for the problems people faced with scratching sounds.

As for ink being expensive, glued at the top and drying out, the ink isn't that bad in price(check for yourself) and mine hasn't dried out because I use the pens cap. The ink is glued at the top so that if some smart guy leaves it in his pocket on a hot summers day it will not leak out and destroy the pen. But if you are keen on it then glue solvents might be of some use.

Livescribe has provided a way to print out the paper from the desktop but you must have a 600dpi or more LASER printer. I use a program written by rohan kapoor (search his name and the link is the first on google) which allows me to use my home inkjet(Canon MG5250) printer which has a 9600x2400dpi resolution and so long as you turn of paper scalling it works fine and is easy install and use.

Livescribe do not support programme developers... that I can not defend especially since the paper printing software I use is from a developer... all I can do is let them know I think that is a mistake and hope more people do the same.
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on 11 October 2010
I am a Mathematics student at university and I bought this pen because it seemed like it would be helpful

The good:
I bought it with the 3d recording headset which works perfectly with recording lectures from a couple of rows behind the first row. I mean seriously perfect!

The battery is also very satisfactory as I have days when I have at most 4 hours of lectures and it lasts about 7-8 hours of recording audio and writing on a daily use basis.

Each hour of lectures is at most 25Mb of data on high quality so the 8gb pen will last for ages until I need to archive the pencasts, you do the Maths.

Uploading it to the pc cannot be any simpler, you just plug it in to the usb port and it does it automatically.

The bad:

You need to have big clear handwriting in order to avoid it writing jubberish since if you write too quickly and small letters it gets confused and it seems to write just squiggly lines (this issue has been resolved following advise from customer care which is also the reason im changing it to 5 stars as I have no problem what so ever with it now). So I had to adopt to a new writing style in order to help it recognise what I am writing.

Other than that I did not find another downside to it. Oh and the ink, as I have seen a few reviews complaining about that, I have written in total 54 A4 pages and still going until now in the same ink as it came with so you be the judge.
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on 23 October 2011
All in all, this is an amazing device that has saved me a great deal of time and impresses the heck out of my friends and colleagues!

I've been using the Echo Smartpen for a few weeks now. Thus far it's proved to be a very useful tool. I use it to record meetings, while I make notes or write minutes. I've downloaded, and paid for, MyScript for Livescribe to convert my handwriting into text that can be copied into an email or Word document. I have to say that, using only the standard settings, this software manages to accurately convert more than 90% of my illegible scribble into plain text. Even when my notes are completely indecipherable, the ability to refer back to the conversation at the time is invaluable. This saves me a great deal of time and fully justifies the cost of the pen and associated software.

I've also downloaded the "Paper Tablet" app to allow me to mark-up powerpoint decks and other documents. I'm still getting to grips with this, but initial impressions are positive. There aren't many other useful apps, but this is a relatively new product and I'm sure these will come.

The pen is easy to write with and not too bulky, although I have quite large hands. The consumables (pads and ink refills) are not cheap, but then they're not massively extortionate either, although I've not had to buy any yet.

Down-sides? Well the ink cartridge is a bit scratchy - you can hear it writing while it the pen records - and I only use the medium ink cartridges and it is my hope that Livescribe with improve the quality of these. Other than that, I really can't find fault with the pen or it's accessories.
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on 30 October 2010
When I first recieved the livescribe smartpen I was so keen to get to grips with the use and application of the software and hardware. At first the performance was great. I could record my lectures in both audio and my written lecture notes. Then by the third piece of written work when I viewed it in the desktop it had scribbles all over the writing. I was confused but thought maybe it was just a glitch. Then it happened again and again, so i got in touch with customer service who told me to change the ink cartridge, which I duly did, that seemed to sort that problem out but then the desktop stopped recognizing the pen and the audio and written work wouldn't download to the desktop and then I couldn't retrieve any of my recordings at all. Customer service have been the best part of my Livescribe Smartpen experience, unfortunately for me thats as far as anything positive goes regarding my own experience to date of the Livescribe Smartpen 8GB Echo goes...
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on 27 September 2010
The first pen I got didn't work at all but Amazon was very quick to replace it, and the second appears to work very well. Firstly, the postives - the ability to record and playback sound (the microphone is very good), and to correct or embellish notes after the event is a great idea. My main issues are twofold. Firstly, if you hold the pen anywhere near the surface of the page, the pen records a track, which can quickly become a spider's web on your recording if you are taking notes at any speed. Secondly, the MyScript software, which I am trialling now, is pretty unforgiving unless you print your words like you were taught at school, and given my job is fairly technical, most of my notes use words unrecognisable by the MyScript dictionary. I don't think I'm going to use MyScript beyond the free trial period.

Overall, the pen is a great idea, and I now keep much neater notes than I did before, which I guess is the whole point; but don't expect it to faithfully reproduce your every pen stroke as you might hope, and don't expect MyScript to make up for your sloppy handwriting!


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on 21 July 2011
I really wanted to like the Echo Pen, and based upon the other reviews, I thought I would. For the extra money compared to the 4GB version (~£15), I thought it was worth going for the best package.

I really wanted to love it, but I ended up sending mine back after two pages of notes for the following reasons:

3. Looking for the consumables; they're expensive and more importantly, hard to get. Shops don't have them and purchasing them online its hard to get the exact item you want, for example the gridded A5 notebooks. Even when you can find something, its almost impossible to find the next set of numbers (e.g. books 5-8), meaning you would have to start from 1-4 again.

2. Livescribe themselves - they withdrew the developer programme altogether, yet still advertise it on the site as a main sales tool, so while the pen does what you want it to do, the apps will die over time. Livescribe told developers they can keep selling the apps but will not guarantee they will work after future pen firmware updates.

This is discovering for two reasons; firstly to continue to advertise it to the end consumer who would not look at the developer section of the website, even though it is a dead area, and secondly having done a few Google searches, they just stopped the developer programme without any future warning, and removed the developer forum, that contained months if not years of useful resources for developers. While I appreciate the developer programme no doubt turned out to not be the goldmine they expected it to be, it concerns me this is how the company operates. At leave give me a significant amount of notice, after all they have help you to develop the product and you use this as a sales feature.

1. The pen is frankly rubbish. Having written my first few notes I found myself online looking for solutions to their ink and pen, and if I had been given two duff ones. It turns out this is the norm. The ink refills are dire, the worst pens I have ever used, below even the most dirt-cheap pens you can buy.

Do a couple of Google searches, people are desperate to find gel inks to make it a better experience, and there's numerous forum listings of people having to purchase other pen suppliers refills, cut them down to size (the Echo refill is very small), glue on caps to the end, etc. Not a road I want to go down for a £160 pen.

Looking at Livescribes responses to people's concerns on their own forums, they cite issues having to make the ink a certain consistency to work, however, people are saying the ink varies in quality considerably from refill to refill. Overall the quality of their supplier is simply poor, and for this kind of product it has to be superb.

Overall, I really wanted to like it, but the ink killed it for me. Maybe I just had a bad one, I don't know, but overall reading other user's experiences on forums, its too much hassle.
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on 5 August 2011
I bought this model having been impressed with earlier pulse only to find it did not work in recording due to a scratching sound sound in operation. I contacted customer service to be fobbed off after being told there was a technical solution. Then after several emails being told it was a known problem and not covered under warranty. So I now have an expensive pen that is useless.

If you want clear recordings whilst writing seek out another product.
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