We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.

Reviews

ACECAD DigiMemo A501

By Brandon Miniman May 9, 2005, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

    I take tons of notes
while in meetings. I try to take these notes
on my laptop, but I have to admit that my
counterparts in the meeting get tired of the noise
from the keyboard (especially when I make mistakes).
And though I have owned a PDA for quite a while,
I find that entering text into it can be quite a
challenge when I’m in a hurry.

   
So, when I am in a meeting, I resort to manual note
taking. Yup, that’s right, good old pen and paper.
This means of "Data Entry" has the benefit of not
requiring batteries, but the only way to send these
notes electronically is to scan them or to
transcribe them.   

   
I have watched the development of Tablet PCs
(expensive) and special
pens (cumbersome) with great
interest. I firmly believe that there is great power
in "napkin conferences", those that capture spur of
the moment ideas on nothing more than a simple piece
of paper. Problem is, I had not been able to easily
get this information into electronic form until now.

WHAT’S HOT

    The ACECAD DigiMemo A501 is almost too
simple to be true. It is a "digital notepad", that
is, it captures the motion of your pen while you are
writing on standard paper, and retains this
information in digital form. Because of this, these
notes can be edited and manipulated on the PC before
being emailed or run through OCR software. The unit
itself is no larger than a standard 8 1/2" by 11"
clipboard, though it will only allow for up to about
A5 sized paper (5.9" by 8.3").

The
Digimemo A501 – Manual Notetaking, electronic
storage.

PRODUCT FEATURES


    The DigiMemo A501 digital
pad runs off of 4 AAA batteries (rated use of >100
hours) and the digital inking pen included with
it has one button cell battery (a #377, very common)
rated to last for 14 months. The pad itself weighs
in at just under 1.25 lbs, and the pen feels no
heavier than an average ball point pen. The DigiMemo
pad has 8MB of built-in memory and also provides
a CF slot to add extra memory for when you will
be in meetings all day.

   
The package includes the DigiMemo pad itself, one
pack of A5 notebook paper, a standard-to-mini USB
interface cable, the digital inking pen, a clip to
secure loose papers to the pad, an instruction
manual, and the DigiMemo manager software CD.


The Digimemo package contents.


Removing the top silver cover reveals the battery
tray and slot for optional CF Type I memory.

Once
the batteries have been installed into the pad, you
must install one button cell battery into the top of
the pen.

   
On the top left of the DigiMemo pad, there are a
series of buttons and a LCD digital display that
control the digital pad. All you have to remember to
do is to turn the unit on when you begin to write
and to press the page down button to move to the
next blank page in memory as you change the page on
your physical pad. The nice thing about this system
is that it uses plain, ordinary paper as well as
standard pen refills from manufacturers such as
Cross, Zebra or Lamy (it comes with two refills
included, which are stored in the DigiMemo pad
itself). To begin using the pad, press the power
button on the upper right side and start writing
normally with the digital pen. The pen shuts itself
off automatically when not in use.

The
DigiMemo pad is ready for use. The LCD indicates
that this is the first page we will work with, that
the page is empty, and that we are using CF instead
of internal (M) memory.

The
writing from the digital pen is smooth, a nice
choice of a standard pen cartridge. But don’t lose
the pen!!

   
Once text is
put into the system, we need to turn our attention
to the PC install of the DigiMemo management
software. The installation is straightforward,
requiring only that you insert the CD and follow the
instructions. The installation itself requires only
10MB of space on your hard drive. The software
allows you to retain the documents you bring in as
either DigiMemo native format (editable), or allows
you to save it in either BMP, GIF, JPG, or PNG
formats. Saving the document in these later formats
does not allow the same editability as the native
format, however.


After you are done writing, connect the DigiMemo to
your PC with the included USB cable.


Importing a File to the C: drive. It is possible to
extract files from the USB connection or directly
with a CF adapter.

With
the DigiMemo connected you can see both the internal
memory (DMEMO-M) and optional CF memory (DMEMO-C).

The
software allows you to preview the pages before
importing them.

You
can see that the imported files are very accurate
with respect to the written page.

If
you review your notes later, the DigiMemo manager
software allows for markup of the existing
information. In this case, I turned the first
sentence blue.



HELP SUPPORT

    The DigiMemo A501 has a 1
year hardware warranty in the US. The User’s Guide is
fairly thorough, and does a good job of covering the
features of the device as well as the function of
the software package that accompanies it. The
product itself is fairly simplistic to use, the only
thing is that you have to remember to change the
page on the device when you change the page on the
pad, or the electronic copy will be a mess.

BUGS AND WISHES

   


The DigiMemo software saves the written data in a
proprietary digital page (*.DHW) or digital book
(*.DHD) file. So it goes without saying that whomever
you send these files to will have to download the
DigiMemo manager software (free of charge from the
ACECAD
website.
Although the product does a good job of exporting
graphic data that represents the text (BMP, PNG,
GIF, and JPG), I would love to see this product be
able to export editable text in Microsoft OneNote
or a similar product. If anyone figures this out,
send me an email, because this feature would make
this product ideal for many of my meetings.

   
Although the DigiMemo provides a clip on the bottom
of the pad for the pen, I still worry that I will
lose the pen, very similar to how one could lose the
stylus from a Tablet PC. ACECAD tries to address
this with a tether ring on the DigiMemo and on the
electronic pen. While this seems like an adequate
idea, I’d rather not use the tether. So I will just
have to be careful not to lose the pen.

   
I only noticed one thing I would change in this unit
from an operational standpoint. It is possible to
hook up both inputs and have music both work at the
same time. I might be able to see some use from
this, but mostly I wish that when you plug in the
retractable cable, it would supercede and shut off
the secondary audio input. Other than this, the unit
has performed flawlessly, delivering good
performance for the money.

PROS

  • Very low
    battery consumption
  • Inexpensive when compared to
    some digital pens and Tablet PCs
  • Small,
    lightweight footprint

CONS

  • Proprietary
    format places limitations on functionality
  • Markup software is a bit
    basic when compared to heavy-hitters like OneNote
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    As someone who frequently is writing
heavy notes in whiteboarding meetings, I feel that
this product hits a niche market for those who
prefer to write and take notes by hand without the
use of a Tablet PC. Though great strides have been
made in Tablet PC battery life, I feel that none
still compare to a product that uses paper, but
gives the option of electronic copies.

 

Latest Articles

Search