AlphaSmart NEO vs. AlphaSmart Dana
First and foremost, What are these? Basically, these are obsolete portable word processors (circa 2000-2006). They are all but forgotten today.
With the exception of a group of writers. It’s their interest in these devices that piqued my interest. I’d like to share with you a couple of these lesser known, yet widely misunderstood underdogs of the writing world.
This review is from a writer’s point of view.
The devices discussed here are old, and disregarded by most people.
The way I see it, if writers can still use fountain pens, parchment and ancient DOS based word processors (you know who I’m talking about!) for their writing rituals, why not obsolete technlogy from a company that no longer exists?
I’m a newcomer to discovering the (now defunct) AlphaSmart line of products for writing. I am proud to call myself an owner and user of two of these writing wonders!
These devices were initially marketed and geared toward schools. Teachers and students specifically. They are no longer produced, and considered obsolete by many, including myself. Technology has surpassed and need for such items and have been replaced by far better, and advanced, equipment.
Stating The Obvious
None of these products are intended to replace todays computers, tablets or laptops. To some writers (me), they are a diversion, a supplement if you will, to my writing wants.
I often read about people’s writing habits. I’m a writer, it’s what I do. Sometimes as I read, I discover habits and devices that I’d like to attempt or perhaps implement into my own writing routine.
On more than one occasion, and by more than one writer, I’ve read favorable references to writing devices such as NEO, Dana, 2000(2K), or 3000(3K) writing devices.
They claimed these devices offered:
“Distraction Free Writing!”
“Full Size Keyboard!”
“LCD Screen For Outdoor Writing!”
“Easy usage and painless transfer to computer! “
There were other quotes, but I was sold at “Distraction Free Writing!”
They were all made by one company…
When I googled AlphaSmart I discovered that this company was no more. They were now owned by another company that didn’t carry hardware at all.
So I went back to my usual way of writing, not giving much thought to it. However, I kept going back, wanting to know more about these wonderful writing tools.
As it turns out, these devices can be purchased today from ebay or Amazon just to name a couple of places. Prices vary greatly depending on condition of the unit. (Remember, these haven’t been produced in a long time. They are sold used, refurbished and “as is”). Take a look at the respective site of your choice for ordering information.
There are some common elements regardless of which model you choose. It’s safe to say at this point that I’ll stay away from the 2K and 3K models. I read many reviews and most of them pointed out a very stiff and not too friendly keyboard. From this point forward, the comparisons I’ll be making are intended for the NEO and Dana models
Both the NEO and Dana use the same style rechargeable battery pack. My advice?
Stay away from the rechargeable battery packs.
From what I’ve read, these rechargeable battery packs are at least eight years old or older. They WILL fail. Period.
The NEO and Dana run perfectly well on three (not four like you’ll read in other reviews) AA batteries. Of course AA batteries are plentiful and easy to get. And they’ll be much better than any years old rechargeable battery unit ever will.
With That Being Said..
You’ll also see a description that a power supply is either included with it or not. The power supply is not a vital or even necessary part of the either of these devices, especially if you read the “three AA battery” part. The power supply is intended to charge the rechargeable battery pack that’s bound to let you down…see the connection?
OK, so now that’s out of the way. Invest in a pack of AA batteries just to be safe. But in all reality, you won’t need THAT many…especially if you choose the NEO.
Choose a NEO if:
• You’d like a newer unit. The NEO was released after the Dana. It’s about 2 years newer. It’s a lot easier to use, true story.
• You take an oath to send your writing progress to your computer at least 2-3 times a week. Take this oath for yourself, not for me or anyone else.
- You can be satisfied in working with a very limited amount of font sizes. Although they range anywhere from one line on the screen to eleven, all it’s really doing is squeezing as much as possible onto the screen.
• You’re not familiar or have no desire to learn an obsolete Palm OS system. If you can’t remember what a Palm Pilot or PDA is, or its place in the history lineage of electronic devices, choose NEO.
