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The Price:
  • $40
The Pros:
  • Very portable
  • Faster than Graffiti
  • Driver works well

The Cons:
  • Prolonged use gets tiring
  • Punctuation more difficult than necessary

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SnapNType T111 for m500 Series Review
By Ed Hardy
1/17/2002


Overview
The SnapNType is a small keyboard that clips to the bottom of the handheld and serves as a replacement for Graffiti. It is 3.25 by 2.6 by 1 inches and runs off power from the Palm.

Installation
Connecting the SnapNType is fairly straightforward. It has a hinge in the middle, and pushing a button on each side opens it from a C shape to an L shape. You then connect your m500 or m505 to the Universal Connector on one side, then snap it closed again, which brings the keyboard down over the front of the handheld with the SnapNType wrapped around the bottom.

This means the hardware buttons and the Graffiti area are covered by the keyboard. The SnapNType has buttons to replace all these functions but if you really want to get at them again temporarily, you can push the side buttons again and the keyboard will flip up. The buttons and everything are still useable, even without disabling the driver.

Driver
Speaking of the driver, it's pretty good, though not perfect. It's smart enough to be able to turn itself on and off when the keyboard is connected or disconnected. For the most part, you won't need to worry about it. It doesn't cause conflicts with most other peripherals that use the HotSync port, like the Think Outside Stowaway keyboard, and it certainly hasn't given me any problems HotSyncing.

It doesn't like my Kodak PalmPix camera, or vice versa. I have to go into the SnapNType driver and manually disable it in order to take a picture. Still, this is the only problem I've had.

Typing
The buttons are a bit close together, leading me to occasionally push two buttons at the same time. But that doesn't happen too often. It helps that you have to push down firmly on a button to get it to register; just touching it lightly isn't enough.

On the other hand, people appear to have complained to TT Tech that the keys were too hard and I got an email last week from their company representative that they are going to make the keys a bit easier to push.

I'm not overly fond of the way the SnapNType handles punctuation. All non-letters are entered by pushing an orange key then one of the letter keys. That's all punctuation, including the period. This gets to be a hassle after a while, especially as which letters punctuation is assigned to is a bit arbitrary.

I'm not complaining too hard. I understand that cramming a keyboard into a space the size of the SnapNType wasn't easy. Still, it's taking me a while to get used to having the backspace key below the keyboard. I keep hitting the P key instead.

The SnapNType tries to emulate Graffiti as much as possible. You don't hit a button marked "Backspace", you hit one marked with the Graffiti symbol for backspace: a horizonal line to the left. Likewise, you don't hit a Return key; you hit one marked with a line downward to the left. Frankly, I find this a bit odd because it requires users to know the system it is replacing. Still, there's a pretty good chance you know Graffiti already so this won't be a big deal.

It has a Command key so you can perform any of the Command functions that have a key equivalent, like Copy or Paste. In WordSmith, I can use this to make words bold or italics. As near as I can tell, pushing this key is the exact equivalent of drawing the Command stroke with Graffiti.

Usability
I had intended to write this entire review with the SnapNType but that didn't happen. After prolonged use, I began to understand why people asked TT Tech to make the buttons easier to push. My fingers started to get really tired. About half way into it I gave it up and finished this review off on my computer. Still, I got through about 500 words before I got too tired.

I compared the SnapNType to the two other major ways people enter text directly into their handhelds: Graffiti and the Stowaway keyboard. The SnapNType is faster than Graffiti and I made fewer mistakes. But a Stowaway keyboard is faster than either.

There's one area where the SnapNType is much faster than the Stowaway: getting set up. If you just want to type a couple of sentences, getting out the Stowaway and setting it up is more hassle than its worth. Clipping on the SnapNType is much easier. But to be honest, if you just want to type a few words, Graffiti is fastest because there's no hardware to set up at all.

Portability
I'm not forgetting the SnapNType's main advantage over the Stowaway: portability. It's about half the size and less than half of the weight. And forget needing a flat surface to type on; you don't need any kind of surface at all. I've used it lying in bed, riding in the car, sitting on my back deck, and lots of other places too.

It does add a bit of bulk to the Palm. The SnapNType makes the handheld more than an inch longer and about a half inch thicker. I don't usually carry the two connected together. Each goes in a different pocket.

It doesn't work at all with the leather flip-cover that comes with the m500 or m505. TT Tech should consider offering a replacement flip-cover that only covers the part of the screen that shows above the keyboard.

Online
I have a Psion Travel Modem that connects to the handheld with infrared. I tested this keyboard while online and it worked great. I got on AOL Instant Messenger and chatted with a couple of friends. The SnapNType made this much easier than doing the same thing with Graffiti.

TT Tech clearly had this sort of thing in mind because it has a pop-up screen with 20 different emoticons on it that you can put in with just a push of a button. Once the i705 comes out, you should be able to use this keyboard with it in the same way. I say "should" because while the i705 uses the Universal Connector, I don't know exactly how thick it is. If it's too thick, the SnapNType won't fit around it.

