Neo 2 Now $119 New

I just got an email from Renaissance Learning. They’ve cut the price of their Neo 2 to $119.

And currently, they’re tossing in a free case/portfolio.

If you need to write on the go, but can’t afford a laptop, or if you will be traveling in areas where you’ll be without access to AC power for days, you might find a Neo 2 an acceptable substitute. It’ll get about 700 hours (yes, that is seven-hundred hours) off a single set of AA batteries.

You type on a normal keyboard and edit on a small LCD screen. When you’re ready to work on your writing on a computer, simply connect it up like a USB keyboard and stream the text into an application such as Scrivener. The link above will take you to a page with more details.


Those considering buying a Neo 2, can get more about what it can and can’t do by going here:

and downloading the user manual. I did and was quite impressed with all the little features they added to what I thought was little more than a fancy recording keyboard. You can, for instance, create chapters, separate scenes by double carriage returns, and it can display the first line of each, allowing you to jump to just the scene you want. You can also do searches of all your documents, not just the one you’re looking at. That sort of thing gets around the fact that you can only see about 5 lines at a time.

In addition to an inexpensive alternative to a laptop, you might find it valuable in another way. If ideas or short passages of prose/poetry come to you at work, in the kitchen or wherever, you might keep a Neo 2 nearby. It starts up into a document in about two seconds, far faster than any laptop or smartphone. You can then capture that idea, typing on a full-sized keyboard, and later load it into your regular computer.

Also, keep in mind that, if you write in Markdown, the fact that it is text only (no formatting) won’t matter. If fact, because you have a full-character keyboard, it’ll be easier than jumping to other screens to get characters for Markdown.

That said, I do admit that I rarely use the Neo 2 I picked up cheaply at a thrift store. What I’m really looking forward to is Scrivener on my iPad.

Hint, hint…


The Neo team just sent me another email reminder that the Neo 2 is still $119, which is “about our lowest price ever on the versatile NEO 2—now only $119…an incredible value, especially for aspiring writers on tight budgets. NEO 2 is the ultimate low-cost, go anywhere writing tool that’s affordable, flexible, and so simple to use.”

More details are here:

I wouldn’t get the rechargeable batteries for it though. When regular AA batteries give up 700 hours of use, why klutz with rechargeable ones that last only 200 hours and run down faster sitting on the shelf?

I’ve been wrestling with why I don’t use mine although I like the concept. It’s probably because I’m not in a context where it works best. When I go to the library to write, my MacBook is much better since it lets me do web research. And when the iPad version of Scrivener comes out, I plan to use it with a Bluetooth keyboard, leaving me with less to lug about.

Where a Neo 2 would be marvelous is for situations that don’t fit my life right now. It’d be great for those who want to write while commuting by mass transit, including buses, subways and trains. And with the see-in-bright-sunlight screen, it’s also be great for writing on park benches or at the beach. Reasons:

  1. Even the most die-hard, ‘I can type on my glass screen’ fans will have to admit that doesn’t work well when you’re bouncing around in your seat. A real keyboard with tactile feedback is better then.

  2. Having an iPad in my lap during a commute would make me worry about that pricey gadget falling to the floor and getting damaged. The Neo 2 is designed for grade school students. That’s probably more abusive that the military’s MilSpec testing.

  3. Thief magnet. Any smartphone or tablet attracts thieves who might grab it from your hands and run. I doubt they’ll be attracted to a Neo 2 that looks like a quirky green keyboard.

  4. Conversation starter. Sit next to a cute member of the opposite sex and your smartphone won’t start any conversation. Everyone is using those. But a different-looking Neo 2 just might, and it’d convey that you are practical and march to your own drummer.

All that is something to think about. Where I live in Washington state, the sales tax I’d pay on a new MacBook Air is more than a new Neo 2 would cost. Just make sure it really fits your lifestyle before buying it.

–Michael W. Perry, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments