Review: 3 note-taking gadgets keep you scribbling

Today's tech can add new functionality to an old-fashioned task.

Old habits die hard. That's especially true for note taking.

Despite a plethora of digital gadgets -- laptops, smartphones, phablets and tablets -- pen and paper remains popular among note takers. Why? Probably because a digital equivalent hasn't been invented yet to satisfactorily mirror the experience of scribbling notes on paper.

Also, there's evidence that old-fashioned note taking has benefits missing from its digital counterpart. To begin with, writing your notes manually instead of typing them may aid memory retention (see the sidebar below). In addition, the New York Times recently cited several studies concluding that children learn better if they write by hand.

As a result, some tech companies continue to woo note takers with digital alternatives to keyboards. For example, Microsoft's recently introduced Surface Pro 3 comes with a sophisticated stylus so users can write or draw on its touch screen.

Other vendors have sought to add note-taking abilities as well. In this roundup, I've tried out three products with different approaches to combining the act of writing manually with current technology:

  • Improv Electronics thinks digital slates like its Boogie Board Sync 9.7 are the way to go for note takers.
  • Adonit believes it can make note taking more attractive on a tablet by improving the instrument used to put ink to glass, and so has come up with its Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus.
  • Livescribe tries to tie analog and digital note taking together with its Livescribe 3 Smartpen, a system that involves special paper and a high tech pen to digitize notes.

How well do any of these products work for those who want to write? After spending some time with each method, here's what I found.

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