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Case or Keyboard?
Wed Apr 3, 2002 - 11:57 AM EST
By Kenneth Crandall

Name Q-Pad
Company tDevice
Weight without Edge 3.5 Ounces
Availability Q2 2002
$69.99

Q-Pad

Is this a keyboard or a case? Answer, Both!!

tDevice has taken two accessories for the visor and combined them into one. Currently only available for the Visor Edge (and Palm Vx) the Q-Pad incorporates both a QWERTY keyboard and number pad inside a leather folding case.

The main advantage with this product is its usability. There is no need for taking the visor out of the case and attaching a keyboard like some other products, with Q-Pad the keyboard can be used while inside the case because it is built in.

Specifications

The Q-Pad features a QWERTY keyboard with a number pad, arrow keys, and special punctuation keys. The keyboard is located in the bottom of the case and when closed covers the front of the Edge. The keyboard is sensitive to the touch and fairly accurate when typing.

The case itself is built from leather and is quite durable. The case closes from the bottom (unlike the Slipper Cases from E&B and the Vaja cases) and uses a Velcro attachment to close. The back side of the case folds back using a hinge to provide a stand for resting the Visor on a table top or desk.

The edge itself slides into a plastic “cradle like” serial attachment built into the case. This attachment secures the Edge into the case and also makes the connection between the Edge and the keyboard using the serial port. Meaning, you can’t sync/charge the Edge and use the case at the same time, you must first remove the Edge from the case to put it into the cradle.
 

Case Usability

Using the case is great! It works like all other cases and protects the Edge like any case should. The keyboard of course is an added benefit, and makes data input much quicker, especially if you aren’t too familiar with Graffiti.

Sliding the Edge into the serial attachment is simple, the Edge snaps into place to assure security. I even held the case open, upside down, and shook vigorously; the Edge stayed in place and didn’t move a bit. Taking the Edge out is just as easy; all you do is pull with a little force, and it slides out.

Users have easy access to the stylus. However, I would much rather use my finger to make selections and use the keyboard to type, than use the stylus.

The hinged stand to prop the Edge up when typing defiantly helps when typing using a flat surface. In fact, I tend to leave my edge in the case propped up in this position on my desk instead of leaving it in the cradle. This way, I get better use of the keyboard, and especially the calculator function with the number pad. The only problem I have with the stand is the strength. The hinge on my version is a little weak and therefore collapses sometimes when I tap the screen or press a hotkey. However, I have been told that tDevice realized this problem and is making the hinge stronger.

Using modules with this case is impossible since the Edge requires the use of the adapter. There is no way to close the case if the adapter is attached to the edge. The only time the use of modules would be feasible, is when the case is open and the stand is down.



Keyboard Usability

Using the keyboard took a little getting used to, but after a while I can definitely type faster than I can write using Graffiti. As in past reviews, the main problem with these small keyboards are key size. It doesn’t matter whether it is this Q-Pad or the Thumboard from Seiko, the keys are all tiny. This causes you to hit the wrong key sometimes, or not press the key down enough if you are being overly cautious. The most common error I made was not pressing the space key down enough causing thewords tobe connectedtogether.

Most of the keys are quite self-evident such as, “K” or “SHIFT,” but a few requite some explaining. The “AE up” and “AE down” keys move to the next or prior field in the document you are working in. The Long Right Arrow to the right of the number pad is the TAB key. The Left long arrow below it is the DELETE key. Most of the symbols are found on the number pad and are accessed using the SHIFT key. For example, SHIFT 2 = @. Other than that, typing with the keyboard is pretty obvious to the user and doesn’t take long to learn.

The only other function (other than typing) is use of the number pad in the calculator program. I really like this feature, the number pad is great. I use my Visor more than my calculator at my desk now because the number pad makes using the Visor’s more advanced calculation functions much easier, and data input is faster also.

Again, most of the calculator keys are self-evident as well; however there are some tricky ones not mentioned anywhere. To clear the calculator, press “C” on the keyboard. To clear just the entry, press the delete button on the keyboard until all the numbers have been erased. “E” on the keyboard is used for exponents, and “S” is used for negative numbers although the same effect can be derived from the “-“symbol to the right of the subtraction sign.

So, what is the best way to use this keyboard? Well, it depends on where you are. If you are standing up, hold the Edge in one hand; support the keyboard with the other any type using your thumb. This method is the slowest because you are only typing with one finger, but is the best for quick data entry. If you are at a desk/table/hard surface: support the Edge with the stand and type using both index fingers. However, my recommendation, is to let the keyboard part hang off the edge of the table and use your thumbs to type, this is the quickest method to me; look at the picture for a better explanation.

 

 

Software

The Q-Pad comes with a disk containing the software driver for the keyboard. Just copy the PRC file into your add-on folder in your Palm Desktop and Hot-Sync the Edge. This will create a Key-Pad icon in your Launcher.

The program is the settings program for the keyboard and contains all the variable for the Q-Pad’s operation. Here, you are able to change the key repeat rate, the delay until repeat rate, and you may enable/disable an audio beep for when you type. There is also a option to enable and disable the Q-Pad, so if you don’t want to use the keyboard for some reason, just un-check the box.



Conclusion

tDevice is just finishing their Beta Testing process and should be releasing the Q-Pad for sale soon. It will be available on their website for $69.99. Which won’t be a bad price, considering that the Thumboard is $39 and a typical leather case is around $35. This combo is priced rather well; and remember, you don’t need to carry around both at the same time.

Overall, this product is good. Typically I wouldn’t use a keyboard like the Stowaway, because it is something extra to carry around but since this is incorporated into the case I can deal with it. The only main problem I have with this case and every other case built for the Edge is the size. Personally, I bought the Edge to have one less large item in my pockets; I use a Nokia 8290 for the same reason. Every case for the Edge makes it bigger which to me defeats the purpose. However, this problem is unavoidable, and I think it is important to protect your Edge from damage. This case provides the features and the protection for great cost without sacrificing too much pocket space.

Design - 5
Usability - 4
Features - 5
Cost/Benefit - 5
Final - 5

Pros
- Great Price
- Easy to Use
- Case and Keyboard


Cons
- Makes Edge Larger
- Cant use modules
- Keys are small
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