Product Reviews

Freewrite Alpha is the cheapest smart typewriter Astrohaus has made yet | Engadget

Last year, I tried the Freewrite Smart Typewriter — an expensive, single-purpose E Ink typewriter that does one thing very well. It lets you draft text with an excellent keyboard and zero distractions. If you’re a serious writer, there’s a lot to like about it, but it is most definitely not cheap; Astrohaus, the company behind the Freewrite, even raised the prices of its products, including the full-size model and the portable laptop-style Freewrite Traveler, earlier this year. 

Today, though Astrohaus is unveiling a third device that they’ve been teasing for a few weeks now, the Freewrite Alpha. The most important thing to know is that the Alpha will be priced at $349, or $249 if you purchase via the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that starts today. That’s still not cheap, but it’s half the price of the Freewrite Traveler while still offering the same core features as the other products in the lineup.

The Freewrite Alpha is a small two-pound slate with a pop-out kickstand that probably isn’t quite as portable as the Traveler, but should still be quite easy to carry with you just about anywhere. Despite the small size, it nevertheless has a full-size mechanical keyboard with Kailh Choc V2 low-profile switches. My guess is that they’ll have a lot more travel than the laptop-style keyboard on the Traveler, though they probably won’t be quite as satisfying a typing experience as you’ll get with the Kailh Box Brown keyboard on the full-size Smart Typewriter. 

Alan Burns

It’s also the first Freewrite to use an LCD display rather than the E Ink screens on the other models. It’s a smaller screen than the already-small displays on other Freewrite models; it can display between two and six lines of text, depending on the font size you use. Given that Freewrite devices are meant specifically for drafting rather than editing, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but you will see less copy on this device than other ones. You can scroll back up and see what you’ve written and used the WASD keys to move your cursor around, but I’ve found that, for the most part, I just plow ahead and write. 

Astrohaus says that the LCD display is reflective and uses ambient light, so it’s not quite the same as looking at a glowing rectangle like your phone or iPad. But it likely won’t be quite as easy on the eyes as the E Ink screen on other Freewrites. But on the other hand, the refresh rate should be much quicker. As for battery life the Alpha should last about 100 hours. Past Freewrites haven’t had specific battery estimates; Astrohaus just say they last weeks between charges. 

Freewrite Alpha

Alan Burns

There are a lot of things the Alpha has in common with other Freewrite models. Everything you write is automatically saved to the device locally, and — assuming you connect it to WiFi — everything is also backed up to the cloud and available in the Freewrite Postbox web app. You also don’t have to use this proprietary service, as the Alpha can also back up to Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive. For the old school among us, you can also connect the Alpha to a computer and pull the local files off via its USB-C port (this is also used for charging). 

If you’re interested, the aforementioned Indiegogo campaign is live now, but devices aren’t expected to ship until July of 2023. That’s a long wait for this product, but the current $249 price point is a lot more affordable than any previous Freewrite — so if this device catches your eye, it might be worth checking out on Indiegogo. While Freewrite devices are expensive, I can say from experience that they really can help you focus on writing, provided you can keep away from your phone, of course.

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