MobileInfocenter
The Price:
  • $70
The Pros:
  • Combines a flipcase and a keyboard
  • Faster than Graffiti
  • Smaller than other keyboards

The Cons:
  • Hurts to type after a few hundred words
  • Adds thickness and weight to the handheld

PalmInfoCenter.com Ratings*:
Design:
Cost/benefit:
Coolness:
Overall:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



tDevice Q-Pad for Palm m500 Series Review
By Ed Hardy
8/22/2002


Introduction
The Q-Pad for the m500 series is a combination of a leather flipcase and keyboard.

Hardware
The Q-Pad is a flipcase, though it is upside down from a typical one. The clasp is at the top and the hinge at the bottom so when it is open, the cover is below the handheld. This puts the keyboard, which is inside the cover, in the correct place for typing.

The Q-Pad isn't a thumboard. You don't hold it upright between your hands and type with your thumbs. You really need to put it on some flat surface. However, the surface doesn't have to be all that flat. I'm typing this paragraph sitting down with the Q-Pad on my knee. It has a brace on the back to hold it upright and you type with your index fingers. (Does that make it an indexboard?) If you don't have a flat surface, you can write holding the Q-Pad in one hand and pushing the keys with the other, but this is as slow as molasses.

One of the disadvantages of full-sized external keyboards is set-up time. You have to get out the keyboard, open it, attach the Palm, and then you can type. With the Q-Pad, you just have to flip down the cover, push the back down to become the brace, and start typing. This takes about two or three seconds.

The keys are fairly small but they aren't so close together they are hard to use, unless you have large fingers. The letters have been arranged in a crescent shape, which allows them to be a bit farther apart then they would be if they were in straight lines.

Below the keyboard are the Alt, Shift, Space, and Enter keys. This isn't a bad place for them and you have to get used to non-standard key arrangements with mini-keyboards.

Fortunately, the Q-Pad has dedicated Period and Comma keys. The letter keys plus the Alt key is how you type all the rest of the symbols you'll need.

The Q-Pad has more space to work with than most keyboards and it takes full advantage of it. Number keys are arranged is a separate area, along with the basic math keys, which is great when you are using your Palm as a calculator.

It also has directional keys, which really help save you from having to constantly get out the stylus to move around on the screen.

There are also four function keys that can be programmed to launch any application. They can also control the backlight, set the contrast (if your handheld supports that), and lock the handheld.

It also has what it calls the CTRL key but really is a Command key. This lets you perform any action with the keyboard that you would by making a Command Stroke in Graffiti then writing a letter. For example, in WordSmith, you can hit CTRL then the letter B to switch your text to Bold.

I don't want to get too hung up on the keyboard because that's not all there is to the Q-Pad. It's also a case with a steel frame that protects the screen as you carry your handheld around in pocket, purse, or briefcase. But it isn't a full hardcase so it doesn't help prevent your handheld from getting crushed if you put too much weight on it.

As for appearance, I think the black leather exterior is very professional looking.

On the back are a couple of slots to hold SD or MMC Cards. These worked fine for me and I'm glad they were included but I'm not sure that the outside of the case was the best place for them. I'm always a bit nervous that one of the cards will slip out and be gone forever.

There isn't a pass-though port so you are going to have to take your handheld out of the Q-Pad in order to HotSync. Fortunately, this is easy. You just pull up two tabs on ether side of the Q-Pad then pull the Palm forward. It isn't much more hassle than taking the Palm out of its cradle.

The Q-Pad allows you to easily get at your stylus and SD/MMC Card without even opening the cover. However, there is one small problem with the design: the Velcro clasp is right in front of the infrared port. Even when the Q-Pad is open, I have to hold part of the clasp out of the way to beam anything.

Speaking of beaming, I had no problem getting online with an infrared modem and using the Q-Pad to instant message someone. Some old Palm models wouldn't let you use the IR port and the HotSync port at the same time but Palm fixed this long ago.

If you don't own an m500 series Palm and are still interested in the Q-Pad, tDevice makes versions for the Visor Edge and Palm Vx.

Software
The driver has about all the features you would hope for. You use this to enable and disable the Q-Pad, set the key repeat rate, and program the Function keys.

You can also set it to have your Palm make a small noise when a key is pressed. I suggest you use this. The keys are somewhat hard to press and it isn't unusual for you to press a key and have it not register.

I haven't found any applications that the Q-Pad driver violently disagrees with, except the obvious ones: drivers for other devices that use the HotSync port. You probably won't be surprised to learn that if you have the Stowaway driver enabled, the Q-Pad won't work.

It doesn't interfere with Graffiti in any way so if you want to enter some text and can't find a place to put the Q-Pad down, you won't have a problem.

Typing
As I always try to do when reviewing keyboards, I wrote most this with the keyboard being reviewed. After over week of using this as my primary means of entering text into my handheld, I've gotten pretty good at it and I'm fairly satisfied with it.

I can type about 35 words per minute (wpm) on the Q-Pad, which is significantly faster than the approximately 25 wpm I can write with Graffiti. Still, it is slower than the roughly 50 wpm I can do with a full-size keyboard.

I think this makes it fast enough to enter even large amounts of text, if you want to do so on the go. And like I said, you can set the Q-Pad up very quickly so it is no hassle writing even fairly short bits of text with it.

The only downside is the keys are small and kind of hard to push down. This means that after a few hundred words, the tips of my index fingers start to hurt.

