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Livescribe's Smartpen and These Top Styluses Make Note-Taking Easier

With a new school year just around the corner and businesses getting serious again as summer comes to an end, both students and office workers will soon be back in writing mode. Whether it’s study notes or meeting memos you’ll be scribbling, you’ll benefit from a device that’s smarter than your average pen. The 2GB Echo Smartpen ($99.95) from Livescribe fits the bill, and with the company’s new Connect software, you can now upload and share your digitized notes and send them to Evernote, Google Docs, Facebook, and other services.

We’ve long been fans of the Echo Smartpen, which records and stores all your notes and doodles and can even capture audio. Paired with Livescribe paper, the Smart Pen becomes an even more powerful tool, with special shortcut symbols to scroll through notes and the ability to sync your notes with recorded audio. The latest version of the pen comes at a more student-friendly price, though it offers just 2GB of storage. However, with the just-released Connect software, there’s no need to keep all your notes on the pen, anyway.

Aside from allowing users to share notes and drawings via Google Docs, e-mail, Facebook, and Google Docs, Connect boasts the new Pencast PDF format for viewing pencasts (interactive versions of your notes complete with audio in sync with the writing). Previously only viewable with Livescribe’s proprietary software, pencasts can now be opened via Acrobat Reader (version 10 or higher). Another welcome feature of the Connect software is the ability to send notes to e-mail, Facebook, and many other web services directly from the Livescribe paper.

Take Notes on Your iPad

While these iPad styluses don’t offer the ability to record and send your notes to the cloud, they make doodling in SketchBook Pro, jotting down ideas in Note Taker HD, and scrolling through web pages smooth and seamless.

3M Smart Pen MJP-3000

Featuring a detachable lid that lets you attach this pen to your tablet or smartphone, the 3M Smart Pen MJP-3000 comes in black, navy blue, pink, and silver. The stylus boasts the smallest tip of all the devices we tested; we found it to be more accurate than the Kensington Virtuoso but a little less precise than the Wacom Bamboo Stylus. While the MJP-3000 offers easy scrolling, we wish the stylus tip was a bit firmer.


Kensington Virtuoso Touch Screen Stylus and Pen

With a smooth touch tip on one end and a ballpoint pen on the other, the Kensington Virtuouso Touch Screen Stylus and Pen ensures you’ll never be without a writing utensil. Though it features a larger tip than some of the other styluses we tested, it still allows you to navigate your tablet and scribble notes with accuracy—provided you write large enough. As a bonus, an ink refill for the ballpoint pen is included.


Wacom Bamboo Stylus

It’s only natural that Wacom, the well-known manufacturer of graphics tablets and pens, would have a contribution to the capacitive stylus market. Its Bamboo Stylus, designed specifically to work with the iPad, features a tip that’s 25 percent narrower than those found on most other popular models, which allows for greater accuracy when doodling or taking notes. We like the stylus’ sleek black-and-silver design, but we found that it offered more resistance and required us to press harder than the other devices we tested. On the plus side, this means fewer mistakes and less accidental input.