Braille Sense U2 QWERTY 32: A New Look From HIMS Inc.

By
Michael D. Barber
Rehab Technology Specialist

Manufacturer:  HIMS Inc.
Website:  http://www.hims-inc.com
Sales:  (888) 520-4467
Technical Support:  (512) 837-2000
HIMS Inc.
4616 W. Howard Lane
Suite 960
Austin, TX   78728

One of my biggest complaints about using a NoteTakers with a QWERTY keyboard was that the keys were too small for my big fingers, that they were all scrunched together so that typing was uncomfortable, and that the configuration of the keyboard didn’t make much sense to me.  The forward slash key wasn’t where one would normally find it; the arrow keys were hard to distinguish as were the shift and enter keys; and finally, the Help key could sometimes be found somewhere to the left of the spacebar.  The other problem was that the rows of keys were not graduated in an upward fashion like the keys on a USB keyboard.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I finally got my hands on the new Braille Sense U2 QWERTY 32 unit and found that the keyboard is refreshingly different!  While it is not exactly like the USB keyboards I use every day, it does contain many similarities which I have listed below:

  1. The arrow keys are easily distinguishable with the familiar upside-down T configuration found on the USB keyboard.
  2. There are actually two (count ’em, two) Alt keys like you’d find on the USB keyboard or on a laptop keyboard.
  3. There is a Windows Key which takes you directly to the main menu every time.
  4. There is an FN key like you’d find on a laptop keyboard which combines with many keys to perform various functions.
  5. There are two control keys.
  6. There are two easily distinguishable shift keys.
  7. The enter key is easily found because of its size and location above the shift key, just as you’d find on a USB  or laptop keyboard.

Typing on this newly designed keyboard is easy and smooth and the keys are whisper quiet.  So comfortable is it that, for the first time, I actually enjoyed web browsing as well as typing a document.

The unit is about 10 inches long by six inches wide and almost an inch high.  It boasts 32GB of RAM, which is more than any note taker on the market, except the Braille Sense U2 and comes with a nice carrying case which has a zippered pouch on top for storage, zips fully shut to enclose the whole unit, and also contains a solid piece inside the case which gives additional support when holding the unit on your lap while typing.  The unit also comes with a built-in compass and a built-in GPS receiver.  Other features include an “Extras” section which includes Google maps, Bookshare downloads, a dictionary, and a couple of games, as well as a social networking section which includes Twitter, GoogleTalk and MSN Messenger.

I created a document which I saved as a Word document.  When I typed in this document, I had the display set to show Grade 2 Braille, but when I pulled up the document on the computer, it came out as a nicely typed document with no reverse translation problems. Pressing Control plus S saved the document, just like my experience on a Windows computer.  When you have more than one program running, Alt plus Tab switches you between the running programs.

Things I’d like to see changed would be:

  1. A whole in the left rear of the case with an eyelet where the AC power adapter could be inserted.
  2. A velcroed flap on the right side of the case which would open to allow the insertion of the USB memory sticks while the unit remains in the case.
  3. I would like to see the Help files written as CHM files instead of text files.
  4. The Alt Key should be immediately to the right of the spacebar and not the Change Language Key.  Although one can go in and make that change in configuration, the default should be what one expects to find, which is the Alt Key right next to the Spacebar.

The unit costs $5,695.00.  I consider this QWERTY unit a vast improvement over the Braille Sense QWERTY unit and one which I believe you’ll enjoy typing on as much as I did.

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