Size
The Q-Pad doesn't add much to the width of the Palm but it does add about a half inch to the length. With the Palm inside, it is about .8 inches thick. I know things that make the handheld thicker aren't popular but for what you are getting, I think this is acceptable.

If you aren't happy with Graffiti and are looking for some kind of external keyboard, the Q-Pad is a very good option. It is a lot easier to carry around than any thumboard I can think of. The Q-Pad with a Palm inside are smaller than the Stowaway when folded up.

I've been using the Q-Pad with an m505 for a bit over a week and I've found that it fits OK in the front pocket a pair of baggy jeans, though it is a tiny bit thicker and heavier than I like. The thickness of the denim keeps it from showing too much so don't try this with a pair of khakis. On the other hand, if you carry your Palm around in a purse or briefcase, this point is pretty much moot.

Conclusion
The Q-Pad is in a category by itself. It would be a good flipcase even if it weren't a keyboard and a good keyboard even if it weren't a flipcase. When I take into account that it is both, I have to say that it is more than good, it is great. Plus, $70 wouldn't be a bad amount to pay for a keyboard and a flipcover if you bought them separately.

Article Comments

 (13 comments)

The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. PalmInfocenter is not responsible for them in any way.
Please Login or register here to add your comments.

Comments Closed Comments Closed
This article is no longer accepting new comments.

Down

Thumb or fingers?

big_raji @ 8/22/2002 4:25:01 PM #
At several points in your review, you've talked about using your fingers to type on the Q-Pad... then you make a reference to using a thumboard at the end of the review.

Am I to assume that you're actually typing on this Q-Pad with your fingers as you would on a normal keyboard?

I'm having a hard time picturing that, and I'm not sure if it's totally clear in your review.

Thanks

---
Wooo!

RE: Thumb or fingers?
big_raji @ 8/22/2002 4:32:38 PM #
I must be going blind. I swear I didn't read the comment about using index fingers the first time I read this review. Sorry. :)


---
Wooo!

safety?

ice @ 8/22/2002 5:12:12 PM #
i never did like the idea of having metal cases on my m505, as i think it would scratch the screen based on the pics. now this thing has keys, how do they not rest against the screen of my m505? i have a protector on it right now, but if the keys hit the screen, could that break it? im just confused, as i have never used a case like this, or a hard case.

xbox is the best console in the world, and always will be.
RE: safety?
Ed @ 8/22/2002 8:35:23 PM #
The screen is recessed and so are the keys. This leaves a bit of space in between the two. The only way they could touch was if something put a great deal of force on just the middle of the cover. The cover really is very rigid. It wouldn't be enough if you put a book or something like that down on it. It would have to be something very heavy and small enough to make the cover bend in the middle. In short, not too likely.

You shouldn't be nervous of metal cases; They'll protect your screen, not damage it.. A force strong enough to bend a typical metal case enough to get it to even touch your screen would probably crush your unprotected m505.

---
News Editor

RE: safety?
ice @ 8/22/2002 11:08:44 PM #
ok, so maybe i'll look into this one. seems cool to me. what do you think?

xbox is the best console in the world, and always will be.
RE: safety?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/23/2002 8:40:11 AM #
also, you say the buttons are hard to push down, but how hard is hard can you type normally on it like a full size keyboard, or do you really have to push?
RE: safety?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/23/2002 10:44:57 PM #
My friend bought this q-pad and it is good quality product. The keypad wasn't hard, it had a good feel like a cell phone keypads. I ordered mine from styluscentral.com. It was on sale. WOW brand new product, already on sale? I can't wait till I receive it. This review makes me feel good about my choice.
Thanks Ed.

Heh

abosco @ 8/22/2002 11:41:48 PM #
Ed, slowly but surely through your reviews, we are getting pictures of all of your home decor. We've got pictures of your towels and infamous flower wallpaper from the m125 review, a picture of (possibly) your dog in the NR70v review, and now a picture of your carpet in this review... not to mention your four fingered left hand in the SJ20 review. And there's plenty more that I can't remember. Sorry but I can't help but laugh... Ed, why don't you just post the rest of you house pictures with some Palms doctored in and get it over with??? :P ;)

-Bosco (No, not the chocolate drink)
RE: Heh
big_raji @ 8/23/2002 1:07:15 AM #
I don't think that's his carpet... unless he has a really bumpy floor.

Looks like a couch to me.

Anybody put them all together yet?

---
Wooo!

RE: Heh
Strider_mt2k @ 8/23/2002 6:26:22 AM #
Not to mention all that hardware laying all over from the photo shoots.
Messy.


strider_mt2k@yahoo.com

Where to buy?

ice @ 8/25/2002 6:38:11 PM #
ice here again, could you please tlel me where to get this? i checked staples, circuit city, and best buy today, with no luck. PLEASE dont tell me that it is availible only on a website.


xbox is the best console in the world, and always will be.

RE: Where to buy?
Ed @ 8/25/2002 7:41:07 PM #
Sorry, I can't help you. I'd suggest you talk directly to the company:
www.tdevice.com/company.htm

---
News Editor
RE: Where to buy?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 5:37:37 PM #
ice,
read the fourth reply on your safety thread.
someone saw this Q-Pad on sale at styluscentral.com
sounds like a good bargain.
Top

Account

Register Register | Login Log in
user:
pass: