The Etch A Sketch gets an LCD makeover but retains its magic

Yes, you still shake it.

Kris Naudus (AOL/Engadget)

We've all labored over an Etch A Sketch at some point in our lives, painstakingly turning the two knobs to create a single-line black drawing on the gray screen. It's a classic toy that hasn't changed much over its sixty years of existence, because it hasn't needed to. Regardless, Spin Master's decided to mix things up a bit, replacing the aluminum powder mechanism with a black LCD screen. Now, you can use a handheld stylus to create drawings in rainbow colors. But at least you still erase it the same way.

If the Freestyle reminds you of a BoogieBoard eWriter, you would be correct: Spin Master teamed up with the company to create the new Etch A Sketch, and it uses the same technology and design as BoogieBoard products like the Magic Sketch and Play n' Trace.

However, a few changes were made to make this undeniably an Etch A Sketch product. BoogieBoards usually have a button on top to clear the surface, but that was removed and replaced by the classic "shake" action. The unit on display at Toy Fair was a little sensitive and sometimes lost the drawings on it when I shifted it around to take pictures, but Spin Master assured me this issue will be fixed before launch.

Since the white buttons usually found on the lower corners of an Etch A Sketch aren't needed to draw, they've been swapped out for two rubber stamps that can make marks on the black screen like circles, stars and hearts. Unfortunately the stamps fell out of their slots easily -- hopefully these too will be fixed before it ships. Most of your drawings will use the included stylus, which slots into a hole on the top of the Freestyle when not in use and stays attached with a string so kids don't lose it.

With these new twists on a classic formula you'd think it would cost significantly more than a standard Etch A Sketch, but the Freestyle will cost a modest $20 when it's released later this year. And don't worry, -- if you prefer to go old school, Spin Master will still be selling the classic model as well.