Sep 16

Sync 9.7 Review

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What’s a Sync 9.7? Combine a legal pad, a pen, an Etch A Sketch and a tablet, and you’ve got yourself a digital way to write and doodle without wasting paper or twiddling knobs. What is it not? The Sync 9.7 LCD eWriter, by Improv Electronics, is not an iPad or conventional tablet in that it does not run apps. It’s worth noting that while they are in the same category of eWriter, it’s not fair to compare the Boogie Board Sync to the Sony Digital Paper device. That device definitely warrants the over thousand dollars difference in cost. It’s called 9.7 because of the size, roughly that of a pad of paper. I’ll elaborate on the “Sync” part of the name soon.

For less than $100 on Amazon, you’ll get a good high-tech gadget for conceptualizing ideas and entertaining kids. The Sync 9.7 has some excellent features that can make it a helpful tool for certain aspects. However, a couple drawbacks might hold it back from being a must-buy for many. The Sync doesn’t rotate depending on how you hold it. There’s no backlight. There’s no home screen, and no internal apps. It’s as if you took a magic wand to a notepad, and used that wand to write and draw. Know what you’re getting, and you’ll enjoy it. Think the Sync is something that it isn’t, and you won’t like it.

You’ll immediately notice the light weight, and appreciate the scratch-resistant screen and stylus shortly after. You can consider this a digital legal pad, with two exceptions:
1) You can upload what you put on screen to Evernote, email, and social networks!
2) You cannot go back to a previous saved page!
These differences from a paper pad are the main reasons to either pick up or put down a Sync 9.7 eWriter.

You should wipe these thoughts from your brain:
1) “You cannot erase!”
Why does this not matter? If you were holding a legal pad and pen in your hands right now, you would also not be able erase what you create.
2) It is almost a hundred dollars, but is not nearly as good as an iPad!”
This device should not be compared to a tablet. It’s closer to an eReader, but shouldn’t even be compared to that. It can last for a week off a single charge (more if not used often), is meant to produce and not consume, and even has features that allow it to act like a peripheral for other products.

It’s called Sync. Does it live up to the name? Absolutely. You use the stylus to create on the screen and when you’re done, you either save or erase. The saved file, be it of handwriting or doodling, is saved on the 2GB of internal storage as a pdf. You sync it to your smartphone, tablet, or PC via the concise Boogie Board app. There, you can view the files, save them in folders, and send them to Evernote, social networks and email. I’ve used it to sketch comic ideas and share them on Google+ and Facebook without any problems.

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The display is a bit of an issue for me. I have an Original Boogie Board 8.5, that appears brighter than the Sync. The screen itself isn’t lit, and this shouldn’t change. It’s not meant to be backlit, like how the image is displayed on a synced device. The problem for me is that the lines made with the stylus aren’t white enough, and don’t provide as much of a contrast as previous Boogie Board devices. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s really only an issue when used in direct sunlight.

I’ve made use of the new Live Drawing feature added to the Boogie Board app. Use the stylus on the Sync while it is connected to a device by way of Bluetooth, and what you do will appear on the screen of your choice. Want to collaborate with others? Connect the Sync to a PC, connect the PC to a projector, and write/draw what you discuss for all to see as if they’re all peering over your shoulder.

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Kids enjoy the Sync, so parents about to embark on a road trip – heed my words. This is going to last longer than a portable DVD player, be quieter than an iPad game, and cleaner than a bag of markers. Get this and and they’ll have something to entertain themselves with in the back seat. It’s lightweight, durable, and holds enough charge that you won’t be out of luck if you forget to leave it plugged in on the counter the night before.

Bonus: this can also act essentially as a larger, basic Apple TrackPad or Wacom Pen Display through its “Digitizer Mode”. Though expectedly not as responsive as a Wacom product, you can use it as a wireless peripheral as an input device or even for illustrations in some programs. The stylus has a button that when pressed, acts as right click. Since the Sync doesn’t have a rotating screen, it only functions properly as an input device when situated with the stylus side face down.

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The Sync 9.7 does some things really well. It is also a great first run by Boogie Board, as I can see Improve releasing a 2nd-generation eWriter based on this. Though I would like what is displayed to be a bit brighter, and to be able to go back to saved files on the device, these aren’t deal breakers for me. If you would like a device that can capture what you would jot down on paper, but with the advantages of saving and sharing digitally, consider the Sync 9.7 as your digital alternative to pen and paper.

The Zarf logo review score better

Four out of Five
Reviewed on Android & Mac on 16SEP14
Provided by Improv Electronics