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Wacom's latest smartpads marry pen and paper with digital notes

Engadget Engadget 5/09/2016 Nicole Lee
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Despite the many high-tech devices on display here at IFA, sometimes all you want is a pen and paper to jot down notes or draw a quick sketch. Still, there's no reason not to marry ink and tech, which is the driving idea behind Wacom's latest line of smartpads that let you capture handwritten notes in digital form. The company's done this before with the Bamboo Spark, but the latest Slate and Folio options provide different styles for the discerning dead tree aficionado.

The Slate is a simple standalone notepad while the Folio is a more professional option complete with integrated cover and slots for business cards. The Slate and the Folio are essentially equipped with electromagnetic resonance (EMR) tech. Put any piece of paper on the surface, and you'll be able to transfer all your ink-stained scribbles to Wacom's Inkspace app. You can either draw it in "live mode," which essentially lets you capture the notes in real-time, or simply press a button on the hardware to sync it later. Not any pen will do however, as you'll need a special Wacom pen filled with Wacom's digital ink in order for the whole thing to work.

Still, once you have everything you need, it works like a charm. I tried both of these smartpads out at the Wacom booth at IFA, and it all worked seamlessly. I was impressed by how instantly the notes came to life in the app -- it really is done in real-time. I also found it interesting that you can always overlay more scribbles onto an existing digital note, even if the paper you drew the original on is long gone. From there, you can save the notes in JPG, PNG, PDF or a special Wacom WILL format.

The InkSpace app is free, and you get a free basic subscription along with your Wacom ID. This gives you 5GB of cloud storage. If you want more, you'll have to upgrade to InkSpace Plus, which offers 50GB of storage along with the ability to search your handwritten notes. What I found especially useful is that InkSpace Plus has a handwriting-to-text feature so you can import your written text into a real document. Slate and Folio customers will get a three-month free trial subscription to InkSpace Plus, and after that, can opt to pay a discounted $2.99 a month for the service (The regular price is $4.99 a month).

The Slate comes in two sizes; small (A5/half letter) and large (A4/letter) while the Folio only ships in large (A4/letter). As for pricing, the small Slate is $129.95, the large one is $149.95 and the Folio is $199.95.

Oh and that's not all. Wacom also introduced a few new styluses at IFA this year. The first is the Omni, a fine-tip pen that lets you write on any note app without having to pair it first -- just twist the pen and go. It uses something called RES (Reflective Electro Static) tech and is charged via USB. According to Wacom, it should work on both Android and iOS. The company also refreshed the Solo and the Duo with a more ergonomic, softer design. The Omni will retail for $49.95 while the Solo and the Duo are $19.95 and $29.95 respectively.

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