Despite the convenience of jotting down notes into text files that can be saved to the cloud, many still prefer jotting down their thoughts or quotes from meetings with a physical pen and a piece of paper. The tech industry has responded with various gadgets targeted at those who prefer taking notes the old-fashioned way, from tablets oriented around using a stylus (hello, Surface!) to so-called “smartpens” capable of recording what you write as you write it, saving you the effort of snapping a photo of your notes when you’re done.
The Equil Smartpen 2 is the latest gadget to fall into the latter camp. It gives you a Bluetooth-connected pen, a charging case, and a little receiver unit that actually records what you write from the edge of whatever paper you’re jotting things down on. In concert with its mobile and desktop apps, you can jot down notes, get a PDF-scan quality copy, convert what you wrote into plain text, and upload to Evernote in a matter of minutes.
The transcription Equil’s software provides isn’t always perfect (as you can see in the video above, where I had to fix a few typos), but if you’re the kind of person who simply has to write down notes by hand, it’s nice to know there’s a copy of your work beyond the easily-lost piece of paper you wrote it on.
This morning, a not-so-fun set of coincidences led to me putting the Equil through its paces in a real-life work situation. I got to the office, and my work laptop (running Mac OS X Yosemite) decided it didn’t feel like letting me log in. After several reboot attempts, I had to give up, as I had a call to be briefed by a startup on upcoming news. I couldn’t go in without a way to take notes, but I hate having to keep a piece of paper around for when I get around to writing up the post. I figured that it was as good a time as any to test the Equil out, and while I can’t share a copy of my notes, I’ll just say that the text the mobile app got from my handwriting is more readable than the un-autocorrected transcripts that usually end up in my Evernote account.
In terms of design, the Equil Smartpen 2 seems to draw inspiration from Adobe’s Ink & Slide and from Apple’s folding iPad screen covers. It’s a pretty slick package, though I do wish that Equil had taken the brushed aluminum design of Adobe’s stylus for its pen, as that simply felt far better in the hand in terms of touch and weight. Still, that device costs $30 more than the Equil’s $169 MSRP and is aimed at designers and artists hooked into Adobe’s Creative Cloud, not anyone who simply wants to save their physical notes and doodles. If you order via Equil’s Indiegogo page (which has already shot way past its goal) you can get it for a cool $109.