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Game Over Online ~ SnapNType T301

GameOver Game Reviews - SnapNType T301 (c) TT Tech, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher SnapNType T301 (c) TT Tech
System Requirements Compaq iPAQ H3700 / H3600 / H3100 Series
Overall Rating 76%
Date Published Tuesday, March 5th, 2002 at 09:01 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Ever since the introduction of RIM's Blackberry, there has been a covert rage over adding thumb-typing to consumer electronics. Although the RIM Blackberry has yet to hit critical mass in popularity, it has influenced many handheld designers like Handspring and Nokia. Simply put, a lot of people think putting a thumb keyboard on something will make it sell like hotcakes. The SnapNType T301 is a thumb keyboard that grafts on nicely to the Compaq iPAQ 31xx, 36xx and 37xx. As with most of these keyboard extension devices, the accessory hooks up with the serial port link at the bottom of the iPAQ unit. That means you can't use the cradle while using the keyboard, but that isn't too much of an issue here since the accessory is designed for usage on the go.

With the recent introduction of thumb keyboards on cell phones, I found it was too much of a compromise on those small devices to use. Although the feel of a keyboard is subjective, no feel will make it easier to type if your smallest finger covers up two or more keys. I'm of Asian descent and I'm certainly not the biggest guy around, but even I've had trouble with key spacing. Luckily, the manufacturers have gotten the size fairly correct here, at least for my thumbs. True to its advertisement, the SnapNType keyboard is great for short spurts of note-taking. For prolonged usage, however, the typing experience is not as comfortable as it could be. The rubbery keys did not give as much tactile feedback as I wanted. Moreover, it took more force than I thought was needed to actually strike a key.

The physical dimensions of the product are small. On the whole, the unit takes up very little room. It's easy to carry around, even in your own pocket. The thickness is a tad less than a CompactFlash sleeve. Furthermore, the manufacturers have made the sleeve accommodate expansion sleeves that the iPAQ is so famous for. The accommodation is not without its compromises though. On a naked iPAQ, this makes for a slight rattle when you type heavily. Because I had to strike the keys harder than I expected, the rattle problem was exaggerated. However, with a sleeve in hand, the SnapNType keyboard was more at home and the rattle problem was gone.

Many manufacturers tend to leave their product the moment it's finished. In this case, TT Tech could have easily stopped after the product typed, but they have added some value-added features to their product. Since the keyboard covers up your PDA's buttons, the manufacturer has included the contact and calendar keys on the SnapNType itself. The now ubiquitous Windows Start key on keyboards is also on the SnapNType. It naturally brings up the Start Menu in the Pocket PC operating system. Moreover, the SnapNType drivers include a FaceBoard so you can start up a dialogue box to pick emoticons. Maybe the manufacturers thought you'd be using this to chat or IM online. It's certainly a great extra to have and highlights the care put into the design of this product.

With all these extra functions floating around, I didn't think the layout was overcrowded. It is unfortunate numerals can only be accessed via a shift key combination, but I guess this is standard for most thumb keyboards. The keyboard does not support the newer iPAQ H38xx. TT Tech has notified me that a new version of the SnapNType will be released for that. For now, it will work with all existing iPAQ machines both in Pocket PC 2000 and Pocket PC 2002. While Think Outside is promising to release an adapter to help convert older iPAQ peripherals to the new H38xx format, I'm unsure whether it's actually possible with this item since the form factor is such a crucial element of the product.

Ultimately, this is a useful accessory for those who are Transcriber-challenged. It's certainly fast if you are used to it or come from a RIM background. I was charmed by the extra features; like the emoticons, even though I'm not sure if it will really save me that many keystrokes. Unfortunately, there's a question of how prevalent these will be in the retail channel, especially considering Compaq is rolling out with their own thumb keyboard. As such, it becomes a problem to see if the keyboard's touch and feel fits you. The aesthetics of the item are top notch. Compared to the Compaq one, the silver design and black plastic borders mimic all your existing expansion sleeves and iPAQ color schemes. So if the keyboard works for you, this keyboard and your handheld would make a great pair.

[20/25] Performance
[19/25] Ease of Use
[17/20] Flexibility
[09/15] Value
[08/10] Novelty
[03/05] Longevity


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