CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Get a 12-inch LCD writing tablet for $12.99

Normally this size sells for at least twice the price, but you'll have to wait a few weeks for delivery. Plus: Yet another awesome free game!

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.

Enlarge Image

Don't expect super-bright digital ink, but do expect a really cool erasable writing slate.

Light in the Box

Remember those reusable writing slates you had as a kid? You'd scribble with a plastic stylus (or even your fingernail), then lift the plastic sheet up to erase the whole thing and start fresh with a blank page.

Say hello to the modern, high-tech equivalent. Until recently, I didn't even know these things existed; now I kind of love them.

First, the deal, then the explanation: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Light in the Box has the Parallel 12-inch LCD writing tablet for $12.99 shipped. Most other slates of this size sell for at least twice as much; the very similar (and better-known) Boogie Board sells for about $30, and that's for an 8.5-inch model.

Curiously, the description says "random color," but before you can even add one to your cart, you have to choose a color: black, blue, red or white. Take note, too, that this ships from China and could take 11-18 business days to arrive. That's if you choose free shipping, here designated as "Postal Service - No Tracking." Expedited shipping (which adds $2.78) cuts it down to 4-8 business days. As for the 49-cent shipping insurance, your call.

If you've never used one of these before, they're kind of amazing. It's a super-thin, super-light tablet that leaves a trail of e-ink as you draw on it. There's no lag at all, and you can use either the included plastic stylus or, yep, your fingernail. The "screen" is pressure-sensitive.

Press a button up top and the slate is wiped completely clean, ready for your next notes, drawings and so forth.

What's even more amazing is that the thing runs on a coin-cell battery that can literally last years.

There are, however, a few caveats. First, there's zero connectivity: You can't print, save or share your drawings. Nor can you copy them to your phone or PC. Once they're erased, they're gone for good.

Second, we're all pretty spoiled by our bright, high-contrast screens; the electronic ink here will appear dull by comparison. It's good enough for what it is, just not what I'd call great. See this video for a demonstration.

But for kids to doodle on, notes you want to scribble while on the phone and, of course, everyday spy-craft, writing tablets like these are pretty sweet. I can't really speak to the quality of this particular brand, but I've seen a fair number of similar generic ones, and they're all about the same.

Your thoughts?

Bonus deal: Do you own an Amazon Echo Dot? Ever wish it was portable? It can be, with the Fremo Evo intelligent battery base for second-generation Dots. Normally it sells for $32.99, but you can snag it for $27.99 with coupon code WHC978UX. The 5,200-mAh rechargeable battery allows your Dot to run outlet-free for up to six hours, though of course you'll need to pair it with a mobile hotspot or Wi-Fi to actually make use of it.

Bonus deal 2: Game time! What a freebie bonanza this week! First it was StarCraft, now GOG is offering Saints Row 2 (Windows) for free. Regular price is $9.99. An open-world destruction-fest in the spirit of Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row lets you engage in all manner of violent and often hilarious mayhem. (My inner teenager approves, my outer parent says "Please don't let your kids play this.") The game was released in 2009, so the graphics definitely look a bit dated -- but, hey, it's free! You'll need to sign up for a GOG.com account, and actually retrieving the game is kind of a head-scratching annoyance -- but, hey, it's free!