Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Pad, First Take: From pen and paper to mobile app

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There's something rather compelling about the idea of writing onto paper and having the results transformed into digital content. That's what the Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Pad delivers.

The complete kit comprises a folder with the technology components on the right side and holders for other bits and pieces on the left, two pads of paper (one lined, one plain), and a combined digital/ink pen. You'll need to download a free mobile app as well (iOS or Android), set it up with a username and password, and pair it to the pad via Bluetooth. The whole lot will set you back £119.99 (inc. VAT).

The folder measures 251mm by 203mm when closed, is 31mm thick and weighs 880g. That's quite a lot to carry around, but at least it looks smart: the folder is covered in a canvas-type material, styled in an office-friendly grey.

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You can use ordinary paper with Royole's Smart Writing Pad, but you'll need to keep your input within an A5-sized active zone. The pad needs to be charged (via MicroUSB), while the pen uses a AAAA battery. The pad and the companion mobile app communicate via Bluetooth.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Despite the folder's size, the area in which pen input can be captured is quite small. It's marked out clearly by guidelines and measures 14.5cm wide by 21cm tall. There's nothing special about the paper used, and any paper will do, but be careful not to write outside those capture guidelines.

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The RoWrite pad needs to be charged in order to capture and share data, and this is achieved via a MicroUSB connector that sits on its upper left edge. You must use the provided pen to write: this is powered by a single AAAA battery and supports 2,048 pressure levels.

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There are two buttons on the left-hand side of the writing pad. Pressing button A (just below the charging point) sends written content to the companion app immediately. Pressing button B creates a new sheet for captured data in the app. This means that it's easy to separate two bits of information, even if they're written on the same sheet of paper.

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Adjusting pen settings (left) and merging captured pages by pinching (right).

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet
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Written text can be converted to editable text (with varying success depending on your handwriting) and content shared in various ways.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

I wrote notes and drew pictures, and everything went into the app in near real time, providing a complete copy. Within the app you can change pen type, stroke width and colour, and these settings are reflected as you write. Captured pages can be merged by pinching them together and edited (including erasing). Handwritten text can be converted to editable text in a range of languages; this can then be edited within the app, as well as copied, exported as a text file and shared in other ways -- including to cloud apps.

Text conversion is speedy, but not especially accurate. I made three attempts at some of the opening sentence of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, my writing getting progressively neater each time. The neatest handwriting was the most accurately converted, although a crossed-out word was included. However, writing that neatly was rather laborious -- I type faster.

Overall the Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Pad has definite potential for some situations, but it also has limitations: the need to charge the pad and ensure the AAAA battery in the pen has juice could be irritating; the size of paper that can be used will be limiting for some people; and the kit is a little chunky to carry around. Still, all that noted, this product can fill a definite -- if specialised -- niche.

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