Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

FLY Fusion

FLY Fusion

Fall 2007 Toys
Ages: 10 - 16 yrs.
Price: $79.99

This review of the new Fly Fusion Pentop computer was written completely in longhand using the Fly Fusion pen, which first scanned and then translated it into a digitized type-faced Word-like document in my desktop computer with just a click of a button. Just as easily, using the included Fly software, I could've saved this review as an image of my scribbled longhand review, or emailed the image or type-faced document straight from the Fly program. That's the beauty of this new, slick and sleek version of Fly's computerized pen. You can take notes, write letters, make scribbles, draw drawings, do math problems, anything you can do on paper (it does require the special Fly Fusion paper), and whenever you want to move it into your computer files, just plug the Fly pen into your desktop or laptop's USB port, click on the Fly program icon, and it automatically uploads.

You do have to pay attention to penmanship, however. Write clearly and make sure to leave adequate space between words or the software won't get it all correct-like when I crowded the words "pen" and "is" too closely and the document came out with something quite unexpected.

If you're thinking déjà vu, you're right. Leapfrog originally introduced its Fly Pentop computerized pen about two years ago and at the time it was impressive, though a bit clunky and techie for the average user. But this new model is easier to hold, more intuitive to use, has four times as much memory, and more applications. Like the previous model, this one offers a number of fundamental functions that are controlled through a control panel. For instance, tap the tip of the Fly Fusion pen on the control panel icon for "Tools" and you can practice with Fly pen or set the time. Tap on "Games & Activities" and the pen tells you (yes, it talks) to turn to any game in the Activity book-such as Hangman, Face Your Fears or Puzzling Proverbs-and play.

New this version is a cool MP3 player inside the pen that lets you upload a few of your favorite tunes. Another musical function, Fly Tones lets you to make your own music using a drawn keyboard (piano and guitar are included though 20 other "instruments" are available for purchase), adding in tempo and percussion, then making a digital recording of your music. Other applications that come loaded on the new Fly Fusion are more academic-minded and include a Spanish translator (print a word in English on the Fly paper and the pen reads it and translates into Spanish), a math tutor (write an equation no matter how complex on the Fly paper and the pen will read it aloud and solve it instantaneously (covering middle- and high-school algebra, everything from solving variable equations, graphing linear equations, even solving quadratic equations) and the Pop Quiz application, which is like virtual flashcards you make as study aids. For anyone who thinks all of this high-speed computing packed into a stogie-sized pen is too complicated, Fly Fusion will talk you through its features step-by-step and help get you started. A must-have? At $80 for the basic system that includes limited applications, no, of course not. But it is technology that's well-made, easy-to-use and really amazing. And for some users, just being able to upload and digitize handwriting is well worth the price.

Don Oldenburg   ©2007 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc
Toys R US

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