Choose Dana if:
- You prefer an actual (although outdated) Operating System to manage your writing documents
- You are familiar with Palm OS’s process for installation and managing software
- You like the idea of being able to back up your writings on SD cards. I inserted a 1gb SD micro card I had and it was immediately recognized. >
- It’s absolutely necessary for you to have a backlight on your device. (I will say the backlight on the Dana is NOT its strongest point)
- You have great eyesight and can stand to look at small fonts for long periods of time. (says the guy wearing bifocals)
You don’t HAVE to learn Palm OS to enjoy the Dana, Alphaword works superbly. But to experience all it has to offer, it may worthwhile.
“You can’t wrong with either one if you plan to just type to your heart’s content and transfer to a computer later.”
Both devices connect via USB cable to either Mac or PC and transfer what you’ve written without any fancy software or other issues. Just be forewarned…the transfer is done letter by letter, line by line. Meaning you can watch what you’ve typed earlier being retyped into your favorite word processing program on your computer. I’ve tested it with MS Word, Pages, Storyist, Scrivener and had ZERO issues with any of them. The Dana transfers this information a lot faster than NEO.
I wouldn’t recommend editing on either the NEO or Dana. Although possible, either device proved to be much too tedious. Especially seeing as though you’ll be sending to a computer. There are far superior editing tools on your computer to waste time fiddling with editing on the Dana or NEO. Just let your creativity flow.
It’s not necessary with the NEO or Dana for it to have a rechargeable battery, power supply or CD back ups of software. In fact, staying away from all that makes for a better experience. The software for NEO/Dana is still available on the company’s website. (You’ll have to Google)
If you decide on the NEO, I’d strongly recommend you google and download management software called NEO manager, download management software for the NEO. In fact, if I can make a suggestion, I’d strongly recommend you download the NEO manager NOW so you don’t have to do it when your NEO arrives. Also, while you’re at it, google and download NEO fonts. This is a freeware package of fonts for use with the NEO. It’s really just different sizes of the pretty much the same font, but it works well.
By now you can tell I’m somewhat biased toward the NEO. And I admit, I am. The Dana is a superb device in its own right. I ordered a Dana eleven days after receiving my NEO.
My reaction to the NEO was “WOW! This is what I’ve been looking for!”
It’s attraction is its simplicity, not only in execution but design as well.
My reaction to the Dana was more disheartening than excitement. I think it’s because my initial purchase was NEO.
Dana has a MUCH steeper learning curve. (The whole Palm OS thing) However, once I overcame the OS nuisances (read: deleted the unneeded apps) I’m completely satisfied with both purchases!
Fortunately, I once owned a PDA about 10 years ago (Back in MY day). There is so much about the Palm interface I didn’t use then and certainly won’t use now. The Dana has two distinct advantages that makes it a keeper for me.
- HUGE advantage over saving documents. They use TWO (count ‘em) slots for storing documents. Saving progress on removable memory cards.
- Backlight display.
Once I figured out how to turn on the backlight I wasn’t too thrilled. It was so darned…DIM.
To accomodate dimly lit or dark places with the NEO, I attached a reading light to my lap desk, not the NEO itself. This provided just the right amount of light not only on the display but on the keyboard too so I could see what I was doing. Not so with the Dana. The backlight barely provides enough illumination for the screen much less your keyboard. Doesn’t look like I’ll be retiring the reading light anytime soon.
And while we’re talking about screens…
The NEOs screen is far better than Dana! While neither screen is an award winner, the better of the two is clearly (and I mean that literally) the NEO.
If you’re looking for a writing tool that offers you a simple approach to releasing your next or first great novel look no further! You can’t make a wrong choice between NEO or Dana.
Random Ramblings and outtakes from this post
If you’re in need of a distraction free device that’s capable of handling your cherished tales or rants and complaints, The NEO is far less a hassle than the Dana, that’s for sure.Palm OS…Indeed!
Before I forget…
Be sure to look at some Youtube videos to see if Dana/NEO is what you’re looking for. A word of caution though; watching videos is what got me started!
My personal advice to those juggling Dana or NEO. Choose the NEO. Although the Dana has some additional features. These are features that you will never use or will cause distractions. And wasn’t the reason for looking into a distraction free device is so you can be…distraction free?
NEO/Dana are strictly creative tools. If you’ve ever had that bothersome itch deep within your soul. These tools will help release that which that is aching to get out of your system.
“I can’t recommend this product enough. It’s been my driving force since I purchased them” -Riterrick, shortly before starting this post