Writing Devices–AlphaSmart Neo2

AlphaSmart Neo2
(Amazon “smile” link with affiliate code included)

I contacted Renaissance Learning back in June 2011, thinking maybe I could get my hands on a Neo2 as a new writing device.

I just tracked down the email I’d sent:

I understand that you market these devices primarily for education.
However, I first heard about the products from one of my writing magazines (full-page, full-color advertisements in nearly every issue), and it is in that capacity that I am interested in purchasing one.

A bit of background, if you will.
If you would like to skip ahead, I have marked the heading for the “business” part of this email as *bold*.

I recently purchased a Dana, used on eBay for testing purposes, to see if I would like using the device.
I love it; it’s a great way, as others have put it, to write free from the distractions that a typical computer provides, and since I got it used on eBay, it was much cheaper than buying a brand-new Dana (or a Neo, for that matter).
However, the battery life concerns me, as does the fact that it was used.
The second because it comes with no warranty of any kind, and I have no idea how long it will last.
The first because it came with no cables, thus no way to charge the built in battery (which was promptly disposed of when I received it–no way to tell if it was any good), I do not relish changing the batteries every day (I set up my computer to use it as the main keyboard, so it’s on all the time ), and if I have to pay out for yet more accessories, I may as well buy a brand new machine.

Which brings me to my point.

*I would like to buy a Neo2*
The RenLearn site prices the device at $139, cheaper than the original Neo and considerably cheaper than a new Dana…which is why I’m looking at the Neo2 instead of the original.

The expected 200 page limit (over all combined files) on either model should be more than sufficient for draft writing; assuming a chapter per file, a file a day, that should be more than enough to write a NaNo even without backing up to my computer…though I plan on making regular backups, regardless.
And the 700 hour battery life is what really sells me.

I haven’t made up my mind whether I want to get rid of the Dana (which would mean taking advantage of the trade-in offer) or convince my nephew to start writing more.
Assuming I try the second, I need another way to buy a Neo.
But I cannot find a link on the AlphaSmart/NeoDirect site (which only lists the original Neo) or the RenLearn site (which doesn’t seem to list a means to purchase any model) to purchase one. I am not interested in trying to bid on eBay (“Buy it Now” or not at all, as far as I’m concerned), and I cannot find it available anywhere else.

P.S. Also, I do have one technical question.

Since I am interested in the capacity as a writer, not an educator or student–even though that 200 page limit is more than sufficient, is it possible to increase it?
Such as by eliminating the smart apps that I would have no use for?
And could that be done directly on the AlphaSmart, or would that require configuring via a computer?

And here was their reply later the same day:

Thank you for contacting NEO Direct.  The NEO2 is available to the retail customer for the cost of $169.  The NEO2 was designed with a classroom situation in mind.  The added features that the NEO2 has to  offer over the NEO are ones that the typical retail individual do not find beneficial.  We require a school to purchase additional software and hardware to use the NEO2 to its full capabilities.  We have had individual retail customers purchase the NEO2 with the understanding that there are going to be features on the device that they are not going to be able to use.   We purposely removed the option to request a NEO2 purchase online on both of our web sites to assure our customers are matched with the proper device for their needs. If you would like to order a NEO2 or discuss it’s features further please contact one of our NEO Direct Retail Sales Reps.

The 200 pages capacity that we advertise has already taken the removal of unwanted Applets into consideration.  You may be able to get up to approximately 225 with some additional hidden Applets, such as spellcheck, thesaurus.  To do this requires the user to connect the NEO to a computer that has the NEO Manager program installed on it.

I hope you find this information useful.  Please review the attached documents for additional information or contact us with any concerns.

Thank you.

Seems to me that their website (at the time I’d sent this back in June 2011) and the email were contradicting each other, regarding the price.
Nowhere on the site did it say that lower price was only for educators, and that’s the only reason I can come up with for the difference.

And wasn’t the old Neo supposed to have a 200 page capacity already? I don’t remember.
If it did, how is the Neo2 having a 200 page capacity “more memory?”
Speaking as a Computer Science major, if there’s more memory for other applications, there’s no reason why the average consumer shouldn’t be able to remove those apps to use that extra memory for writing.

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9 Responses to Writing Devices–AlphaSmart Neo2

  1. Pingback: Writing Devices–AlphaSmart Neo | Side Quest Publications

  2. Hey there! I’ve been googling Neo2 and Dana FOREVER, and finally came upon this post. SO happy to see it, because I’m in the market for a device of this type, but I’m having a hard time finding other options. I hate to make a purchase with little knowledge of it, or its competitors in the market. I was hoping to find another writer to talk to about it. Do you know of/Have you look at any other options? The Neo2 looks workable, but the Dana is a bit tempting. I just don’t know if it’s $350 of tempting. I’m also concerned that the products are a bit old, since all my searches are turning up ancient (read: 2007) articles. Is there something newer out there?
    Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! 🙂


    • Part of the problem is that the only things I know for SURE about the Neo2 is what the company told me in that email; everything else is speculation I found in my own searches.

      As far as other options that I know of, I’ve described some of my attempts with different gadgets, all set in the “computers” category.

      What device works for you ultimately depends on your personal preferences–how much you want to store on it at any one time, whether you want memory card access, things like that.

