Best Digital Pen for Students Livescribe 2GB Pulse


As a tutor and a regular volunteer in numerous school classrooms, I keep an eye out for new technologies in the education field. One of which is the digital smart pen technology. A digital smart pen, is a pen that electronically stores an audio recording of a lecture with integrated notes as you write them, and enables you to upload both to your computer, where you can save them, share them, and search through them. When I asked around, and looked at online reviews, I found the opinion divided – mainly between the two Livescribe digital smartpens, because of their text and audio integration. Some insist that the Best digital pen for students is Livescribe 2GB Pulse; others swear that the Livescribe Echo smartpen is the best digital pen of the two.

I decided to find out by myself. I also decided I will not exclude any other digital pens from the assessment, and that all the major players in the digital pen market receive a shot at today’s top prize: “The Best Digital Pen for Students”.

Early on, I realized the potential of digital pens in making life easier for students in general, and for academically challenged students in particular- as two of my sons are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Some of their friends are ESL students, some are hearing impaired, and some are dyslexic.  Students facing such challenges are often home-schooled. Hence, my passion about anything that have the potential to improve the quality of their education. These students are often very intelligent and just need the right methods and tools to help them excel.

Head to Head

But which is the best digital pen? I am asked this question all the time.  To answer it, I decided to compare some of the best digital pens in the market.  I took into consideration, their features, their reliability, and their value for money to find the best digital smartpen for students.

The Contenders:

IrisNotes Executive 1.0 Digital Pen

  • It certainly is less bulky than most digital pens around. This pen does not need special paper to work. IrisNotes Executive 1.0 comes with the handwriting conversion software. The overall perception of its performance is positive.
  • The pen does not offer voice recording function – for the price, (approx. $129 on Amazon) this is unforgivable.  Users have reported troubles with setting the handwriting conversion software on Mac.
  • Its Poor customer support, in contrast to the aggressive telemarketing from IrisNotes sales team after you buy the pen, pushed this pen to the bottom of the best digital smartpens for students list.


Features X X
Reliability X
Value for money X
Overall X

Logitech IO2 Digital Pen

  • Bluetooth connectivity is a real plus; it saves you having to connect it to the computer every time you wish to synchronize the content of the pen.
  • Logitech IO2 comes with the handwriting conversion tool.
  • It’s the only pen to offer customizable ink strokes and colors for a genuine pen and paper experience.
  • Again, for the price (around $179 on Amazon), Logitech IO2, should have had voice recording and audio integration to offer its users; it doesn’t.
  • Moreover, the inbuilt memory is too low, battery life is short, and the software is problematic with Windows 7 and vista.

Falling short in many aspects that matters to students, Logitech had to finish second from bottom of the best digital smartpens for students list.


Features X X X
Reliability X X
Value for money X X
Overall X X

Dane-Elec DA-DP1-01GC5-R Z-PEN Wireless USB Digital Pen

  • The closest on the list to a regular pen, Dane pen boasts a slim design and regular pen looks.
  • Its weight and ease of writing team to give the most realistic paper and pen experience.
  • Speaking of which, the pen does not require special paper.
  • Its software is compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux.
  • Its price ($40 on Amazon) would make it the digital pen of choice for many
  • Dane-Elec USB digital pen does not offer voice recording
  • The pen depends on having a clip-on receiver on the top of the paper, which gives you twice the items to carry about, not to mention twice the items to lose.
  • It also made the page turning rather cumbersome
  • The pen’s handwriting conversion is only available on PC.

On the Merit of its price, Dane-Elec digital smartpen came 3rd in the best ditgital pens for students list.


Features X X
Reliability X X
Value for money X X X
Overall X X

Livescribe 8 GB Echo Digital Smartpen

If Dane-Elec digital pen is the one that does not draw attention, the Livescribe 8GB Echo Digital Smartpen is the one you probably won’t mind, if it did. With its stunning design, giant memory for a digital pen, and innumerable features, the 8GB Echo 2011 boasts being the most advanced in our list. But is it the best digital pen for students? Is it the even the best of Livescribe digital smartpens?   Let’s find out.

