NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Generation is a $180 smartpen and stylus that, under review, proves capable of taking notes on either pen or the included pad. But that doesn't begin to tell the whole story for this particular device. Launched via Kickstarter, the NEWYES SyncPen is at once a very simple and complex piece of hardware.
Where this gadget really shines though, is as a way to immediately digitize notes taken traditionally as those are being written. There are some caveats to that, of course. Between issues with drawing or writing on the digital tablet, the requirement for specialized paper when used as a pen, and an apparent disconnect between using the included tablet, this is far from a perfect technology. It's simply not going to be suitable for just anybody.
At the same time, the pen itself is almost always 100-percent accurate. That means this pen serves as an easy and straightforward way to take notes, stored digitally. Or to record audio while taking notes. Or, conversely, to quickly capture equation and language, handwritten, and translate those to plain text for easier reading later on. For people who take a lot of handwritten notes, this device is going to make a whole lot of sense.
Whether it is ultimately worth the money will come down to just a few factors. But if you're already considering a purchase, there's going to be very little to complain about. Let's take a closer look at what this pen is and how well it holds up to scrutiny against what's been advertised.
NEWYES includes quite a lot of hardware with SyncPen 2nd Gen
Beginning with the NEWYES SyncPen hardware itself, I was somewhat surprised by just how much hardware was included in the box. NEWYES ships its second generation of the SyncPen, as it did for this review, not just with the pen. But it also ships with a notebook, a writing tablet for added functionality as well as for those who would prefer to go paper-free, and nubs for both use cases. A charging cable is included for the SyncPen itself, ending in a micro-USB tip.
The notebook this device ships with both looks nice and serves a purpose, leading us straight into one of the first and only problems I found with this gadget. We'll discuss that more in-depth later on. For now, the paper inside the notebook is lined and performs, as might be expected, just like real paper. That's not thin, cheap paper either. In fact, it isn't standard paper at all. It's a composite material that responds like paper.
Wrapped around that, the NEWYES notebook is a soft-cover design, made of something that feels similar to vegan leather. In reality, it's PU leather but it has a clean smooth texture that's easy to keep clean. Inside, there are 160 writable pages and a bookmark for keeping tabs on where the next fresh page is.
The LCD tablet is arguably the cheapest-looking item in the box but, even under duress, feels sturdy. There are non-slip pads on the back to make writing easier, a single button for erasing what's shown on the screen, rulers along the edges to help keep writing straight and even, and a loop for storing the pen. That's all built from plastics.
NEWYES embedded a power button toggle along the bottom edge as well as a fastener-held battery drawer for a watch-style CR2032 battery.
Finally, the pen itself is a sturdy design, feeling similar to a mid-range traditional pen. Popping the cap off fires the pen up and reveals a hole for the camera as well as another for the pen nibs. Under review, those slip in and out of the new NEWYES SyncPenwith a satisfying click, as does the pen lid.
Summarily, there's a lot to unpack here but all of it feels well made. The 2nd Gen SyncPen is undoubtedly going to survive for quite some time, even with less careful use.
So how does all of that hardware work?
Breaking down how all of that hardware worked under review requires an even deeper dive into how NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Generation functions. As noted above, there are two pen-style tips that slot into the pen itself. One is a hard PC material that's intended for use with the included LCD tablet. The other is an ink-filled pen tip. Both tip types sync up with a proprietary application built by NEWYES.
That app comes with a plethora of special features, which we'll cover momentarily, and is free to download. The pen works, in either case, using its built-in camera. Both the tablet, useful for leaving a memo or sending a handwritten note as an email, and notebook 'paper' are both filled with a dot-matrix design. The camera uses that to keep track of where the pen is, coupled with its internal hardware, to copy down what's been written.
With the tablet, those notes are stored as they're written and the tablet screen itself can be wiped in one go with a single click of the NEWYES button. Clearing the page doesn't start a new note or page on the digital side though, so that's the first caveat that's worth mentioning. And it's a big one since it means that using the tablet just like the notebook is used requires users to pick up their phone. Then they need to open up a new document or start a new page.
That's all incredibly obnoxious in real-world use, especially for lengthier note-taking. That's at least partially dealt with when it comes to writing notes on both mediums. The pen does recognize the difference between the two platforms. And it does automatically move between the two. But that's hardly a viable solution for those who want to just use one or the other.
The notebook, conversely, works in a similar fashion but digitally takes down every jot and tittle just as it's being written on A5-sized paper. That meant I was able to keep a physical and digital copy of my notes. The notes can be translated to digital plaintext too. So any words, mathematic equations, or scientific formulas can be copied and pasted from within the app or exported to other programs.
The notes themselves were accurate and so is that translation. So, for those who really want this type of device, there are going to be no complaints there. And it works in more than 66 languages, as of this writing.