      The Dana is basically just a giant PDA with an attached keyboard.
      The Neo is a “word processor” with a few extra features. And I assume the Neo2 is, as well.

      If you want/need the memory cards, you’re almost certainly going to want the Dana–I don’t know if the Neo2 can use memory cards, but the original Neo DOESN’T.
      On the other hand, if you back up your work frequently enough, you may be willing to do without the memory card access…and may be willing to do with the smaller storage available on the original Neo–approximately 20,000 words at my last estimate, though the per-file limit is much smaller (meaning you can’t create one file of roughly 15,000 and divide the remaining 5,000 among the other files).

      Then you have to look at internet access.
      The Dana, so far as I’m aware, comes in two models: one with, and one without, WiFi access. If you get the WiFi version, you have the added step of actually setting it up to work with whatever networks you have access to. If I remember right, it doesn’t work on certain types of security, so if the network is protected by WPA, WiFi probably won’t help you.
      Accessing the internet with the Neo2…relies on buying yet more accessories. It really is meant for classroom use.
      WiFi access wasn’t a big deal for me; I hook the Neo up to my computer, or my tablet, if I need to post anything online. But that may not be the same for everyone.

      There’s also the question of formatting.
      Do you want, or need, to format your text while typing it (italics, bold, etc)? Or are you willing to make do with html tags, or the underscore/asterisk method that Microsoft Word will convert for you, or even some other method that you devise yourself?
      The Dana allows in-file formatting, the original Neo does not…and I don’t know one way or another about the Neo2.

      Battery life:
      The original Neo is advertised at 700 hours before you need to replace batteries–or recharge them if you have the built-in rechargeable battery pack.
      The Dana is at only 25 hours.
      The Neo2…once again, I don’t know.
      This was a sticking point for me. I found myself having to compromise somewhere, and I ultimately chose the device with longer battery life.

      Plus there are far more than those three to choose from.
      I’ve noticed a lot of writers favor the AlphaSmart 3000; I’ve never had a chance to give that one a try, and since I’m pretty satisfied with my Neo, I probably never will try it.

      If you have any questions about specific other details, I’d be happy to answer what I can.

      Otherwise, if you are genuinely interested in one of the devices, I’m willing to part ways with my old (WiFi capable) Dana.
      Let’s see…the Dana, plus power cord and Dana-to-USB cord, plus software, plus a USB light, plus a couple of spare memory cards…. I’m pretty sure that was it.
      How does $85 sound?
      Then you could either drop three double-a batteries in, or acquire the rechargeable battery pack, for portable use.


      • Thanks so much for the reply! Lots of info in there. I’m leaning heavily toward the Neo2 at the moment. The AlphaSmart 3000 is so elementary looking… Translucent and all. I’d rather not have that kind of look.

        Your Dana offer is a good one. It’s just not the device for me. Thanks again! 🙂


        • I would highly recommend you take a look at the AlphaSmart website to see if you really need the features the Neo2 adds.
          Most of the features listed there seem geared towards classroom use, and everything from “battery life” on down is also available on the original Neo.
          Or take a look at the user manuals to compare the two: http://www.renlearn.com/neo/downloads/
          I’m guessing you still can’t buy the Neo2 without contacting the company directly. The ORIGINAL Neo, however, is now only available on sites like eBay.

          That’s fine; I was thinking about putting the Dana up on eBay to see if I can get any takers there, anyway. 🙂


        • Thanks for the suggestion! Makes sense. I don’t need any classroom feature crap. Haha.
          I’m a bit spoiled. I’ve never had anything used by anyone but me before, so I’m kind of afraid of used products. I probably can’t find a new Neo, huh? *sighs* I REALLY have a fear of used stuff. It’s crazy. I don’t even use library books.


        • Good luck finding one, then. 🙂
          I bought my Neo new on eBay, but all the ones up there now seem to be listed as “used.”
          Just keep watching, though; you might find something. If you have an eBay account, I believe you can set it up to save searches and receive alerts.


        • E. says:

          The NEO 2 is the latest model.
          There was a new NEO on Ebay.com for $70 buy it now just a few days ago, sweet deal. Did you get it?
          Don’t pay more than $30 for a used US DANA, there are tons out there.

          I have a NEO 2. To answer SideQuestPublications’ questions: 700 hours battery, no text formatting, can’t use memory cards or usb sticks.

          It has everything the NEO has, plus some classroom features( quizzes etc.), can upload your docs into Google docs if you also buy the Renaissance Receiver, and is dark grey instead of green.

          You can buy it directly from the company here: http://www.neo-direct.com/ for, as of now, $169.
          The link to buy is right on the front page under the product description. Green buttons that say “Add to cart”.
          The website renlearn.com is only for educators and so is the $149 price.

          On the UK site http://www.renlearn.co.uk it costs £169 for individuals and £139 for schools. The £139 is excluding VAT (taxes) so if you have to pay them it’s roughly the same.


        • Thank you for confirming what features the Neo2 has.
          Basically, same features as the original Neo, plus the classroom apps that I have no need for.

          I would like to point out, however, that in this case, you can’t judge by post date.
          The emails I included were nearly a year old, and at that time, it wasn’t possible to buy the Neo2 directly from the site. I was simply mistaken in assuming that was still the case, instead of checking the site out again. 😉


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