I have a Sony Clie TH55. When I bought the Clie I also picked up a Stowaway Wireless keyboard. So why didn't I just stick with that setup? Primarily it was the Stowaway and a lack of any alternatives that were much better. I write a great deal so the keyboard is an important consideration for me. There were several things I didn't like about the Stowaway:
- Lack of Dvorak layout support. Think Outside dropped support years ago and until recently had refused to change their stance. Recently they've said that they'll be releasing a utility to allow the user to change the layout.
- Lack of a number row. On the wireless infrared there isn't a number row. They took it off to keep the size down. To type any of the numbers or symbols you need to hold down a modifier key.
- Lack of a function key row. There were no customizeable, dedicated, function keys. You could set a key that required three keys pressed.
- Floppy design. The Stowaway needs a hard surface. A lap won't do it unless you have something like a board with you.
- Unstable PDA holder. The 'cradle' doesn't hold the PDA at all and at times can collapse flat back sending your handheld spilling.
- Battery impact. Using the Stowaway with a hi-res device can drain even the TH55's battery fairly quickly.
- Setup. It doesn't take long but if I wanted to write I had to take the Stowaway out, unfold, setup, and then turn on the Clie.
Granted, I'm sure for some people the Stowaway is just great. But it didn't fit my workstyle very well. No fault of theirs it just wasn't the device for me. The Alphasmart keyboard is a joy to use and addresses all of those issues that I listed plus it adds a number of other excellent features:
- Navigation - using the keys I can select menus, buttons, etc. I almost never need to pick up the stylus
- Alphaword file keys. In Alphaword there are 8 "filespaces" that are automatically assigned to F1-8. One touch and you open the document to work on.
- "Send" functionality - At most any computer with a USB slot you can send the text in your Alphaword document to any open program.
- Printing. Comes with PrintBoy built in to print docs.
- Power options. There is a rechargeable battery pack but you can pull it out and power the device with standard AAs.
I can see why some people wouldn't want the low-res monochrome screen. I find it easy to read and the large wide-screen layout is nice for documents. When I write I don't generally have to watch the screen much. I can look off at the view or just close my eyes and let my fingers fly. When I do glance at the screen the Dana looks just fine. A hi-res color screen might be nice but it could come at a price - increased cost and less battery power. For me it's not worth it.
I still use my Clie for most other uses, ebooks, MP3s, Datebk5, etc. And if I wanted to read a document created on the Dana I could just beam it to the Clie. I haven't had a need to because the Dana's screen seems fine but it is an option. If I didn't have the Clie the Dana syncs with the PC so I can always open the document on a much larger, higher resolution screen.
Added note: There is also a version of the Dana with WiFi access. I don't have that model.