Freewrite, a Mechanical Connected Typewriter [Review]

Freewrite, a Mechanical Connected Typewriter [Review]

March 02, 2017 16:23 EST • Alexandre Vallières-Lagacé • 9 minutes read

If you are reading this blog you know I hold a special place in my heart for mechanical keyboards. Also, being in my thrities and being connected, I suffer from a lack of attention and often find myself having trouble focusing on the task at hand. What if I told you there was a way for you to get your writing done in an environment where there are no distractions and it would be cloud connected without any distraction? Also this magical device would introduce you to a technique where you can only type and hit backspace, without a way to move your cursor around. There are no arrows and editing cannot be achieve unless you are willing to go back and erase a big chunk of text. You are getting curious, right?

This device is called the Freewrite by Astrohaus and provides you with the perfect distraction-free environment I promised above. The Freewrite is a typewriter looking smart device that includes a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown keyswitches on a 60% format keyboard and with a custom space bar keycap. The other half of the device includes a mechanical folder selector switch (A, B or C) and a Wi-Fi selector (OFF, ON, New) that opens the Wi-Fi selection user inteface.

A mechanical keyboard with a screen!

And finally, the centerpice is reserved for an electronic ink screen that allows you to see about 9 lines of text. A smaller screen below it displays the date, the keyboard language and an icon representing where the file will be synced to. You can change the information displayed there to be the time to read, number of words, a clock (digital or analogue), and even a timer that can be used to keep tabs on how much time per day you right.

The keyboard also has special keys like Page Up and Page Down to read back what you wrote, a Send button to upload to the cloud your file (or via email if you do not configure your cloud sync) and a special key that allows you to you to use a few other special functions; like turning off the backlight or changing the content of the secondary display. The under side is made of a soft plastic and it has large rubber feet to stay well in place when you use it on any surface.

A small thing that also helps to bring back the idea of the typewriter is the handle on the top of the device. you can easily carry it with you as if it was a small briefcase. Just like old folks did in their younger days!

Features

  • World’s First Smart Typewriter
  • Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX keyswitches
  • 4 Weeks Battery Life
  • USB Rechargeable (via the included USB-C cable)
  • Cloud syncs to Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote
  • Connection encrypted via SSL

Performance

This typewriter is really a joy to use! It’s been close to 10 years since I actually used a real ink-ribbon typewriter, I love these old typewriters, but it’s not useful since you only get a sheet of paper out of it. The Freewrite is connected so your words are saved as a text file. I only swear by my mechanical keyboards, so I keep a small part of the past with me every day! It’s interesting how the Freewrite takes something from the past and make it modern. There is a great quote on the Freewrite website:

35 years after the birth of the laptop computer and 25 years after Wi-Fi was invented, someone finally may have built the u ltimate word processor.

This quote by Tim Moynihan from Wired really encapsulates what the Freewrite is.

Simplicity is much harder to achieve than complexity and it’s when you distille a product to its core essentials that you uuncover its true value. And that’s exactly the value given by the Freewrite.

Rechargeable Typewriter

Writing is the action of printing words on a medium, in this case the medium is a distraction-less screen and a great keyboard that is perfect for this writing. No notification, no nonsense, simply typing and thinking about your text. It is saved locally and sent over the Internet to a cloud service of your choice. You don’t even have to think about typos, just think and write.

Handy Little Addition

Configuration

The configuration is very simple to do, you are invited to create a Postbox account to access your files and configure your cloud services. There are also a couple of features you can set like the keyboard language.

Once configured, you simply forget it and you can feel safe that your text is saved and backed up. At any moment youc an also hit the Send key and receive a text file by email of your latest changes. If you happened to go to a new coffee shop, you simply turn the right nob to New and setup the new Wi-Fi network detected.

The Experience

I’m really in love with the whole mechanical keyboard thing and I find the expeirence of writing on the Freewrite to be liberating. The feeling is great and the focusing on the task at hand is great! I’m the kind of person that get easily distracted and the Freewrite is exactly the kind of device that would make my writing session so much more productive!

As a matter of fact the words you are currently reading where typed on the Freewrite while I was sitting in my living room, with only a simple warm desk lamp iluminating the room. And ideal setup to throw my ideas on e-paper in a cozy room.

Cherry MX Brown Key Switches

The Cherry MX Brown key switches are not my preferred, they are enjoyable but not as much as the Black ones, which are a bit siffer and ressembles more the experience offered by the buckling spring of the 1980s IBM PCs. Also, you might found these moderately noisy especially if you like to go in cafes or other public places. I encourage you to check out O-rings to dampened the sound the keys make. There are even some on Freewrite’s website that you can buy with your very own Freewrite.

I’m kind of a weird animal as I prefer the ANSI layout of the keyboard even though I set the language to be French Canadian. This means that I’m missing the Alt key to write the lower-than and greater-than signs. A bit problematic as I do my typing completely using the Markdown syntax. There are already a couple of shortcuts that used the New key and I would like to have a few more to access regular Alt characters.

I understand that this is a very small company and it’s hard to hold many SKUs but different keyswitches would be a great addition in order to get the best keyboard experience you can get. Even if its only one of each type like Cherry MX Black (linear), MX Brown (tactile) and MX Blue (clicky). I think these are the most popular and would come a long way for fans of mechanical keyboard looking the perfect writing experience.

In terms of enhancements, I would make the e-ink screen faster. More than once when I’m in a writing spree I typed faster than the screen can display and this can lead to typos. And giving that I have to delete a couple of words to get back and fix the typo, it sometimes break my train of thoughts. As for the rest of the controls and nobs, the Freewrite is perfect like it is. I would easily see myself going to cafes or to the park with it and write all day.

Manufacturer’s Executive Summary

This section is aimed at the manufacturer, implement this changes to increase the value proposition of your product!

Here is the short list of what can be made to make the Freewrite even better. Two more choices of Cherry MX keyswitches (black and blue). A few more key combination to actively be able to do Alt+key to reach accents and ponctuation on non-English layout. A better, faster refreshing e-ink display to show the characters faster than a fast typist can type. I read about iCloud compatibiliy but I did not see this. I can see this being very valuable for many. Hopefully this would be possible to implement as well as perhaps other cloud services like Simplenote.

Conclusion

The Freewrite is not aimed for everybody. It is the perfect companion for those that need to do lots of typing and most of all needs a way to get away from all of the notifications that can happen during a writing seesion. It is expensive, running at 500$US (654$CA) at the time of typing these words (on the Freewrite). However if you are such person, I strongly recommend you consider the Freewrite, it’s a strong and sturdy piece of machinery that can make your writing sessions more productive as well as make the experience of writing more enjoyable. It’s quality before anything else on the Freewrite, and it does not have any major shortcomings as it is. It can be better with a few modifications like the ones I mentionned above but as it stands today it’s a strong product. Highly recommended!

Review Summary

FreewriteAstrohaus
Freewrite

The Freewrite is a cloud connected mechanical typewriter that brings back the experience of writing in a distraction-less environment.

Freewrite
O-rings

The Good Stuff
  • Build quality
  • Mechanical keyboard
  • Reliable cloud connection
  • Folders and file support
The Bad Stuff
  • Missing Alt key
  • Display refresh rate
The Ratings
Design
80%
Features
90%
Build Quality
100%
Performance
80%
Price
70%
Overall: 82%
Disclaimers: This product or service was loaned for the purpose of this review.
For more information on how we score products, please read how we review products.
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