Review: 3 note-taking gadgets keep you scribbling

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

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Boogie Board Sync 9.7

If you don't want to buy a high-end stylus but you still want to write digital notes, there's the Boogie Board from Improv Electronics.

The basic model is a simple digital slate. You write or draw on its screen with a low-end stylus and, like a blackboard, when you fill it up, you erase and start over again. Writing on the passive display -- it depends on ambient light for illumination -- even looks like chalk on a blackboard and, like chalk, you can control the thickness of your strokes on the screen by the amount of pressure you place on the stylus.

Boogie Board Sync 9.7
Boogie Board Sync 9.7

Since notes can't be saved, the basic Boogie Board has limited appeal. However, the Boogie Board Sync 9.7 is an entirely different ball game. It has 2GB of onboard storage, so around 1,000 screen-fuls of notes can be saved via Bluetooth or USB connectivity.

The Boogie Board Sync is about the size of a sheet of notebook paper -- 7.4 x 11.1 in. -- and is lightweight at 11 oz. Like the original Boogie Board, you write on the screen with the unit's stylus -- a well-lit place is recommended, since what you write can be difficult to see in low-light conditions -- but this time, when you finish a screen of notes, you press the save button, then press erase to clear the screen and start again.

The problem with this scheme is that you can't view a saved screen of notes until you sync the board with another device. Saved screens can be uploaded (via a micro-USB or Bluetooth connection) to a computer or mobile device through a free application available online at the Improv Electronics website or through Google Play or the Apple App Store.

(There is one exception to this: You can connect the Boogie Board to a device -- say, a laptop -- and have everything you draw on the Boogie Board appear real-time on the screen of your computer. )

Using the application, you can upload files automatically or manually. Files on mobile devices are displayed as thumbnails -- which is good, since it's not possible to name screens as you save them, so the files have indecipherable tags like BB_00002, BB_00003, etc.

The Boogie Board's software lets you move a file to cloud-based note manager Evernote or mail it to someone. From within the mobile versions of the app (it works with either iOS or Andorid devices) you can also send files directly to services such as Twitter or Facebook.

Bottom line

Because you have to break the flow of your scribbling by pushing save and erase buttons, and due to the faintness of its display, the Boogie Board Sync 9.7 isn't an ideal note-taking tablet. That's offset, though, by its strong sharing features, its ability to serve as a graphics tablet and its reasonable price.

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