Fusion Writer/communication device: alternative to AlphaSmart

Please note that I have not tried this myself.

“This” refers to the Fusion, a portable word processor much like the AlphaSmart Neo, except vastly improved. Word prediction for all models is built in, not separate. If you choose the speaker model, the speaker is built in, not separate. The screen is much larger with variable font size, and the keyboard seems to be a bit more compact (which is good, because unfortunately it appears the only layout is QWERTY). Overall it has a sleeker appearance, and there are adhesive skins to add some color at a small extra charge.

I do have one complaint — there is a Sticky Keys function for single finger or one-handed typing, but I have no idea what the designers were thinking. According to the PDF manual, to activate that function you must press Control Alt P SIMULTANEOUSLY. The AlphaSmart had a similar problem, so it seems to be a pretty common oversight. What the hell? How about some independence here? UPDATE: The company has promised to fix it.

Don’t get me wrong — I know that tools like this are often primarily marketed to schools, and it’s great they can be used in various settings with many ages. However, since this company is also explicitly marketing it as a communication device with input from occupational and speech therapists, I think they should realize that some adults are probably going to want to appropriate something like this for themselves too, particularly — as I’ve said before — those who can’t get evaluated for more expensive devices or who don’t need the bells and whistles of an expensive device at the moment.

And it really is a bargain, especially considering the speaker model. The speaker model with word prediction is $430. The external speaker for the AlphaSmart alone costs almost $480, never mind the AlphaSmart unit itself, with the optional word prediction. That adds up. In short, if it were for me and my financial situation were different, I would get over my irritation with the “nanny” Sticky Key setup and probably purchase one if I liked it enough, even if I did have to ask someone to help me set up first and even if I only used it sporadically. This appears to be a viable and welcome alternative to the AlphaSmart. You can find a feature list on the Fusion website.

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