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Nokia’s SU-1B Digital Pen is the most compact design among the current crop of (somewhat hefty) Anoto-based digital pens. And size does matter, because great functions are secondary if you struggle to write with a digital pen.
The Digital Pen measures 149mm by 23mm by 20mm and weighs 35g, so it’s still bulkier than the average biro. Three discreet white LEDs on the top of the barrel betray its digital status – that, and the charging connector at the non-business end, and fact that it docks in a USB connectivity stand. You can plug a regular Nokia phone charger into the base of the USB stand or into the back of the pen, which is handy when you’re travelling light. Unfortunately the Digital Pen cannot yet connect to a desktop Bluetooth dongle.
USB docking with the Digital Pen is not straightforward: the problem is that you have to disconnect from the Internet and then disable your anti-virus software -- and if you have a handheld, you’ll need to unplug that as well. Once you’ve done all this, you’ll notice the pen’s grey data icon switch to white as your notes download. After the data transfer, you can restart your anti-virus software and restore your Internet connection, and continue with the Digital Note Viewer software open. The inconvenience of having to go through this procedure every time you download data takes the shine off what’s otherwise a great device.
The Digital Pen can store up to 100 A5 pages of data. The file is saved in PGD (Pen Generated Document) format by default. In the Digital Note Viewer, ‘Save As’ offers alternative formats, including DNV (NoteViewer Document), BMP, PNG, JPG and EMF. Integration with Outlook, PowerPoint and Word is seamless and swift, providing you select the items you need on the page. Hand-drawn images and text appear as GIFs in your documents.
An entertaining feature of the Digital Pen is its ability to replay the precise action of your writing or drawing via the Play button in the Digital Note Viewer. Unfortunately, this animated replay is not exportable at the moment. According to Nokia, later versions will be able to export this function, which could make emails far more entertaining to receive as you’ll see a handwritten note appearing in front of you.
An even more interesting -- and potentially useful -- feature of the Digital Pen is sending multimedia messages (MMSs) such as brief notes to compatible Bluetooth 1.1-compatible phones. According to Nokia’s Web site, only the Nokia 7650, 3650, 6650 and the new 6600 are compatible. Other Bluetooth phones -- including several Sony Ericsson models -- work with the Digital Pen, but you may need to update your phone’s software to enable the Bluetooth Pen profile.
We used a Nokia 6600 and a Sony Ericsson T68i phone to test the Digital Pen’s Bluetooth performance. We sent images such as simple maps and handwritten notes via Bluetooth within a 10m radius to the mobile phones, and then forwarded them on via MMS. Notes created on ‘MMS’ digital paper (B7 size) are about 2-3KB, while bigger Notepad (A5) notes are 10-15KB.
Of the three Anoto-based digital pens currently available from leading manufacturers (Logitech, Nokia, Sony Ericsson), Nokia’s is the most compact and least embarrassing to pull out of your pocket in public. And it’s the only design with a cap that fits both ends of the pen. It’s just a pity that USB docking with a PC is such a pain.