The AlphaSmart Neo is a neat little writing tool that is basically a stripped down, very bare bones laptop. It weighs less than 2 lbs, can go 700 hours on just three AA batteries, has a keyboard only about an inch narrower than a laptop (still bigger than those mini laptops, such as the Asus eeePC).

I learned about the AlphaSmart during NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, and I just got one last October. Participants in NaNoWriMo use the AlphaSmart for writing their novels, and it certainly does help with getting writing done fast.

The screen is small (5.75"x1.5" LCD screen) which can accompany up to six lines of text at a time. That sounds very small, but it isn't as bad as you think. If you are the kind that tends to go back an edit what you've written a lot, the smaller screen could help you control that and get to writing faster.

I still use my laptop for writing stories because I like to see a whole page at once (helps with my visualization in my mind, though I can't explain that). However, I use my AlphaSmart NEO for taking notes, and it works better than anything for that. Since I type faster than I write, the NEO really helps me get my thoughts down quickly so I can get back to whatever it was I was doing. The NEO powers up in only four seconds (I timed it. From the time you press ON to the time you are ready to start typing is four seconds) which is 15 times faster than my laptop.

Not only that, the NEO saves automatically. As soon as you type it, it is saved. So I can turn it on, wait four seconds, type my notes, whatever they are, then immediately turn it off. Turn it back on and I can write where I left off. It's lightweight, making it portable, and the keyboard feels good to use and makes a satisfying clacking sound (I know you know what I mean).

The NEO would be more convenient for writing on the go than a laptop, such as writing during a subway commute, or in a coffee shop, whatever. The NEO, however, is not more versatile than a laptop. It does have spellcheck and a thesaurus, but the NEO is in essence a one-trick pony. But it does that trick exceedingly well.

The 700 hour battery life on just three AA batteries is no exaggeration. Mine is still on 95% and I got it last October (though I don't use it everyday).

Here is a link to a .pdf file explaining the NEO, and here is the website. It's $219. Last year, AlphaSmart had a promotion with NaNoWriMo where you could get $20 off. I don't know if they are going to do that this year.

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I've had the first version of alpha smart for years. I love it!

I'm hoping eventually to upgrade to a newer model, but I'm not financially able to right now.

Deirdre
I had a writing friend who had one of these and she loved it. I would probably get more writing done, since from what I understand it has no internet capabilities. But then again...it would probably just gather dust in my house, since it has no internet capabilities. Sigh.
The old ones don't have internet access. But the new ones, I believe have limited type and its kind of like a smaller scaled version of a lap top.

Sometimes we use internet research as an excuse. I'm researching or asking questions so I'm technically working on my book.

I know I'm guilty. Should be writing right now!

Deirdre
O(oh, you're saying I could play--er hum, yes, research my stuff on the internet and write and do it for only 219.00? Man, I do have to look back into these.
No, the NEO does not have internet capabilities. The screen is monochrome and only handles up to six lines of text at a time. Like I said, it is a one-trick pony.
My mistake it isn't the Neo its the Dana Alpha Smart and $319:

Text from Website copied to below:

Dana combines the convenience and affordability of a hand-held device with the comfort and easy access of a full-size keyboard. Write a story, organize the week, record an appointment, read an eBook, and much more―all when and where you choose. Dana offers up to 25 full hours of runtime on a single charge, giving you extended unplugged writing and productivity opportunities laptops can’t. Dana is fully compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file formats, and lets you seamlessly synchronize data with Windows or Macintosh PCs. Made of sturdy polycarbonate ABS, Dana provides lightweight portability (barely 2 lbs.), durability, and sleek ergonomic contours for handling.

If you need wireless connectivity, the Dana Wireless solution offers built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b) capability for accessing the internet from home, campus, coffee shop, and other locations.

Download Dana Product Sheet (PDF)

Deirdre
saw somebody using something similar to this the other day. she said it cost 300 at best buy. it really was like a tiny laptop, but had wi-fi. very cool and very portable.
Though, just to chime in, there are full laptops you can get for $500 (or less, sometimes) They aren't as light, but they're small and fully functional. My Oldest Bother just got a $400 laptop with Vista and Office (maybe the scaled down version of Office? I don't know for certain, but thinking it was the "home" version without Access.)

I couldn't work on that small a screen. I need to see several paragraphs, to scroll quickly, and I'm in love with MSWord (2003, to be specific). But to each his own.
If you love Word 2003, stay far, far away from Word 2007. They have moved everything. I have been using it for months and still have to stop real work to go find things that used to be accessed without needing to search or think.
John, I just happened to think of this. I have an impossible time using my MacBook outside because I can't see the screen even when I'm sitting in the shade. How visible is the Alpha Smart text/screen when you're using it outside?
I haven't used it outside, but I did look at it from all angles and close to my lights at home and I could always see it. I know it's not the same as sunshine, but it's dark right now. The Alphasmart Neo screen is not backlit, so that will help in the day time. The screen is like a graphing calculator, that kind of greenish color background, and the text is a clear black. Tilting the screen at any angle does not affect visibility the way a laptop LCD screen does.

Here is an article from someone who used a Neo on his trip to Laos. He talks about being able to see well in the midst of midday sunshine.

Note: the linked article is a .pdf file.
John, Thanks for the link! Looks like he had no trouble at all.

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