The Jot 8.5 eWriter brings notepads into the digital age [Reviews]

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Still better than a "smart" refrigerator.
Photo: George Tinari/Cult of Mac

Nowadays it seems like we’re ready to replace just about every standalone device with a smartphone app or add a Wi-Fi connection to it, when the reality is that plenty of these devices work perfectly fine already. (I’m looking at you, Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerators.) So it was refreshing to be able to review a product that’s confident in what it is and what it isn’t: the Boogie Board Jot 8.5 eWriter.

The Jot 8.5 is an ultra-thin display that lets you write or draw whatever you want on it, then instantly erase all the contents at the push of a button. Think of it as a practical Etch-A-Sketch that doesn’t suck.

With the Jot 8.5, less is more …

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The Jot interestingly holds the stylus on the bottom with the only button up at the top.
Photo: George Tinari/Cult of Mac

It features a stylus pen that clips into the bottom of the device plus two magnets for keeping it up on the refrigerator or some other metallic fixture. The device features an 8.5-inch LCD display. Writing on it with the stylus produces a somewhat neon green color, and the screen is more akin to an E-ink in that it’s easier to see in better lighting.

The Jot is basically just a digital notepad, but it works well in ways one probably wouldn’t realize. I find it’s definitely most useful up on the refrigerator where I can take down notes for things I need to accomplish today. Since I tend to frequent my refrigerator, it’s easy to jot down new tasks as needed. Then when it’s time to start a new slate, pressing the only button on the device will erase the screen entirely leaving no trace of the previous markings. Battery life lasts for up to 50,000 erases which is exceptional.

I would like to see the ability to erase individual elements if I make a mistake rather than having to start from scratch. Additionally, once I erase the note it’s gone forever — well, at least from the Jot itself. This is where the companion iPhone app comes in. I know I ranted earlier about everything constantly needing Wi-Fi or an app, but this is only an optional part of the Jot if you want to extend its capabilities.

… Except with the companion app

The Jot app tends to cut off edges.
The Jot app tends to cut off edges.
Photo: Boogie Board

The Boogie Board Jot app for iOS and Android lets you “scan” what you’ve written on your Jot to save it before it’s gone forever. I use the word “scan” loosely because it really just takes a photo and applies a black-and-white filter plus extreme contrast to get that desired effect. But it works because it makes your text or drawing much more legible on a smartphone. Plus, it lets you annotate and edit scans, too.

Unfortunately, I found that the app didn’t work more often than it did. It’s supposed to be able to intelligently recognize the Jot and align the scan appropriately, but several times it failed to recognize mine. When it did recognize the Jot, it would cut off the edges of the screen so some of my notes were cut off as well. The app also lets you take manual photos to scan, but that looks messy with your surroundings in frame. Hopefully a software update can fix these issues.

The simple, environmentally friendly notepad

The app aside, I do like the simple purpose of Boogie Board’s Jot 8.5. It’s just a digital notepad or drawing tool that can be whatever you want it to be. And it’s at a good price too: just $29.99, or a bit cheaper on Amazon. Down the line I’d like to see the app improve and get more features like perhaps folders or tags, but the Jot 8.5 is a nice, minimalistic gadget to have around the house.

.com/dp/B010HWCEAO/?tag=cult087-20" title="Buy from Amazon" class="norewrite" rel="nofollow">Amazon

Kent Displays provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article.