Review: Boogie Board RIP is unusual, but perfect for digital writing

May 18, 2012

The Boogie Board RIP comes from a company called Kent Displays, which markets the product under the Improv Electronics brand. The tablet is certainly quite different from any other tablet on the market; there’s no internet connectivity, no apps, and no camera, but instead there is an etch-a-sketch-type screen and a stylus for all your digital writing needs.

Kent Displays has been working on the design for some time, first launching the original Boogie Board, which while nice to use, had no saving function, making the slate useless. But with the new model now out for $129.99, TabTimes decided to take a look at the most unorthodox tablet on the market.

Initial impressions: Ridiculously slim, but is it even a tablet?

On opening the brown parcel containing the packaging for the Boogie Board RIP, I was instantly struck by just how clutter-free it was. There was no big, bulky box with space-consuming chargers or adaptors, and no excess packaging to secure the device, just a slim box no thicker than a notepad.

Inside the packaging was a small guide and a USB connector for saving files to your computer, as well as an invitation to see the image on the tablet on your computer in real-time, using Improv Electronics’ Virtual Desktop Companion app.

On opening the packaging, the tablet was incredibly light and easy to hold, and at 11.5 ounces (325g), it feels like you’re holding a miniature clipboard. The tablet itself, which has a 9.5-inch LCD writing surface, is unlikely to knock you out with its good looks, but there’s simplicity in the form of two buttons for erasing work, or saving your work/waking the device up, and a simple unlock button on the side gets you started. There are microSD and charger connections on the side.

A precise stylus for writing, and a very unique display

Getting into the action and you notice straight away how the Boogie Board RIP is essentially an etch-a-sketch with more finesse, and a similar lack of intricate options for editing.

To get the RIP up and running, you just remove the stylus from its holder, and draw or write on the screen, as you would on paper. To wipe away your work of art, you hold the erase button, and to save you hold the save button, which basically screenshots the work as an image onto the tablet’s internal memory. From there, you can upload these images to a PC or Mac via the included USB cable.

The tablet is really is fun to play with. Tthe stylus uses electro-magnetic technology, and is a pleasure to use. Unlike some stylus pens out there for "real" tablets, the RIP’s pen is very precise, easy to hold, and you can happily rest your hand on the screen without fear of the screen picking up any input (a common problem with iPads and other capacitive touchscreens).

You can also write with your fingernail although as the stylus is so comfortable, you probably won’t want or need to. Our only slight complaint would be that, unlike other models, it isn’t wholly responsive to pressure sensitivity so the size of the digital ink largely stays the same.

The LCD display is quite unique, as it retains the image without power. As with the e-Ink technology used for Amazon’s Kindles, Boogie Board offers superior reading in direct sunlight. 

Erasing is as simple as pressing the erase button to wipe the slate clean, and we found the screen to be very responsive for data entry.

Overall, writing on the Boogie Board RIP was an experience far closer to paper than iPads or Android tablets can offer. The screen is so much more responsive, and the stylus is much more refined, detailed and easy to use than capacitive styluses.

Saving is relatively trouble-free, but there is room for improvement

All good so far, but saving is a slightly different ball game for the RIP. There’s no Bluetooth or ability to save over WiFi (as mentioned earlier, the tablet is not Internet-connected), but you can save up to 200 images on the internal 8GB memory of the tablet, and then move these to your computer via the micro USB to USB cable, which also acts to charge the device. (The battery is a great point about the RIP, charging can give the slate enough juice to work for a week).

To save your work, you’ll simply need to hold the save button until it lights up green, and you’re then free to erase and move on. On connecting to the computer, the images present themselves as Vector PDFs, which can be edited using Adobe Illustrator.

The resulting documents are generally OK. There is some cut-off if you draw too close to the edge of the tablet, and the PDF image quality is little more than satisfactory. The overall lack of detail may worry artists wanting to use the Boogie Board as a sketch pad.

Saving was generally pretty good, but it is a little bit of hassle having to bring the USB cable out every time to transfer files.

Summary: A brilliant writing tablet, could be useful for schools, journalists and wannabe artists

The Boogie Board RIP is really fun to use, and we were really impressed with the simplicity of the product, and the responsive writing.

So, where does this leave the RIP? Clearly, this is not your ordinary tablet, but its excellence for writing, drawing or as a basic note-taker is there for all to see.

In business, we could certainly see the RIP as ideal for teachers, students and note-taking journalists, although the slightly ruffled way of loading images would probably rule it out for professional artists. The RIP could certainly be a useful, more exciting tool for learning math equations or writing essays, while its function as a digital notepad could really open itself up to journalists, even more so if there was a way to view saved images. Indeed, for education, one school – St Richards Elementary School – claims to have reduced the need for paper by 40%, just by using similar writing products from Improv Electronics.

All in all, the Boogie Board RIP is an intriguing tablet. Kent Displays should be applauded for doing something a little different in this space. We look forward to seeing what the RIP could become in the future.


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