The average kitchen counter is always cluttered up with a scratchpad, pencil and old torn off notes. Wouldn’t it be nice to replace that clutter with a clean higher tech solution? Using your cell phone or iPad for a quick note is cumbersome. You have to load the app, use the virtual keyboard and when you are done, the note isn’t visible in plain sight to remind you later of that thought. The folks at Improv Electronics have invented a digital notepad that addresses all these problems.

The Boogie Board tablet was launched in early 2010. It costs around $45 but is often on sale for $33 since it has been out for over a year. It is a novel device, that is intended to replace a paper scratch pad, and uses an LCD screen passively as a touch screen device. If you have ever been brave enough to press hard on an LCD display, you will notice that it will leave a dark spot. The Boogie Board expands on that attribute by providing you with a writing stylus to press on the liquid crystals. The resting state of the crystals is flipped so that you get light gray writing on a black background.
The only electronics in the Boogie Board are the circuits to create an erase function. A single button at the top of the Boogie Board erases everything on the screen in a single flash, akin to how the Amazon Kindle looks when it turns pages. With the built-in non-replaceable battery, you can erase over 50,000 times.  That’s 12 erases a day for 12 years. Neither drawing nor passively displaying an image uses power - only the erase cycle does.

  • Large  8.75 x 5.5 inch screen.
  • Thin, lightweight and stylish.
  • Never needs charging.
  • Display doesn’t wash out in bright light.
  • Natural to write on with no lag in response.
  • Very easy learning curve.
  • Always active and displaying last note.
  • Infinite analog resolution.
  • Comes in assorted frame colors.
  • Telescoping stylus for different size hands.
  • Doesn’t waste trees.

  • Battery not replaceable - good for 50,000 erases. Some technicians have disassembled the Boogie Board and successfully unsoldered the battery and replaced it.
  • You can leave smudges from resting your hand on the lower section while writing, but the blemishes do erase OK.
  • No way to electronically save what’s on the screen.
  • Doesn’t photocopy well - digital photos look fine, though.
  • Stylus has no string to keep it attached to the Boogie Board.
  • No magnetic mount for use on a refrigerator.

For an additional $3, there is a kit now available from the manufacturer that includes a magnetic mount for the refrigerator and a stylus clip for the top of the Boogie Board. Also, if you do lose the stylus, replacements are available for $5 from the manufacturer.

As a comparison, you can buy a Magnet Magic Drawing Board in the toy section at a local drugstore for under $4. The technology uses a magnetic stylus to draw little magnetic particles to the screen and have them stick there leaving a black on white display. The display area is 4.6 x 2.9 inches. There is a slider on the side that mechanically drags the particles off the screen to erase it. How does it compare? It performs poorly. The size of the magnetic particles causes some pretty coarse pixelation, causing you to write in one inch high letters to leave a readable message. Therefore, it’s good for one phone number and a few short words. On the plus side, no electricity is needed, the stylus is on a tethered string, it’s a compact design and very legible in low light.

The old Magic Slate product, a waxy, cardboard backed tablet toy from the 60s, is still available. You draw on it with a hard plastic stick that indents the wax to create a dark line.  Lifting the thin plastic cover sheet resets the wax, effectively erasing the image. I saw one at the same drugstore which carried the Magnet Magic Drawing Board. It was available for $2 in a model with fluorescent pink wax and was about 8 x 10 inches in size. As I recall from my childhood, the failure mode was the plastic cover sheet eventually ripping from being lifted too many times during the erasing process. It’s a kid’s toy designed to last for an afternoon or two.

The Boogie Board is a pretty inexpensive solution for a quick note and is elegantly styled to look good laying on the coffee table with all your other gadgets. Some use it to doodle on to pass the time or purchase it as a children’s gift. I own one and it’s been working solidly for the first six months.