Friday, April 11, 2008

My Very Own AlphaSmart Neo

I just received an AlphaSmart Neo today that I ordered on Monday. I've been thinking about getting this for a while now and decided to finally take the plunge. Below are some of my initial impressions of the device. I plan on putting this through the paces over the next few days (weeks?) and will share additional thoughts as I go along.

I really like this device a lot! It is superb! The Neo is simple and does one thing only, which is the beauty of it. The keys are slightly noisy with a "clackity" sound, but I actually find that this helps me type faster -- giving me both audible and tactile feedback (and visual if I'm looking at the screen) that I'm typing what I mean to type. The keyboard is at least as good a keyboard as my ThinkPad! (How cool is that?) It truly does make me want to just write.

I also found out that this works superbly as an external keyboard. If I use my laptop for too long at my desk, sometimes my back gets a little sore. I was able to put my laptop onto my bookstand to elevate it, use my cordless mouse, and hook the Neo up to it using the USB cable. It gets my laptop's monitor up to eye-level and makes the ergonomics of it much more similar to using a desktop PC.

I was also pleasantly surprised to discover the Neo supports direct IR beaming to my Treo. What this means is that I can type up documents, e-mails, and blog posts on the Neo and beam it over to send with my smartphone. It works like a champ and is something I wasn't expecting. (I knew I could beam things over, but thought I'd have to get a memory card and third-party software for the Treo to make it work.) This enhances the functionality of both the Neo and the Treo. (I just realized they rhyme!)

I can't tell you how much I appreciate having something with a great keyboard that is noiseless, heatless, and lightweight to type on that I essentially never have to worry about it running out of power. (Many owners get more than a year of constant use out of their Neos before having to change batteries.)

I can't find it in the documentation, but it looks like the Neo gets powered by USB when using it as an external keyboard -- another unexpected feature that is pleasantly surprising.

The Neo appears to be a fantastic device for writing, taking notes, and jotting down ideas. It can act as an extension to both my computer and my smartphone in ways I wasn't anticipating. The best part about it is that it is so simple, it just works -- no operating systems to fool around with, no software to install, virtually no learning curve whatsoever. Basically, I just installed the 3 AA batteries that came with it and it was immediately ready to go. Less than a minute out of the box and I was up and running.

I plan on putting my Neo through the paces over the next few days and see how well it performs. So far, I would say it exceeds expectations and I am very, very impressed.

(This blog post was written on my Neo and beamed over and uploaded with my Treo. I will add a few photos and hyperlinks after I upload it.)

P.S. -- See all of my posts on the AlphaSmart Neo here.


DANIEL said...

Question--can you beam files back to the Neo? Or, is this one way?

Jeff said...

Brian, your first comment is some scary spam.

Additionally, I think (not sure) that the AlphaSmart only charges when hooked up to USB on the condition you have installed rechargeable batteries. I imagine this would be native for the Dana.

Ali Hasanain said...

Whatever happened to minimalism and keeping clutter out of your life?

Jeff said...


What about mental clutter? I just purchased a typewriter for that very reason.

I recommend you check out Paul Ford's essay "Followup/Distraction."

Brian Hollar said...

Daniel, I can beam files back and forth from my Neo to to my Treo -- both ways.

Jeff, thanks for the heads-up about the spam -- I just removed it. You're correct I need to have the rechargeable batteries to charge it while it's hooked up. What I meant to say was that it doesn't drain the batteries to use it as a USB keyboard.

Ali, as Jeff notes, the Neo is all about simplicity and clarity of focus. It helps declutter and minimize distractions. See more of my thoughts on the Neo and simplicity here.