The Astrohaus Freewrite Traveler is a glorified word processor that's key feature is its lack of features; it's main selling point is that it is a distraction free writing tool. The concept is very alluring to tech junkies and creative writers like myself, but I found the product itself to be a big flop.
This is 100% the type of device you will buy, use once, and forget to ever crack it open again.
The cost is high relatively compared to other devices, but if you're a professional writer and you can use this to get some extra hours of focused writing in (like I said, you probably won't) it may be worth it to you, but you'd be an outlier.
This product was re-gifted to me by Nate after it was re-gifted to him by a mutual friend of ours who had it gifted to him, so it was gifted three times in the span of a few weeks. I thought it would be a good idea to try it out and give my honest review on how I like it and if I'd recommend it to all of you.
Long story short: I don't really like it, either...
However, that doesn't mean I hate the concept of an e-ink word processor, but the product definitely isn't worth the ticket price of $449.99 (Which is a discount from the usual $599.99).
Also, to really get the best experience that I could out of this smart typewriter, I wrote the first draft of this article with the FreeWrite Traveller (similarly to how I use Shortly.AI to write my review on it).
What Is the FreeWrite Traveler
The Astrohaus FreeWrite Traveler is a smaller version of the original Freewrite. Originally started as a crowdfunded business, the FreeWrite is an e-ink product that serves as a digital, analog word processor meant to work as a distraction free writing tool.
The Traveler is a smaller version of the original Freewrite. It is a portable version, meant for analog writing (perfect for when you are trying to focus on just writing and need to block out distractions).
You can type whatever you feel like, you will see it appear on the e-ink display screen, and it will then immediately store itself into your Postbox account where you can continue the drafting process.
That can then be ported to your google drive or Microsoft Dropbox. Postbox is a third party website that stores your documents, and from there can be ported elsewhere. The device itself has three folders, but could theoretically hold millions of documents in both the device and in the cloud.
Who Is It For?
The Freewrite Traveler is gonna be for someone who has a lot to write but can't seem to focus on just writing, which in all honesty can be a bit of a problem for a lot of people. The biggest audience for this project seems to come from professional and creative writers. They use the Traveler to quickly disconnect from external distractions and just focus on writing.
There have been plenty of times where I was writing an article and then got distracted by some popup on my laptop that sidetracked me for 15, sometimes even 30 minutes. I can make it only a few lines before my eyes wander to my cell phone or I look out my window.
When I write, I feel like a golden retriever and all I gotta do is catch the tennis ball to get the doggy bone, and then BOOM! I see a squirrel running across the window and then waste 5 minutes of my life barking at the window (which is like 35 minutes in dog years).
The biggest customer base comes from people who either write for a living or write creatively as a hobby and need . We only get paid for writing good content in a timely manner, and distractions cost us time and money.
As something of a writer myself, I kind of fit into that audience. When you make money writing blogs for a living (or at least part of your living), that essentially makes me and every blogger out there professional writers, right?
What I Liked
It is definitely a fun idea. I like the concept of just being out and about and having the ability to just stop and type ideas in a distraction free environment. This concept, I believe, has a lot of potential for future products. I am studying Computer Science part time at the Ohio State University and I told Nate while I was writing this article,
"I wish there was a version of this device that you could use as a programming scratchpad for languages like Java and C++. College students like me would eat it up!"
Here are some general things that I really like about the FreeWrite Traveler:
- It's a Cool Device: It is a sleek and creative way to simplify the writing process and eliminate the distractions you encounter in a traditional laptop
- I Like the E-ink Screen: The e-ink screen is really aesthetic and the font is reminiscent of a traditional typewriter
- It is Environmentally Friendly: It has half the carbon footprint as traditional laptops
- Strong Battery: It has a super long battery life. Astrohaus claims that the battery will last you 14 Days!
- You Don't Need wi-fi: It is really useful for when you are traveling or get separated from the internet for a long time
- Progress Tracker: You can see word count and reading time as you are writing, which are good things to know for most writers.
What I Disliked
To be brutally honest, I really don't think this thing is worth the high ticket price.
It is a great idea in theory, but I can't help but feel like the execution was flawed. In an effort to be simple and efficient, the Freewrite Traveler is too simple at the cost of efficiency.
Here are some reasons why I don't like it:
- Serious Keyboard Lag: The User interface is slow and awkward and there is way too much lag between the Keyboard and the e-ink display.
- No Grammar/Spell Checks: There is no grammar or spell check software to quickly fix errors that arise on your e-ink screen. You aren't gonna be able to correct your errors in the first draft, which wastes a bunch of time.
- The Arrow Keys Don't Work: Navigating the document is incredibly difficult, and the scissor switch keys don't work as effectively as a CTRL or Command Key on actual Laptop Keyboards.
- The Device Quickly Shows Wear and Tear: It isn't made for "on-the-go" durability, and will quickly begin to show scratches, dents, and fingerprints
- The E-Ink Displays Are too small: The e-ink screen size is way smaller than it needs to be, and about half of the screen panel is wasted on whitespace.
- Ugly, Ineffective Case: I don't like how shiny the Traveler case is. It looks like something I would have used in elementary school back in 2007 to practice my typing skills.
- Short Battery: The battery life is way shorter than they claim.
- Way Too Overpriced: These issues I have mentioned wouldn't be a problem if the product was cheaper, but it has a retail price of $600, so I have to critique it as a $600 product. In no universe would I say I am getting my money's worth.
In an effort to be as simple as possible, the interface and navigation on the e-ink display screen becomes incredibly convoluted, laggy, and pointlessly difficult. Navigating the pages, lines, and folders for past mistakes is an absolute nightmare.
A high price isn't inherently bad, but there needs to be actual value to back it up.
You can't just say "Give me $100 Dollars for this apple" without some very unique and powerful properties of that specific apple.
Though a product will always be worth what people are willing to pay for it, there isn't enough value in the product itself to justify what that price is.
Freewrite Traveler Alternatives
I am not really a fan of "e-Ink" tools, but there are plenty of other ways to keep writing without any distractions.
Going with airplane mode should (theoretically) do the trick.
There are other word processors on Amazon that aren't marketed as well as the Freewrite but will give you the same effect.
There are options like this one that use real paper and ink (just actual typewriters) and digital ones like this that are a bit more similar to the Freewrite Traveler.
Other writers have flocked to these though and the prices are all much higher now on these outdated devices than you'd expect.
Like they say, "what's classic just gets more classic over time," I suppose.
I would say that while it is a cool idea, the product itself leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you're positive you'd actually make this concept work (like I did, and was wrong) and don't mind it's physical shortcomings, I would stay clear of it for now.