Seiko's SmartPad a Bit Short on Smarts

SAN FRANCISCO (08/28/2000) - The Seiko Instruments U.S.A. Inc. SmartPad sounds great: a device that enables Palm users to write notes with pen and paper, and then relay these--via an infrared connection--to the Palm for viewing, organizing, and storing.

No doubt, using the Graffiti handwriting program on a Palm can be a drag; even after you master it, you can't enter text as quickly as most people write with pen and paper. Graffiti doesn't accept doodles or drawings; the SmartPad can.

Allowing users to beam pen and paper jottings to the Palm in real time seems like a natural step. For those who need a drawing capability, the SmartPad could be useful, and it's the first device to help move graphics or handwritten notes from the Palm into your PC. Alas, well-intended as it is, the SmartPad is saddled with too many conceptual and practical problems.

Its 1.5-inch-thick, 7.25-by-10.5-inch portfolio defeats the Palm's purpose, forcing you to carry a large case, not just a shirt-pocket-size device. You can use any 5-by-8-inch paper pad, but you must place it on the embedded SmartPad sensor in the portfolio for information to transfer--and for me, this was uncomfortable.

You have to zoom up to 4X to read your handwriting on the Palm with any clarity. That level of magnification forces you to continually scroll back and forth and up and down.

The only way to e-mail files directly from your Palm or PC SmartPad is by using Microsoft Outlook. Otherwise you must transfer the file as a GIF to your PC and then add it as an attachment.

The SmartPad costs US$199. Come on, guys, you can buy a Palm for less than that.

--Michael S. Lasky


PRO: Transfers handwritten notes in real time to a Palm.

CON: Just about everything else.

VALUE: A well-intentioned product that ultimately misses the point of pocket organizers.

List price: $199

Seiko Instruments USA


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