Conclusion
I got my first Palm because I like portability. A computer is no good if it isn't with me. The SnapNType makes me more portable and more productive and its tough to argue with that.

Article Comments

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Does it fit on the m125?

montyburns @ 1/17/2002 3:33:00 PM #
"I say "should" because while the i705 uses the Universal Connector, I don't know exactly how thick it is. If it's too thick, the SnapNType won't fit around it. "

Did you try to fit it onto the m125?

thx

I like my Palm!

RE: Does it fit on the m125?
Ed @ 1/17/2002 3:35:18 PM #
Sorry, it will not work with the m125.

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News Editor

palm makes it

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 3:48:45 PM #
palm is making one for the i705. the keys work great on it too. in fact there will be a nice bundle to get it for a good price.

palminsider@yahoo.com

RE: palm makes it
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 4:53:07 PM #
do you know if palm will be making a snap-on keyboard for the m500 series as well? i've been thinking about getting one, but the seiko thumpad looks a little iffy, and this one isn't quite perfect (i realize i should maybe lower my expectations a bit, but, oh well), and i have a feeling anything made by palm might better integrate with the handheld and maintain the form factor as much as possible. thickening up my m505 isn't exactly on the top of my todo list.

RE: palm makes it
mikecane @ 1/17/2002 5:13:52 PM #
Targus makes a keyboard that fits on the *bottom* of the m505. Adds height, not thickness.

How much faster than Graffiti?

Scott @ 1/17/2002 4:44:32 PM #
Ed, did you find this to be much faster than Graffiti, or just a little bit faster?

RE: How much faster than Graffiti?
Ed @ 1/17/2002 4:59:59 PM #
In some not terribly scientific tests, about 15% faster. With Graffiti I average about 25 words per minute; with the SnapNType somewhere around 30. With the Stowaway, its over 50. Like I said, really unscientific.tests, though.

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News Editor

How does the Orange button work?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 4:58:21 PM #
Thanks for the great review, it looks promising. My only concern would be entering telephone numbers which could become tedious after a while. How does the Orange button work, is it a sticky toggle like a caps lock, or it is a single modification like a shift key? Thanks.

P.S. Ed- I have been unable to post while logged in for quite some time. I get a page not found error. Any ideas? Thanks.

RE: How does the Orange button work?
Ed @ 1/17/2002 5:23:31 PM #
The Orange button isn't sticky. You can't push it and have it stay down. The closest you can get is you can hold it down so you don't have to push it down once for each number you want to enter. I wonder if TT Tech could edit the driver in such a way that two pushes of the Orange button kept it selected, like the Caps Lock does.

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News Editor

How does it compare to the Targas?

Cheetah @ 1/17/2002 5:41:24 PM #
Is the SnapNType better then the Targas Thumboard?

RE: How does it compare to the Targas?
Ed @ 1/17/2002 9:53:12 PM #
Sorry, I haven't tried them both so I can't really compare them. But I can suggest you read this review Pepper did of the ThumBoard:
www.palminfocenter.com/view_Story.asp?ID=2779

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News Editor
DOnt you ever consider Targus
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/18/2002 9:21:05 PM #
I just returned my targus for m505..its just out of balance and too thing to type on. I feel a constant weight on the palm making me grip the thin thumboard so that it wont flip and drop my palm.

consider the snapntype or Seiko thumboards.. and also exclude fellowes thumbaord since its bsically the same as of the targus.


graph

RE: How does it compare to the Targas?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/22/2002 4:09:26 AM #
Hey, guys, if you want to have a zero-weight Palm keyboard, maybe you should consider using Silkyboard or something like this? I use it - the speed is about 35 wpm. And no problem with any cases.

Will it fit over the Slipper case?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 6:18:33 PM #
Any idea if it's too snug a fit to go over the slipper case? It looks nice, but if my Palm has to undress to play with it, it weighs more in favour of grafitti or stowaway for small or large amounts of text entry respectively. If this won't work with the Palm-supplied case, presumably it's blocking the left silo, and no case will work with it, which seems a bit of a design flaw.

Ian Davenport

Seiko ThumBoard comparison

Jeffrey @ 1/17/2002 7:35:49 PM #
I have a Seiko-Austin ThumBoard for my 505 and in general like it; as Ed says of the SnapNType its faster and more accurate than Graffiti for short notes (especially in crowded meetings when you don't have a desk space for the fold-away keyboard).

But I have several complaints with the ThumBoard; the driver is lame - it seems to conflict with a lot of stuff and doesn't turn itself off, so I keep it manualy off unless I attach the ThumBoard.

