the best tool for the job.


I bought my Alphasmart Neo sixteen months ago.  I’ve used it to write close to a quarter million words since then.  Tonight, I took the Neo apart to blow the dust out of the keyboard, and I took the opportunity to replace the original three AA batteries that came in the box.  Those batteries have been the Neo’s sole power source for the entire time..

According to the Neo’s battery meter, they still had 68% charge remaining.

There’s no other mobile electronic writing device that comes close to even ten percent of the Neo’s field endurance.  Alphasmart estimates the battery life at seven hundred hours, but I think they’re being conservative about it.  The only equally portable writer’s tool that uses less power is the notepad/pen combo.


7 thoughts on “the best tool for the job.

  1. dot says:

    AS site has remarkably little functional info on this product. Would like to know if you use any of the transfer products (cables & SW), or IrDA accessories, or template tools for configuring Neo files. This sounds like a perfect tool for Mom’s memoirs, assuming it isn’t difficult to use.

  2. Marko says:

    I just use the USB cable to transfer my text. The Neo is seen as a standard USB keyboard by any PC or Mac. You open your word processing application (or anything else that accepts text input), hook up the Neo, and hit the “Send” button, and all your text will flow into your desktop application.

    For ease of use, you won’t find anything less complicated. You turn it on, and start typing. No need to learn how to save files, because the Neo saves every keystroke automatically.

  3. El Capitan says:

    The Alphasmart Dana seems to have a lot of bells & whistles installed, and they can be found on eBay, where the Neo seems to be a rarity. Any experience with that model?

  4. dot says:


    I too noted a paucity of Neos in the new-to-me market. Lots of 3000’s, a smattering of Dana’s, and virtually (pun) no Neos! I suspect that is strong testimony to the user’s feeling about their inherent worth…

  5. Marko says:

    There’s a reason why there are twenty Danas to every Neo on eBay at any given time.

    The Dana is PalmOS-based. It has a flash memory slot, a backlit display, and more bells and whistles (they even make a WiFi-enabled model), but all the added stuff means a battery life of only thirty hours, and more complexity. The Dana also has a far inferior display…it shows more lines of text, but the contrast is crummy, and the backlight is nearly useless. The Neo has a much better high-contrast display that’s readable equally well in indoor lighting and bright sunlight.

    Danas are more expensive than Neos, but you can find Danas all day long on eBay for a hundred bucks. When you can find a Neo, it usually sells for thirty bucks less than full retail, if that.

  6. MarkHB says:

    Marko is practising what’s kept me in business in a highly competitive, very costly industry for 15 years.

    Never pay more than you have to, to do the job. And never trust BWABL* more than the person driving the kit.

    It all comes down to the (probably apocryphal) discussion between Hemingway and Addams.

    “I love your photography. What kind of camera do you use?”

    Ansel is said to have regarded Hemingway a moment before saying:

    “I love your writing. What kind of pen do you use?”

    It all comes down to getting the most bang, for the least buck. Marko saw me drop nontrivial money on a laptop – but it was well under half the price of the nearest competing device, and served admirably for what I needed. Admittedly, more expensive than the Neo by a fat margin, but it was sensibly spent money for a business essential that’s gone on to pay for itself time and again.

    That’s all the question you ever have to ask yourself: Is this going to pay for itself in a better ratio than competing products? If not… shop. If so… get.

    *Bells, Whistles And Blinking Lights.

  7. “The only equally portable writer’s tool that uses less power is the notepad/pen combo.”

    if only…

    unfortunately a trio of fresh aa’s does little to rejuvenate age-afflicted pen-gripping digits into anything approaching legibility of longhand production.


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