Review: Boogie Board adds color doodling and translucent screen learning tool

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The new Boogie Board Jot 4.5 features a translucent screen for young learners(Credit: John Anderson/New Atlas)

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The Boogie Board line of e-writers has expanded its stable with two new models, the Jot 4.5 with Clearview and the Scribble n' Play. Like other Boogie Boards, both use cholesteric liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, which allows users to easily write and erase with the press of a button. While the Scribble n' Play is the first Boogie Board to offer color, both models are more variations on a theme, providing an additional and inexpensive option for mess-free doodling and letter-writing practice for young learners.

Both new models are as easy to use as a one-button operation suggests. Simply draw on the pressure-sensitive screen with a provided stylus and push the button to erase. The units are light, portable, and seem to stand up to a bit of rough treatment; a necessity considering they're targeted for young kids. It's also light on electricity use, with the company promising up to seven years on a single battery.

The new Jot 4.5 is identical to the previous model, but with a translucent LCD screen the company calls Clearview, a patented technology taken from the Play n' Trace. A stylus comes attached, with a hole in the top corner of the unit where it can hang from a push pin in a cork board, if so desired. A hard plastic protective cover slips off the front and attaches to the back when you're ready to use it. It's easy to write on, but the pale green/yellow writing doesn't always stand out well.

The new Jot 4.5's real purpose is as a learning tool. The unit comes with a stack of cards each emblazoned with a letter of the alphabet that slip between the device and the back cover, which shows through the translucent screen and allows young kids to write their letters by tracing on top of it. Handed to a 5-year-old, they managed the task as intended and seemed to enjoy using the device.

The larger Scribble n' Play resembles the Jot 8.5, but with what the company terms Colorburst. This means that when you draw a line down the black screen, it shows up in a rainbow of colors. While the Jot 8.5 is meant primarily as a note pad, specifically the kind that attaches to the fridge for communal messages, the Scribble n' Play is all about fun for doodling and drawing pictures. And it's designed for kids, with four styluses for different effects that attach to the corners of the unit.

The same 5-year-old enjoyed drawing on the Scribble n' Play and the easy functionality of the erase button. While the colors are a bit subdued, the blue is especially dark against the black background. One issue brought up by the young user is in saving the artwork. You can't, unlike other models that allow you to save and export created content. And thus the device sat idle for hours for fear of erasing the masterpiece.

The Boogie Boards' main competition are likely iPads and other tablets that are compatible with numerous drawing and painting apps with far more functionality. But the price – the Jot 4.5 is US$19.99 and Scribble n' Play $29.99 – along with its durability, ease of use and low maintenance, make it worth considering.

The release date for both new Boogie Boards is slated for August 3, 2016.

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