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The Freewrite Traveler is a good, however costly, devoted moveable writing laptop computer

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As a hardware startup Astrohaus is characterized by unique offers that are specifically aimed at writers and writers. His debut product, Freewrite, looked like an old school portable typewriter with an e-ink screen. Now it's back with a new device that it has been working on for the past several years: The Freewrite Traveler. This more portable e-ink typewriter has a clamshell design and is not much bigger than a Nintendo Switch. This makes it a flexible companion for writing.

The basics

Astrohaus started teasing the traveler a few years ago before finally launching an Indiegogo Crowdfunding campaign in November 2018 to make it. The crowdfunding was very successful, raising over $ 600,000 on the platform before the end of the campaign and over $ 200,000 in pre-orders thereafter. As with many hardware endeavors, there have been some delays compared to the original delivery time, but now with Freewrite The traveler sends to pre-booked customers.

Credit: Darrell Etherington

In terms of specs, with regular use, it has a battery life of up to four weeks and weighs less than two pounds. The foldable design is roughly half the surface area of ​​most laptops. The screen in the upper half is an e-ink display, and there is a sub-screen that shows information such as network status. In the lower half is the keyboard with a spring travel of over 2 mm for a great keypress feeling.

The case, like most components, is plastic and the exterior is glossy black. Like the original Freewrite, the Traveler establishes a WiFi connection and allows you to register an account for synchronization with up to three separate document folders. If you are out of WiFi range, your work is saved locally and can be synchronized via the Freewrite integrations every time you connect to the cloud service of your choice.

Design and functions

The Traveler design is all about portability and convenience, while maintaining key usability features that make the original Freewrite an ideal device for focused writing. The clamshell design is intentionally big enough to fit comfortably on the full-size keyboard, but just like the original, it keeps the screen small, making it more portable and reducing distractions to a minimum – aided by the fact that you are doing everything Text is entered on it as there are no apps, browsers or other functions.

Astrohaus has come very close to its original vision for the traveler, with a few small changes including the hinge design. The end result is a lightweight and durable portable digital typewriter with a keyboard that feels great for typing – better than any laptop in my experience. The keyboard really is the star of the show here as this is a device designed specifically for typing. Travel feels ample, especially for a notebook-style device, and the raised, rounded keycap slots make it easy to type comfortably all day long if you want.

Credit: Darrell Etherington

The display is small, but offers excellent legibility and excellent contrast. Note, however, that you will need to provide your own light source as, like the original Freewrite, there is no backlighting or front lighting built in and E-Ink does not offer their own light like LED.

However, e-ink is incredibly energy efficient, which is why the Traveler offers so much useful life. In my tests, it has been running on its original charge for almost two weeks, which is what Astrohaus estimates.

The Traveler's case has a glossy black piano exterior that looks nice but is quick to fingerprint. Existing Freewrite users may find that the display also has a slightly glossy sheen, with the original being completely matte. According to Astrohaus, this is due to a thin piece of optically transparent plastic that extends the full width of the clamshell to protect the e-ink display from the keyboard. For me, it wasn't a usability or quality issue, just an indication of differences.

Credit: Darrell Etherington

Astrohaus came up with a design that stands out from the crowd no matter what you think of the piano's black finish. The contrast of the black with the white interior gives it a unique, peculiar and attractive design, which ensures that you never confuse the traveler with any other device. And the materials keep it light and durable, so you can easily take it with you wherever you want.

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The Traveler's hinge allows them to open up to approximately 135 degrees, which is a good position for laptop typing. It can also be positioned at an angle less than that if you raised it by a table or desk.

Bottom line

The Freewrite Traveler is a unique device with a special draw for people who focus on a writing tool that has all the benefits of cloud connectivity without the disadvantages of a multipurpose tool like a laptop or computer. It can be synced with Dropbox. Evernote or Google Drive, so you can easily create a cross-device workflow for completing manuscripts and drafts. However, the Traveler ensures that you concentrate on the task at hand – and have fun doing it.

A portable digital writing instrument like this one is not unique in the world – many distraction-free writing enthusiasts use the Japanese product line Pomera for this purpose. However, Astrohaus is unique in delivering hardware tailored to the North American and European markets, and they have done an excellent job of realizing this device's potential even in a field of relatively few competitors.

The Traveler is pretty expensive at $ 599, but there's really nothing like it if you want a laser-focused writing instrument that combines portability with great ergonomics, long-lasting battery, and cloud storage convenience.

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Katherine Clark