The folks at Astrohaus have been selling a line of distraction-free writing gadgets under the Freewrite brand for years. Straddling the line between laptops and typewriters, they’re basically keyboards with black and white displays, long battery life, and the ability to save what you write to cloud storage.

Freewrite devices ain’t cheap though, with prices currently ranging from $499 to $999. Soon there will be another, cheaper option though. The Freewrite Alpha is a compact writing device that will sell for $349, although backers of an upcoming crowdfunding campaign might be able to score one for less. But it’s an odd little device that might be hard to justify, even at that price.

The Freewrite Alpha is a 320 x 215 x 18mm (12.6″ x 8.5″ x 0.7″) slab device with a mechanical keyboard featuring Kailh chocV2 low profile switches (and support for other MX compatible keys). Above the keyboard is a small reflective monochrome FTSN LCD display. How small? It can display just 6 lines of 15 point text or 4 lines of 26 font text.

Not only do other Freewrite devices have bigger screens that can display more lines of text, but they have E Ink displays which offer a more paper-like viewing experience.

Since the Alpha has a reflective screen, it should be visible outdoors or in brightly lit rooms, but instead of black and white, it’s more of a black and grey experience similar to what you’d get from an old school digital watch.

There’s a kickstand that props up the back a bit, giving the keyboard a 15 degree tilt. But since the display isn’t much higher than the keyboard, you also may find yourself straining your neck by looking down at the screen for an extended period.

It’s not like the Freewrite Alpha is the first portable word processor to feature this sort of design though. In fact, it wears its inspiration very much on its sleeve (and the URL of the preview website), borrowing design ideas from the AlphaSmart device from the 1990s.

The Freewrite Alpha does have a few things going for it, include a relatively compact, portable design and long battery life. It weighs just 2 pounds and Alphahaus says you can expect up to 100 hours of battery life from a 4,200 mAh rechargeable battery.

The device has USB-C port for charging. You can also use it to transfer files to and from the device. And there’s also WiFi support, allowing you to download and install firmware updates or sync files to the cloud.

Alphahaus says the Freewrite Alpha has enough internal storage space for “1 million pages” of text, which suggests that it’s probably only got a few gigabytes of storage, if that much.

While the Freewrite Alpha will have a retail price of $349, it’s expected to be available for $249 and up to early backers of an upcoming Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. To score that price, you can enter your email address at the Alpha preview page and then reserve one for $1 ahead of the start of the crowdfunding campaign.

via Gizmodo, Input, and /r/AlphaSmart

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  1. Of course it is not for “you.” They have a demographic of “writers” (generally non-technical people) who want an appliance, like the NEO to “Be Real Writers™” on. Most of the writer-creativity crowd is all about “just writing” and doing editing later.

    Lucrative niche, apparently. I spent the $1 for a deeper look. It’s probably a contribution and nothing more.

    1. Based on the name, I suspect they’re actually trying to copy Alphasmart wordprocessor devices.

      1. Which the Cambridge Z88 existed before

        The Z88 had a flat keyboard, a line LCD and a back stand to raise it.

    1. Arrows are there, on the left, as a further function that can supersede letter keys. Just not dedicated arrows. I never plan to use them due to forward-typing mentality this device espouses.

  2. typewriter with ugly keyboard? without nationality char (specific language) no programming chars (for example for latex)
    no pgup,down? , screen small and short working time in one charge?
    sorry not for me. I’m wayting on good device open source

      1. You can get pretty close if you install a linux distro with no desktop environment. Just do everything in Nano or EMACS.
        For $250 you’d have to look into chromebooks or education laptops (or the pinebook pro) but it’d still be more productive than this.
        You can even leave the wifi on to save to network attached storage.

          1. I know that, I did that once. But since you can’t get the freewrite alpha used, I figured it was fair to only consider products you can get new.