Livescribe 3 vs Neo smartpen N2

I’m asked often about the differences between the Livescribe 3 smartpen and NeoLABS N2 smartpen so this blog post is a summary of what I think of both models. This is my personal opinion…

Note that I’m not including the Echo smartpen in this comparison as I consider it to be unique with no natural competitor.

1. Size of pen

A lot has been made of the slimmer size of the N2 vs Livescribe 3 – certainly I find the N2 easy to hold and like the anodised alloy finish (ala the first Pulse smartpen) but having used both for close to a year I don’t mind either. The image below shows you the difference in thickness – it’s really not that much.

Neo vs LS3

2. Battery Life

What you gain in the slim pen you lose in battery life. My experience so far indicates the N2 lasts 8-9 hours, whereas the Livescribe 3 gives me 16+ hours of work. Knowing I can go a full week on the road without needing to charge my Livescribe 3 is significant for me.

3. Paper and Accessories

Both have taken a different approach to paper and accessories. I like the range of legal pads available for the N2 and the different journals – the journals in particular for the N2 have a nicer feel, higher quality to Livescribe’s journals.

4. Mobile App

This is hard to split…

  • Neo Notes has a cleaner interface but some commonly used functions like sharing, emailing, and text conversion are not as elegant as Livescribe+.
  • Livescribe+ tends to want to show you lots of stuff at once whereas with N2 you need to go tapping.
  • The calendar view in Neo Notes is brilliant.
  • The Android version of Neo Notes is far superior to the Android version of Livescribe+
  • Hand writing conversion is the same as they both use the cut down version of MyScript from Vision Objects.

5. Future Direction

A difficult one to measure as tech vendors are notoriously secretive when it comes to future features – which IMHO is counter-intuitive in relation to engaging users and also incorporating feedback from the field…

The recent announcement of the collaboration partnership between NeoLABS and Anoto makes it hard to understand what will come next. Hopefully we’ll see wider distribution of the Pen Generations model and maybe even an off the shelf custom forms solution…

Overall Thoughts

  1. If you need to take lots of notes and audio and work at a desktop or laptop – go with the Echo
  2. If you prefer to take brief notes and want to share to email or cloud easily – either LS3 or N2 will do the trick
  3. If you want to change ink colour, do on-screen (simple) edits etc the N2 is pretty cool