Advertised as "the easiest way to capture handwritten notes or drawings on your handheld", the SmartPad2e is basically an A5 paper pad, an infra-red transmitter and some electromagnetic gadgetry; the aim of which is to allow you to write or sketch on paper and have it duplicated simultaneously on the Palm.
Unzip the SmartPad and you'll find an A5 paper pad on one side, overlaying an electromagnetic tablet. Connected to this, but positioned on the opposite side of the SmartPad, is an infrared transmitter: place a Palm-powered handheld underneath this to have your paper sketches/notes beamed across.
When using the supplied ballpoint pen which itself emits electromagnetic waves, on the A5 pad, a connection is made between it and the electromagnetic tablet underneath. This allows the pen movements to be mapped and converted into digital form on the Palm.
Should you wish to enter typed text onto your Palm, the electromagnetic tablet features a QWERTY keyboard that can be tapped with the stylus end of the pen. This is not very responsive, however, and can be more frustrating than using the Palm's built-in keyboard.
Like most products available for Palm-powered handhelds, it is only compatible with the standard applications - Date Book, Memo Pad, To Do List and Address Book. Installing the included SmartPad versions of these applications allows any work done on paper to be stored as an attached note in the relevant application.
The resulting digital version of any penmanship is saved as an image in a propriety EDF format, which can then be transferred to a PC using the included desktop software. Once on a PC, these images can be saved as either GIF or BMP, ready for printing or distribution.
Unfortunately, images are saved at a fixed size (366 x 585px for GIFs, 320 x 400px for BMPs), resulting in a rather small image when printed.
Transfer between SmartPad users can be done in the EDF format, which provides a much larger printed copy.
Irrespective of whether the doodling on paper is a graphic or text, the data is always stored as an image. This makes the SmartPad pretty useless for inputting text, and because of the problems mentioned, of only limited use for drawings.
The whole process is extremely easy, however, from installing the software to actually taking notes. It's just writing and drawing, after all.
The problem is, it's hard to see the point. Okay, it allows you to draw and write in freehand and have it stored electronically; but there's plenty of software available for the Palm that offers the same functionality at a fraction of the price.
The SmartPad does have some advantages over most other methods of drawing on the Palm. Images can be transferred to a PC for distribution, and a greater level of precision can be achieved using pen and paper rather than stylus and Palm.
Whether this is enough to justify such a hefty price tag, though, is debatable.