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Published on November 24th, 2015 | by Greg

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Wacom Bamboo Spark: Simple Digital Note-Taking

The pen is mightier than… well, just about anything, in the right hands. And if you’re anything like us, note taking has only gotten harder with the advent on tablets and smartphones. Stylii are great, and the new iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface devices can certainly do a good job of helping you electronically capture your writing- but they are expensive and bulky and not optimal for use outdoors or in a meeting. Pen and paper are fast, tactile, efficient, portable, and inexpensive- but once you lose that pad (or napkin), it’s gone forever. And Siri or other voice-notation systems are OK for quick comments, but won’t work for charts, diagrams, or longer thoughts.

In between are electronic note-taking options, like the Wacom Bamboo Spark. Available in three different models, this smart folio as tested has a pocket for your phone or business card, though versions with a flexible pocket capable of accommodating up to a 9.7-inch tablet or a snap-in place specifically built for the iPad Air 2. To use the Spark, you’ll want to own a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the iPad mini, iPad 3, iPad Air or later; iPhone 4s or later; or most Android devices with version 4.3 or later.

We’ve seen plenty of cool Wacom gear before, but this one is different- there is a smart pen and the folio itself serves as a transceiver, allowing you to use regular paper and then have your notes or drawings instantly, wirelessly transmitted to your device. Using the Spark app, you can edit your notes, save them to cloud storage services, play them back, or export them as JPGs or PDF files. There are battery limitations- about eight hours of life between charges- but that’s enough for just about the busiest day of writing that we can imagine. One thing you don’t need to worry much about is having your phone or tablet nearby at all times, since the Spark can save up to 100 pages of notes in memory between transfers.

The last great note-taking improvement was the Livescribe system, but it requires special paper and has a pretty awkward pen. This pen is subtle and won’t attract attention, and the folio itself is well-built and feels great in the hand. On the flipside, this system won’t transcribe your notes, which is a definite downside but may not matter to you. Graphic designers might miss true pressure sensitivity but others will love the professionalism of the Spark. The only major flaw in the system that we noticed was that you’ll need to go to Wacom for their custom ink cartridges, though two extras were included. The Wacom Bamboo Spark is available now, online and in stores, for around $150.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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