Product Review: The Neo

The Neo by AlphaSmart
The Neo by AlphaSmart. (c) Allena Tapia

An excellent tool for those who can't or don't want to purchase a laptop in addition to their desktop computer, the Neo offers more ease of use and durability than a laptop for the writer who is constantly on-the-go.

In addition, writers traveling or going on a retreat may want to consider the Neo, as there's less fear of losing it, and less distraction from writing without the internet available! Highly recommended as a backup word processor or a productivity enhancer.


  • Smaller and lighter than a laptop
  • Stands up to bumps and bruises when traveling
  • Less expensive than a laptop -- no fear of lost or stolen personal info!
  • Easy downloading of documents via simple USB port
  • Easy, intuitive use


  • Cannot view much of your document at once
  • Feel like a throwback to the 80s when using it publicly!


  • The NEO by Alphasmart
  • Requires 3 AA batteries for up to 700 hours of use.
  • No moving parts, no flip screen, and no disk drive means that the Neo is durable and built to withstand bumps and bruises.
  • Includes spell check, word count, Spanish-English dictionary and other special features.
  • Less than 2 pounds.
  • Monochrome screen.
  • Retail price approximately $230 (see website for further breakdowns).

Product Review: The Neo

Right out of the box, I was able to turn on the Neo and begin typing. The product has one button on/off function, the simplicity of which was a precursor to the intuitive use of the rest of its features.

The keyboard is about the same size of a 15-inch laptop, although a few of the keys are placed differently. The product came with software and a USB cord.

The most significant advantage I found is that the Neo is less bulky and easier to transport than a laptop. Transporting a laptop necessitates loading up a heavy, padded bag and usually including a power cord, too.

Also, lost or stolen laptops cost so much more to replace in both actual dollar amount and the possibility of revealing sensitive personal info stored on the laptop.

The Neo, on the other hand, is small and durable enough to be tossed into a tote bag or large purse. Should the Neo be lost or stolen, passwords and financial information wouldn't be at risk. The replacement cost is much less. In addition, the Neo operates on 3 AA batteries for close to 700 hours!

Of course, my first use centered on playing with the various keys and features. This was easy to do, as the Neo includes multiple on-screen prompts that walk the user through these features.

After typing out a couple of example documents (the NEO automatically saves multiple documents), my concern was saving and formatting my document onto my computer. I was delighted to find this was as simple as plugging a USB cable in between the Neo and my laptop. If you can match rectangle to rectangle, you can transfer your writing over to your computer, with no tech knowledge or software needed.

While using the Neo, I did feel a little odd in a coffee shop full of laptops. I also missed the ability to view short documents all in one window.

However, these issues are easily outweighed by the Neo's great usability!