The notes themselves were accurate too. The pen seemingly just works, even when the trajectory and angle of the pen are changed while writing. But using this device also made two of its caveats crystal clear. Writing on other notebooks or paper didn't record anything I was writing. In order to use the pen, NEWYES's specialized paper is a requirement. So those who want to take physical notes will need to buy those notebooks.
Secondary to that, writing in lighting that's too bright or too dim — such as under photography lamps — severely reduces accuracy. And, in some cases, at least during my review of the NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Gen, that resulted in jittery lines and chicken-scratch rather than words or numbers.
NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Gen Special Features are numerous and comprehensive
NEWYES has included a wider variety of features with its SyncPen 2nd Gen smartpen than is really feasible to cover in-depth in any review. Fortunately, some of those are straightforward enough not to require a deeper look. And they all center around the application.
Having said that, the biggest features are going to include note-sending, searching, customization of input, and voice recording. Voice recording, for example, works with both the notebook and the tablet. But it's easier to instantiate on the tablet. As shown in the image above, it requires the app to start when using the notebook. On the tablet, a quick tap of the play or pause icons at the bottom of the LCD tablet.
Tapping on the 'check' icon, of course, saves the writing while color and line thickness can also be adjusted there. And a tap on the email button sends the note as an email to an address that's been pre-determined by the user.
With the notebook, all of the same tools and features are part of the package in the app itself. That also includes extra features such as highlighter, eraser, image insertion, and background changing.
Now, it is actually possible to take note-taking offline too. The app does include scanning for notes that have been handwritten elsewhere via the camera. As with notes taken normally, those notes are transferrable to plain text and searchable. But it's also possible to just use the pen with the included notebook and no phone. The pen features built-in storage so that it can store up to 800 pages without trouble. Those are then synchronized when a connection is restored.
For those who are more artistic, the app also allows drawings — or writing — to be played back as a video file. And that's another major feature for this gadget. It supports a number of file types for exporting, including Microsoft Word, plain text, Adobe PDF, JPG image, and MP4 video. Audio can be interacted with wholly separately from the file it's been attached too as well.
And, of course, it's possible to buy multiple physical notebooks and have them saved individually as separate notes.
Battery life is going to be enough to get you through just about any writing project
The battery life of the Sync Pen 2nd Generation is close enough to as advertised to make no difference. Namely, the pen itself lasted right around eight hours on a single charge. And it took just over an hour and a half to charge completely. So, even if the battery dies a bit sooner than expected, a quick charge of just 15 minutes should add significant life to wrap up projects.
For this review, I didn't have quite enough time to fully test the battery powering the tablet that comes with NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Generation. And that's a good thing because it's despite putting this tablet through hundreds of uses. More concisely, that included turning the device off and on, writing with it, clearing notes, and more. The battery powering the tablet, conversely, costs just under $2 at retail — or just a bit more for multi-unit packs. So that's going to be incredibly affordable to replace, at any rate.
NEWYES includes a micro-USB to USB cable for charging the SyncPen 2nd Gen.
Connections with the NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Gen are straightforward
Connectivity with the 2nd Generation NEWYES SyncPen is primarily fueled by Bluetooth 5.0. And that means it's relatively easy to set up a connection. The pen also usually maintains a strong connection throughout use. In fact, during my review, it was easy to maintain a connection with NEWYES SyncPen. That held even when I left my phone in another room or in the house while writing outside.
The simplicity of that connection was offset by the number of features found in this pen related to connectivity. As noted above, it's exceptionally easy to send out an email with notes for backing up or sharing.
Conversely, notes can be automatically backed up and saved via cloud services. So keeping everything saved across a smartphone, email, notebook, and Microsoft OneNote or Evernote is possible. The interconnectivity features of this smartpen work to ensure that users don't ever need to lose track of their notes ever again.
Is the world really ready for 'smart' pens?
It's fair to say that this isn't a device that's going to be useful for just anybody. During my review of the NEWYES SyncPen 2nd Generation, it became immediately apparent that it wouldn't necessarily be well-suited to my own personal needs. But there are plenty of people it would prove invaluable too. Particularly since it syncs across so many platforms and mediums.
Tech lovers or others who often take extensive notes or write out extensive lists fall into that category. The tablet, in particular, could also prove exceptionally handy, for instance, for a family looking to create collective shopping lists. Those lists, conversely, would then not only be saved on a scrap of paper. They'd also be saved digitally and then saved as plaintext for easier reading. In reality, this device could feasibly be used to replace paper entirely in a tech-friendly, digital direction.
Obviously, the SyncPen 2nd Gen could also prove indispensable to those who need to take extensive notes involving mathematics or scientific formulas. The same could feasibly hold true anywhere quick notes that include hand-drawn images are prominent or frequent. For instance, anybody who might need to write up a description, stack in some equations, and then draw an accompanying mock-up.
Whether or not the included functionality and features are worth the $180 asking price, however, is something that's going to be entirely subjective. For those that need this type of device, and who are willing to deal with the caveats of a still bleeding-edge technology this is easily going to be among the most high-value offerings available.