Tech Reviews

Neo Smartpen N2 Review

Many handwriting-capture devices are still in their awkward beginning stages on the market right now but the Neo Smartpen N2 seems to have carved a rather unique niche for itself. While many of us prefer to write our articles, drafts and sketches on tablets or laptops, there are many times that traditional note-taking is still the preferred method of transcription and doodling. That’s where the Neo Smartpen hopes to become your go-to option.

Classrooms, offices, press-conferences or around the house, many times its just easier to grab a pen and a notebook rather than carry around your tablet or laptop. There are also certain times that phones, laptops and tablets aren’t allowed (in most product announcement meetings in my case) and having something like the Neo Smartpen N2 can save you a lot of time and effort.

The writing device is designed to be a comfortable blend between a traditional pen and a graphic stylist. The pen is just over 6″ long and only weighs about .8-ounces. It’s very comfortable to hold when writing notes and the device is just as easy to hold while sketching ideas or doodling away. In total the device is 11.8mm at it’s thickest and 156.5mm long, a standard pen size really. The whole device only weighs 0.77 ounces and is constructed with an aluminum and stainless steel body. No scratches or heavy metals to be found here.

Using the Neo Smartpen couldn’t be easier, just press the button and a light indicates that the pen is on. The same is true for turning the pen off. The only real downside to the pen is the use of the nCode notebooks or nCode notepaper, which are required for the pen to work. I should mention if you use the N Toaster ,  N2’s free paper printing program, you can print smartpen paper at home.

When using the pen you can switch between colors, the Neo Smartpen N2 offers you the options of writing or drawing in eight different colors and there are three different variations of thickness to choose from. The pen isn’t pressure sensitive to the point a traditional drawing tablet and stylus would be, so you choose the thickness as you go.

Neo Smartpen N2 insert

If you pick up the pen and start taking notes, or writing a reminder, the pen is almost flawless every time. The special paper instantly picks-up your note and sends it via Bluetooth to your mobile device for safe keeping. I drew traffic directions, sketched interesting doodles at the bar and write down phone numbers and little reminders to myself for a few days while testing out the device – and I never ran into a problem with its note taking abilities. That’s really the beauty of the Neo Smartpen N2, depending on what you expect it to do, it’s just as easy as grabbing a pen and notebook – because that’s all you’re really doing.

When you purchase the Neo Smartpen N2 it will come with a very handy 3.2-inch-by-5.8-inch nCode notebook and inside the notebook you will have 50 lined pages. Although they are very hard to see, the paper is covered in small dots, which is how the Neo Smartpen N2 works.

Utilizing a very small camera at the tip of the pen, the Neo Smartpen N2 can recognize the pattern of dots on the page, which is how it records your handwriting so accurately. One of the more fun little side-projects I had when testing the device was watching the handwriting and drawings of my colleagues as their notes appear like magic on the smartphone app. You can watch your own sketches and notes appear as well as information is collected and stored into your device, it’s a neat little display (like writing on the Marauder’s Map appear for the Harry Potter fans out there).

You can pair the Neo Smartpen N2 with almost any iOS and Android device, so Android and iPhone users shouldn’t have any issues at all synching the device. The data is transferred wirelessly through the Bluetooth chip but you will charge the pen with a simple USB cable.

The device utilizes Bluetooth 4.0, which offers the same compatibility as standard Bluetooth devices but uses less energy than the technology required before. The pen requires a device that runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2 or newer, or for the iPhone crowd, iOS 7.1 or newer.

As I mentioned earlier, how well the device works really depends on what you need it to do. The best comparisons I can give for this is note-taking vs. writing and sketching vs. drawing. While the Neo Smartpen N2 works wonderfully when you are taking down notes during an office meeting, or setting reminders for yourself – it’s less likely to work as well if you were writing an entire essay. The same goes for doodles. My simple sketches and rough designs transferred wonderfully to the device but intricate drawings and elaborate designs weren’t transferred to the mobile app as well.

With a powerful Dual Core ARM9 processor the device can last through about 3 days of standard use and about 5 hours of constant use. If you find yourself still using notebooks consistently, the Neo Smartpen N2 adds a back-up for everything you do, with little to no extra work involved. If you know someone that still likes to doodle, write reminders and leave messages on scraps of paper or crumbled up dollar-store notepads, this could be a fantastic gift for them as well.