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Hands On with the No-Distractions Traveler Laptop | News and opinion

If you make an Amazon Kindle-sized e-ink display with a desktop keyboard, you'll get something like the freewrite, a redesigned typewriter that wants to rid serious writers of an avalanche of Internet distractions.

Now Astrohaus, the startup behind the Freewrite, introduces a second product – a laptop – that aims to remove a few less-than-needed components of Freewrite and combine the best of it into a much smaller package that you can easily You can take it with you in a purse or a backpack

It's called the traveler, and at first glance, it might seem absurdly silly. The entire laptop shares the footprint of the keyboard, making it long and slim when closed. Open the cover like any other laptop, and a white plastic plate welcomes you instead of a color LCD that you would expect.

In the center of the white plastic rectangle is a square e-ink display, the same type used by e-readers as the Kindle. It is divided into two parts: in the upper part you type in your manuscript, in the lower part you can display basic information such as a word count or a timer to keep track of how long you have already written.

How to Enter your words automatically via Wi-Fi into your Dropbox, Evernote or Google Drive account. Aside from tapping, the traveler's functionality is limited to selecting a cloud folder where you can save your work, customize the Wi-Fi settings, and view basic information in the lower half of the screen. That's it. There is not even an option for copy and paste, spell check, or text formatting such as italics and bold.

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This intentionally limited functionality is Freewrite's central attraction, as Astrohaus co-founder Adam Leeb told PCMag. The company estimates that since the start of regular production in 2016, people have written more than 45 million words using freewrite.

But this device is basically a modern typewriter. It's big and cumbersome, with some weirdly huge levers to customize the Dropbox folder you're about to use, or turn the Wi-Fi radio on and off. Leeb saw the opportunity for a more wearable folding design that holds the essential parts of the freewrite while dropping some of its masses and gimmicks.

As a result, the Traveler weighs less than 2 pounds, far lighter than the weight of conventional ultra-portable laptops like the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro hovering around the 3-pound mark. While losing weight, the Astrohaus designers have swapped the huge levers and replaced them with more discreet buttons to move through folders and set the Wi-Fi.

No Mechanical Keyboard

Unfortunately, they also had to drop one of Freewrite's main selling points: its mechanical keyboard, complete with Cherry MX Brown key switches. Instead, the Traveler uses a scissor-style design that's loosely based on the legendary Lenovo ThinkPad keyboards. During a brief demo, I found the keys comfortable, with plenty of room, though they were not as comfortable to type as a standalone mechanical keyboard.

There is a lithium-ion battery, just as in conventional laptops, assuming for about four weeks, you will enter on the traveler for about an hour a day. In addition to Cloud Sync, you can also connect the device to a computer using the included USB cable to transfer your files via drag-and-drop.

  Freewrite Traveler 2

Much the rest of the freewrite tech remains identical, including the e-ink display. It's a strange typing experience, as the repetition rate means a noticeable delay between the impact of a finger on a key and the appearance of a character on the screen. If you've ever shot an ebook page on a Kindle, you know what I mean. The screen is also quite small compared to the traveler's body, Leeb admitted, but extending it to fill the rest of the display lid would have meant "supply chain issues," as he put it.

Traveler is expensive to make, which means that like the $ 599 Freewrite, at face value it will be absurdly expensive for what it is. Astrohaus plans to use a crowdfunding approach to gauge interest so pre-orders for the traveler will start at $ 269, but the full price will be the same $ 599 as its big brother. Considering that you can get a full-featured Windows laptop for less than $ 500, the Traveler looks like a dubious proposition. On the other hand, if one is tempted to laugh about the device as overpriced hipster equipment, they miss the point, according to Leeb. "We get authors coming from MacBooks," he explained. That is, people who are frustrated by the inconvenience of typing on the keys of a laptop and distracted by its excellent web browser, email client and social media apps

Get rid of all this software while dramatically increasing typing comfort admittedly not as much as the original Freewrite boosts) could be worth well over $ 599, especially if your income is directly related to your writing productivity.

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