Secondly, attaching the ThumBoard gives the 505 an odd balance, it gets very top heavy. Since the letter keys are towards the middle/bottom of the ThumBoard, this makes it hard to balance the 505 in your hands and thumb-type without cramping your thumbs very quickly.

The SnapNType looks much better to me in this aspect, since it puts the letter keys in the upper part of the keyboard where it seems your thumbs would natually rest.

The ThumBoard doesn't have smiley faces and handles all punctuation (except the period) the same way as the SnapNType - a Fn function key is used to access all of the yellow secondary functionsfor every key (and there's a lot!). It looks like the ThumBoard may have more functions on the keyboard than the SnapNType, i.e. cancel, edit, done, new, plus it has 4 arrow keys in the + pattern that make it easy to navigate text documents w/o touching the screen.

I'm probably going to try out the SnapNtype, just because the layout of the keys looks like it will be much more comfortable to type on that the ThumBoard.

JT

RE: Seiko ThumBoard comparison
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:12:25 PM #
I have a thumboard as well. My only problem with it is that the caps button does not work on several of my favorite apps like documents to go. Very annoying and, had I known about it beforehand, I would not have bought it. I emailed the company and they never bothered to answer.

Wonder if this one is any better?

Seiko ThumBoard comparison
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/18/2002 12:33:10 AM #
We have gone sweating through the comparison in our lab.
The Thumboard driver is throughout buggy - we had a lot of trouble when we compared the thumboard with the snapntype.

The snapn type driver is clean and the product get our full recommendation – we have to warn our readers to use the ThumBoard. At least on the international machines not only does the stuff not work – it does send a lot of data to the great data Manitu.

After experiencing on all our machines dataloss we contacted the producer. He put the blame on us – claiming that the driver for the thumboard has to be installed only on a "clean” machine – e.g. absolutely NO other program s and NO hack running – but "not running” is not perfect enough for the Seiko keyboard – every other program must be deleted as well. It is not sufficient to deactivate hacks – they have to be removed from the machine for good in order the ThumBoard to work.

We only wonder how a decent company spending so much on advertisement and not having the few bucks or lack of interest for a programmer fixing that buggy driver.

Contrary - we give SnapNType the highest mark in our upcoming Palmtop-Pro edition 28 – due on the day of the CEBIT opening 12.03.2002.
The stuff is close perfect – the driver is a dream.

Boris von Luhovoy
Palmtop-pro Magazine
www.palmtop-pro.com

RE: Targas and Seiko comments
Cheetah @ 1/18/2002 1:05:15 AM #
I have both the Seiko and Targas units. Following are my brief observations of both:

Seiko Thumbboard - Covers graffitti area, and rides so high that I have to take it out of my case to use it (which is a problem for me, as my case fits tightly in the left rail). Keyboard has a light touch which makes it easy to type, but also easy to hit the wrong key.

Targas Thumbpad - Seems to think that I'm hotsyncing when I attach it, and sometimes can't get it to work. I guess the driver has a few problems, as my Palm is very clean (no hacks). Keyboard is more like a Blackberry- ie. firm, which I like.

My preference is the Targas unit, if not for the driver issue. Perhaps the SnapNType is better then both.

Where?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/22/2002 9:29:22 AM #
Ed,

Any idea where this is available for the m505? The palmgear site has the visor version and the others have the pocket pc Compaq version. Maybe I have become thumboard shopping challenged but I do not think so.

Thanks

RE: Where?
Ed @ 1/22/2002 1:07:50 PM #
I sent an message to my contact with the company asking this question. They are in Taiwan so it will be tomorrow at the earliest before I hear back from them.

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News Editor
RE: Where?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/23/2002 5:03:33 AM #
Please try the following link to purchase the SnapNType

http://www.mobilefanatic.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=TT111



RE: Where?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/25/2002 1:07:18 PM #
The Snap-N-Type T111 for the m500 series are shipping from stock. We recieved our shipment late yesterday.

http://www.mobilefanatic.com

Mike
MobileFanatic.com

What is the purpose of it flipping around the back?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/22/2002 9:58:04 AM #
You even post a picture of this.

thanks

RE: What is the purpose of it flipping around the back?
Ed @ 1/22/2002 1:08:31 PM #
This makes it attach more securely to the handheld. It has been designed to allow you hold the keyboard in your hands and type with your thumbs. Without the back support, the handheld might come loose, damaging the HotSync port.

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News Editor

Will this fit on my Palm Vx?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/28/2002 10:46:29 AM #
I think the form factors are about the same -- do you think it'd work?

RE: Will this fit on my Palm Vx?
Ed @ 3/28/2002 10:50:18 AM #
Sorry, no. The HotSync ports on the m500 series and the V series are completely different shapes. This means you can't plug the keyboard into your handheld.

I'd suggest you take a look at the Fellowes PDA Pocket Keyboard. It isn't quite the same thing but there is a V series version.
www.palminfocenter.com/view_Story.asp?ID=2244

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News Editor

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