Freewrite Alpha Review: This Distraction-Free Writing Isn’t Fun

Key Takeaways

  • The Freewrite Alpha is a large, distraction-free writing device with a full-sized keyboard.
  • The device is big and bulky, making it inconvenient for portability and lacking a handle for easy carrying.
  • The keyboard feels cheap and plasticky, and the interface is hard to navigate, resulting in difficulty in accessing and editing content.

The Freewrite Alpha is essentially a Wi-Fi-connected keyboard that should save and sync all the words you bang out on it. It’s the latest distraction-free writing device from a company intent on exploring the best ways to keep people writing, no matter where they are. The premise makes sense. Convergence hasn’t always been a writer’s friend as every device seems to have more distracting capabilities than the last. Unfortunately, the Alpha’s execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Alpha Raven Black
Freewrite Alpha

Alpha is a dedicated drafting device for anyone who wants to write without the distraction—or temptation—of browsers, email, or notifications.

100 hours

Display type
Anti-glare FSTN LCD



12.6 x 8.5 x 0.8in (320 x 215 x 22mm)

  • Large, full-sized keyboard
  • Long battery life
  • Keys feel plasticky and cheap
  • Hard to navigate interface
  • Big and bulky

The Alpha Hardware Is Big and Hollow

Freewrite Alpha from the side with the kickstand engaged
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

The Freewrite Alpha might be the epitome of distraction-free writing. It’s just a large hunk of plastic with a full-sized keyboard. There is nothing to do with it except write words and watch them appear on its tiny screen.

The goal is admirable, but the device itself is peculiar, even for someone like me who has been writing about technology and reviewing gadgets for the last decade. I found it strange. For starters, it’s way bigger than it seems in pictures and larger than it feels like it needs to be. It almost doesn’t feel portable to hold or put in a backpack.

The Alpha weighs 1.6 pounds and comes in at over 12 inches by 8 inches. It’s 0.8 inches thick, when not using the kickstand to tilt it up. My first thought about using the Alpha to get writing done outside of the house was tempered when I realized how large of a chunk of my backpack space it would take up.

When I took the device out of the house, it became apparent that there was no good way to carry the large tablet around with no handle. There’s plenty of physical space for a handle to go. I tried to get the kickstand to function as one, but I was ultimately too worried about that part breaking.

Freewrite Alpha on the left next to an iPad Air
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

The Alpha (left) next to the newest iPad Air

It’s hard to convey just how big the Alpha feels in the hand, but putting it next to an iPad solidified that it looks like a toy from Fisher-Price.

The keyboard uses Choc V2 low-profile key switches, which I found to be firm and responsive. The travel of the keys was fine. Overall, though, I didn’t care for the feel of the plastic keycaps or the typing sound. The keyboard, as a whole, felt cheap. Its plasticky, hollow sound might be another reason, beyond being bulky, that it’s not a great device for using in public. The spacebar was the primary culprit for bad sound and might get you kicked out of a quiet library or chill coffee house.

If that does happen, you could take the Alpha to a secluded outdoor space. I found its anti-glare FSTN LCD screen to be readable enough in any daylight setting. There is no light onboard, however, so you’ll need to come back inside at nightfall.

Considering the product’s huge size and minimal functionality, the 100-hour battery life seems appropriate. It’s the equivalent of writing for eight hours a day for 12.5 straight days. That’s great.

There’s no single point of failure with the hardware. It’s the total package that doesn’t feel like a $349 product. The limited functionality of the hardware also doesn’t offer any further convincing arguments for potential buyers.

The Interface Limits Productivity More Than Distractions Do

Person holding the Freewrite Alpha
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

If you’re seeking a simple device, the equivalent of a digital typewriter, then you’re in luck. There’s not a hint of anything to do here other than type. Even the sparse settings section prevented me from noodling around there for more than a few seconds.

It’s not a problem that there aren’t many settings or things to do besides type. That’s the point of Alpha. The problem with the software, or more aptly, the interface, is that it obscures visibility into your content. I lost the first 300 words I typed on the Alpha because…well, I’m not sure why. It was just gone after I tried to create a second document and set up my Freewrite Postbox account. I had even pressed the “send” button that said it successfully sent my lost document to my email address, but it never arrived, even in my spam section.

To be clear, I don’t think there’s any inherent problem in the saving mechanism of the device. However, I was apprehensive about data loss before using it. The ambiguity of the limited interface made it hard to get the complete picture of my data. Then something I wrote disappeared. Maybe I did something wrong. But despite the device being able to save a million words worth of data, I remained hesitant to give it my best ideas after that experience.

To navigate around the text or do tasks, you need to use a combination of button presses. For example, pressing “new” plus “page down” shows you a list of recent documents. Pressing the page down button again cycles through them.

Freewrite Alpha's screen with direct light hitting it
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Even with the user manual by my side, it was a little worrying to press the key combinations because I was scared to get myself into a place on the screen I wasn’t expecting. Once I pressed the page-up button and was jolted to another part of my text. Without any dedicated arrow keys, it felt much harder to navigate around and back to my spot than it probably should have been. Even getting lost in my text was a concern.

One thing I did like was the quick info provided when holding down the spacebar for three seconds. It will show the battery level, word count, and duration of the current writing session.

Beyond saving your documents to Postbox over its Wi-Fi connection, the Alpha can sync documents to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or Evernote. I connected my Google Drive account and verified that it worked. My work was saved as a .docx in Drive, so it wasn’t a native Google Doc file, but it still showed up. You can’t sync via Bluetooth to a phone or anything, but the included USB-C cable can be used to sync your work to a computer if you’re in the woods, completely offline.

Should You Buy the Freewrite Alpha?

Freewrite Alpha on a table
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Much like the biblical suggestion to cut out your eye if it causes you to sin, the Freewrite Alpha feels like a self-inflicted punishment for people who have no self-control over digital distractions. By choosing to use it, you’ll either come up with something to say or you will be forced to stare at a monochrome screen and keyboard until you admit defeat and give up.

That sounds harsh, and I wasn’t expecting to reach that conclusion because I do love the idea of the Alpha. I’ve even heard from multiple people who enjoy using their Freewrite Traveler. In practice, however, the Alpha doesn’t feel fully conceptualized and is just not a product for most people.

If I were in charge of a second version of the Alpha, there are a few design tweaks I would make, like adding dedicated arrow keys. That omission feels like a big miss. (I would also shrink it down quite a bit or at least add a handle.)

More important than any specific feature or design choice, this product feels like a big miss on value. The audience for a perfect version of this product would be narrow, but with it flawed and costing $350, I suspect the audience is almost non-existent. I know I would feel a lot different about the Alpha if it were $129 or even as high as $179. But as it is, its materials and function don’t justify its high, premium price.

Plus, at the end of the day, this is an accessory. It can’t be your only writing device. I wrote most of this review on the Alpha, but I needed to correct typos and do some serious editing to get it in shape to publish using my computer.

I wanted this writing product to be for me—a full-time writer—but it just isn’t. I suspect it won’t be helpful for most other people as well. Instead of keeping computer distractions at bay, the Alpha falls victim to being too minimal and creates new usability distractions, ultimately getting in its own way.

Alpha Raven Black
Freewrite Alpha

Alpha is a dedicated drafting device for anyone who wants to write without the distraction—or temptation—of browsers, email, or notifications.


Leave a Comment