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Saturday, June 15, 2013

12 Reasons to Love the Boogie Board

Why in the world would you need a Boogie Board?
Okay so you have this brand-new stylus for your iPad – and you're frustrated. The writing experience isn't what you thought it would be. It feels like a big fat crayon. And there's no way you can replicate the feeling of pen on paper - no matter what note-taking app you use. The amount of words you can squeeze onto a Penultimate page is drastically fewer than you can get with paper and your writing is blockish and ugly.

In the vernacular, you're not a happy camper.

So you buy yourself a $30 Jott Pro stylus - you know, the glamorous one with the flat round disc hugging the nib. It's a great conversation piece, but that same disc that used to glide over your glossy pad for the first week or two seems to skip now. And you find out you need to buy thermal compound from the Source and apply it between the nib and the disc to fix the problem. (Can you tell this is autobiographical?)

Enter the Boogie Board - no not the surfing kind. I'm talking about the $49 London Drugs special - the Boogie Board Jot 8.5 - quite simply the dumbest writing tablet in the world. It's single function, feature poor - and absolutely brilliant.

The only thing you can do on this tablet is write and erase. I've had mine for about 2 months and I'm loving it. You cannot save, export, buy apps for it, choose fancy paper or even start a new page.

But it has plenty of features to love:
  1. It's perfect for making lists, brainstorming, drawing.
  2. Kids love being able to draw, scribble and pass notes. 
  3. It's super light-weight and thin.
  4. You can quickly scribble down impromptu presentation notes and use as a oversized 3x5 card. 
  5. The low-energy screen is always on and it will be for months - power for the earlier versions lasted 10 years.
  6. You are always zero clicks away from your note. 
  7. It has much better wrist suppression than the Penultimate app. 
  8. Viewing is excellent in bright sunlight.
  9. Built-in magnets let you slap it onto the fridge or metal filing cabinet.
  10. The screen is pressure-sensitive so you can make fat or thin strokes.
  11. There's a holder for the stylus, unlike previous versions. 
  12. The writing experience is perfect - a pleasure - frustration-free. 
Frankly, there are many situations where pulling out your tablet is a much better choice than using the Boogie Board. But that's why you have a tablet, right? And for about $100 you can buy the Boogie Board Rip which does let you save notes and export them to Evernote. 

But this inexpensive little writing tablet wins hands down in certain situations. I attend plenty of pressers and special events where the Boogie Board is perfect. When working my way around a venue taking pictures - indoors or out - it's so easy for me to ask kids and adults to write their names down on the board, then keep shooting and use that information in tweets or Facebook posts later.

If I need a second page, I just snap a pic of the board with my iPhone, erase and reuse. 

Awkward? I've become quite used to it. And, horror of horrors, if I were ever to leave the board behind at an event, I'm out $50, not $700 as would be the case with my iPad. 

Drawbacks? Plenty. Besides those mentioned already, the low-contrast screen takes getting used to - you certainly can't use it in the dark - but is good enough for most applications. There are plenty of other limitations. Again, all you can do is write and erase.

But I'll put this cheap little tablet up against any other electronic "analogue" writing experience. 

Because of the subtle drag on the stylus, it feels like the closest thing to pen and paper you'll find. My handwriting is not big and blockish, but fine and well-formed and I can fit more words length-wise than on many note-taking apps. I throw this pad in the case with my other equipment wherever I'm shooting or live tweeting. 

I mulled buying this Boogie Board for a half hour in the store before I sprung for it because it seemed like such a redundant purchase. Such a dumb idea for an iPad owner. 

Then again, the tech world is full of brilliant dumb ideas. 

Just ask Jack Dorsey.


  1. is the boogie board stylus compatible with any version of the ipad?

  2. Actually, it's not a capacitive stylus so it doesn't work on any of the iPads, Ann-Marie. But these days you can pick up a capacitive stylus pretty cheaply.