  • It offers real paper ink experience, voice recording, audio integration with paper record, 8 hours battery life, and advanced search both on the computer and on the pen.
  • You can search for a voice clip by tapping on the note you wrote at the time of recording.
  • As extra applications a 70,000 word American Heritage dictionary, and a full Spanish/English – English/Spanish translator are offered for nominal price. You can write a word in English and get its translation in Spanish with both text and audio provided so you get the correct pronunciation.
  • The pen and Desktop audio function is superior.  For an academically challenged student, the audio controls could be of maximum benefit.  When replaying a pencast you can pause the audio, return to a prior keyword or to the beginning, and replay as often as you want.  Not only can you control the volume, but also the speed of the audio, a substantial advantage for the hearing impaired and  ESL students who have less familiarity with the language than native speakers, and who may have trouble interpreting the words. Other academically challenged students will also find the feature supportive.
  • The Livescribe 8GB Echo Digital Smartpen also has a security feature, which enables you to name and lock your pen with a 4-digits pin code.
  • It also enables you to publish and share pencasts with friends and public.
  • As for customer support, Livescribe has earned a unanimous vote of trust, if online reviews are anything to go by
  • Although the Echo Digital Smartpen offers high value for money, its price (approx. $140 for the 4GB and $180 for the 8GB version) could prove a tad too pricy for many students.
  • And that is not the end of it, as the handwriting conversion software does not come bundled with the pen in the standard pack. Students will have to buy it separately.

Quality wise, it is difficult to fault the pen; however, many reviewers complain about the pen cap being liable to getting lost easily. The cap keeps the ink from drying out, and therefore of some importance to Echo owners.

Had this review been aimed at pens for business uses, Echo digital pens would have won hands down. However, owing to its price being rather high for a student’s budget, Livescribe Echo digital pen had to settle for 2nd place in the best digital pens for student list.


Features X X X X X
Reliability X X X X
Value for money X X X X
Overall X X X X

And … for the prize of The Best Digital smartpen,

the Winner is…Livescribe 2GB Pulse Digital Smartpen

Pulse has almost everything we liked about the Echo, but for a lower price (approx. $100 On Amazon).

  • Its memory, although much smaller than the Echo, is adequate for recording a whole semester’s worth of text and audio. With regular uploads to the Desktop using the cradle provided, the memory is adequate for most needs. You will find yourself naturally freeing memory space on regular basis, as you charge the battery and synchronize the content on the pen with your computer, and when you publish and archive pencasts.
  • Livescribe Pulse digital smartpen enables you to have shared notebook for collaboration and participate in remote study groups. Pencasts are combined audio and written recordings, a useful feature to publish and share notes and problem solutions.
  • Pulse’s software is amazingly easy to setup and use even for someone with beginning computer skills. Again, the customer support performance got nothing but praise from online reviewers.
  • Even the best digital smartpen has its flaws. The 2GB Pulse Digital Smartpen 2011 is not quite as good looking as the Echo.
  • And although Pulse is surprisingly comfortable, Echo boasts a slight advantage in that aspect
  • You will need to buy the handwriting conversion software separately for the Pulse too
  • The main criticism, however, is that if left unsecured in its magnetized cradle or its carry case – both come with the pen -   the pen’s shape and weight distribution encourages somersaults on flat surfaces. After saying that, I admit that for me it has quickly becomes a second nature to secure the pen in the intended position.

For all the above and more, The best digital pen for students is Livescribe 2GB Digital Smartpen!


Features X X X X
Reliability X X X X
Value for money X X X X X
Overall X X X X


At the end of a journey in which we went through a number of the best digital smart pens, Livescribe 2GB Pulse Digital Smartpen edged its way to the top spot to become the best digital smartpen for students. Its integrated audio and pen recording capabilities, its search capabilities, and its price makes it ideal for students, and almost a must for academically challenged students, homeschooled students, and ESL and foreign students. For them, Livescribe Pulse is indeed the best digital pen around.

If you are a student, or you are buying a gift for one, Pulse will probably be your best buy this academic year.  Your purchase or your gift will transform a student’s learning experiences. For the student the ultimate benefit to owning a Livescribe 2GB Pulse Digital Smartpen is that the student will have a study tool to get the grades the student deserves and get into a college of the student’s choice.

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