I will admit it, I am a bit of a Ludite, and I am proud of it. My Telephone makes phone calls, it does not take photos, play videos, or even MP3’s, it just makes phone calls. My watch tells me the time, and it does it in easy clear to read numbers, it does not have GPS, a pedometer, or an altimeter in it. My printer prints, it does not fax, copy, scan, or make coffee. I am a firm believer in keeping things simple, with simple there is less to go wrong.

The Neo is a great example of what I like to call sophisticated simplicity. The Neo does typing! You type it, and it stores it. OK, it does a few more things, but it is essentially a portable and simplistic word processor. Better still, it runs for 700 hours on 3 AA batteries, that is approximately 698 hours longer than the average Laptop.

I managed to get my hands on a Neo a couple of days ago, and decided that today was the perfect day to take it out for a real test drive. In fact this review was written on the Neo, but more about that later. I have a 45 minute commute to and from work, and this looked like the perfect test ground.

Then came my first minor gripe, the Neo does not come with a carrying case, but it does easily fit into any small laptop bag (and I have dozens of them). So armed with the Neo and the documentation I headed out of the door, and right into a blizzard! Oh the joys of living in Calgary.

On the journey to work I decided to do something a little out of character, I decided to read the book. My excuse? Well it is pretty unusual these days to actually get a book with a tech product. The help is either embedded, online, or on a CD. The Neo comes with a really nice 148 page guide that covers just about everything you could wish to know. Better still it is written in plain english, that is a first! No direct machine translation from Taiwanese, no ‘Geek Speak’, just regular english. Kudos to the company.

The Neo is text based, and has no snazzy mouse, just the keyboard, so I have to admit I was somewhat concerned about usability, how do you select text, how do you copy/cut/paste etc. For those of you that are fans of Jamie Oliver on the Food Channel, the answer is ‘Easy Peesy’. A few months ago I had a minor stroke, and as a result my right hand is not quite as dexterous as it used to be, I favor keyboard commands rather than the mouse. Well AlphaSmart have implemented a very standard set of commands, just like windows CTRL-C copies, CTRL-X cuts, and CTRL-V pastes. Pretty much what works in Windows works on the Neo. Selecting text is equally easy.

So on the ride home from work, I wrote this review. Now I will be the first to admit that my spelling is not the best, I gave the Neo a good workout as a result.

The book says there are several ways to exchange data with the computer. There is a ‘host’ application ‘The AlphaSmart Manager’, using this from either a Windows or Mac platform you can send and receive from the host computer. But, thought I, what if you are on foreign turf, all you want to do is send your file someplace?

I had the perfect test bed for this experiment! Let me explain how I create articles for this News Site. I write them either on a Linux based computer in Open Office, or a Windows computer running XP in MS Office, I do that because I need a spellchecker. I then copy/paste into a text based program like Notepad or Kwrite, from there I Copy/Paste into WordPress, which is the publishing software we use here at Blogger News. I have to do it this way because the ‘Office’ products have their own ‘tags’, and I need plain text and a few HTML tags for WordPress.

The Neo manual led me to believe that it was capable of importing into any application that can accept text. So I used my Linux based system to access the website, and put WordPress into new article mode. Next I switched on the Neo and selected the file. I installed the USB cable, the NEO saw the connection and told me to press the send button. I did that, and magic happened! My article, (this article) appeared in WordPress complete with the HTML, just as if I had typed it direct!

This is great! I was so excited I deleted it, and called my wife over so she could watch it as well! Her excitement level did not match mine, but she is a Cajun, maybe they are more restrained in expressing their emotions?

The Neo gets a five star rating from me. In part 3, we are going to explore some of the other features in the Neo, including its use in a classroom setting, so stay tuned.

If you want one of these critters for yourself, check out their web site.

Simon Barrett


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