The Neo2 may look and feel a bit outdated, but it doesn’t take long getting used to. It’s essentially a keyboard with a small screen that can store up to eight files of around 10,000 words each, so around 80,000 words in total. It was launched before the mobile revolution as a classroom tool and is no longer in production.
The What and the Why
The Neo2 can help you minimize distractions and write more. It was made for writing and doesn’t have any apps or other features that encourage procrastination. You don’t even have to worry about saving the document you’re working on – it’s saved automatically.
Possibly the best thing about it is the battery. It works on three AA batteries which last a long time – months at least. That, together with its size and rugged design, makes it easier to carry around than a laptop.
Throw it into a bag and you can take it to the park, to a cafe, or on the plane without having to worry about the battery or cables. You don’t even need a case or protective cover for it.
Another good thing about it is the way it transfers files to a computer. Using a compatible cable, you can transfer files to any computer regardless of the operating system.
Once you connect the Neo2 to a computer, it acts as a keyboard. Open a document, choose a file, press the send button, and it magically types the text into the file.
The Neo2 writing tool is not a replacement for your laptop. You’ll still need your laptop to optimize the formatting of your files and possibly edit them. You can edit on the Neo2 too, especially if you decrease the font. But on the larger screen of a computer, you can edit at the paragraph rather than the sentence level.
On the Neo2 you can write a lot without distraction and without tiring your eyes. The screen isn’t so much in front of you as below you, and since it’s so small, it actually encourages you to look at the world around you more. Once you get used to the keyboard (and it doesn’t take long), you can write without even looking at the screen. It can be a special experience.
Often, we spend more time in front of a screen than we would like, especially if we write every day or nearly so. The Neo2 can be liberating. It’s a wonderful feeling to write two thousand words that can be quickly processed into a digital file without feeling your eyes dry and your head heavy with the glare of a screen.
For those of us used to writing on a 15-inch laptop or larger, the Neo2 screen may seem alarmingly small. But I find that even with four or five lines of text only on the screen it displays the right amount of words I need to see to write at a good pace without being tempted to go back to reread and polish previous sentences. This helps to keep the writing flowing.
Versus the Freewrite
The only other similar writing tool that I know of is the Freewrite, one that I actually contemplated buying. It’s a beautiful device with WiFi connectivity and a backlit e-ink screen.
However, the Freewrite is about ten times more expensive than the AlphaSmart, which you can grab for around $30 on eBay and around $40-50 on Amazon.
The Freewrite is also heavier and doesn’t allow for editing. Even the second generation Freewrite with its improved battery doesn’t last nearly as long as the Neo2.
I value simplicity. I don’t like to spend too much money on technology or on anything else for that matter, especially if a simpler solution exists. That’s why I chose the Neo2, at least for now.
Good to Know
The Neo2 isn’t perfect, but its shortcomings don’t have a serious impact on the writing experience.
The font may seem a bit clumsy and you’ll need a lamp or some other source of light to write on it at night, but these aren’t serious inconveniences.
Also, the file transfer takes about 2-3 minutes per 500 words and you can’t really do anything else on your computer while the transfer is in progress.
Worth a Try
In the end, the Neo2 is easy to use, effective, portable, and resistant. It can help you reduce screen time and frees your life from the shackles of charging cables. Best of all, it creates an enjoyable writing experience where you can focus on the words and only on the words.
I already feel that the Neo2 is making a positive difference in my writing life. If you get the chance, try it. It’s one of those few gadgets that have aged well. It’s still a useful tool for the 21st-century writer.