There are so many choices in the Braille display community.  I'm just curious for my own sake what you look for in a Braille display.  If you could craft the perfect device for yourself, what features would you or would you not include?  I ask this after reading many things about different models, and seeing how certain series offer different features than others.

I, myself, only use Braille displays as a peripheral with light notetaking capabilities.  If the device can connect to Bluetooth devices and function as a display and do it well, you have my attention.  If this device can do basic notetaking operations, such as reading and writing MS Word documents (.doc, .docx, RTF, etc), then we're in business.  Where I think I lose interest is in units that utilize OS's based off of Android.  Furthermore, I'd rather send emails, listen to music, and browse the web on my phone or tablet versus on my Braille device.  As previously stated, I'm more of a "use Braille as a monitor" type of guy.  Why would I go to a buffet if I'm just looking for one plate of food?  There is nothing wrong at all with Braille displays integrated with Android OS, it's just not suitable for my taste.

So what unit do I own, then?  Baum USA's VarioUltra 40 was the closest thing I could've gotten to my preferred hardware and capabilities in a Braille device.  The keyboard layout was appealing to me, the form factor is slim and light, and it can pair up to four Bluetooth devices and one USB device.  The drawbacks?  Not being able to save in .doc or .docx file types.  I know I said above being able to read and write in those file types would be ideal for my perfect unit, but the other qualities outweighed the drawbacks for me, so I decided to pull the strings and go for this display.

I went through a series of devices over the past 15 years.  First up was the original Braillenote from HumanWare.  I don't remember enough about it to give a great analysis and opinion, but I do know from memory it got the job done.  Next up was a PacMate from Freedom Scientific.  Can anyone say junk?  Nothing but problems and issues from day 1.  I was not impressed, but the school district had purchased it at the time and I had no other choice.  Then I went to the Braillenote Apex from HumanWare.  Is it me, or did the Apex (and the Braillenote series in general) become the golden standard for students enrolled in K-12 schools?  Everyone I knew in school had a Braillenote Apex.  I guess it was the hottest display of the decade, and no other display became popular enough to compete with the Apex.  That isn't to say the unit wasn't good, in fact, it was great for what it was meant for -- notetaking and everyday tasks.  What deterred me from keeping mine was the horrid cleaning services HumanWare provided.  The dots became worn and weak after 9 months of usage.  Granted, I was irresponsible and didn't clean it myself, but I almost would 100% expect it to be returned to full firmness.  Instead, it was returned in much the same condition I sent it in.

Now I'm working on the Ultra.  Outside of a shorter battery life and the inability to write .doc files, it's the perfect unit.

So, where do you all fall in the spectrum?  I'm interested to know what tastes are out there, especially since this day in age Braille isn't as ubiquitous as it used to be.  What do you look for in OS, what tasks it can do, form factor, keyboard style, how many cells, etc?

Thanks,

Luke

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Exactly how ideal are we talking? Because ideal would be a full page with sufficient pressure sensitivity to use an on-screen keyboard when necessary. Exactly what OS, software, etc additional features are available pales in comparison to having more than one line.
But if we're focusing on things that will happen without the intervention of the supernatural, then yeah, let me connect it to whatever mainstream device and use it to edit text documents. I don't want internet on my notebook. A calculator wouldn't hurt, I guess, but meh.

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I just selected a braille display for me, and it was the Focus 40 Blue.

Why? It's not that I particularly like it as a display. It is simply that it's robust and is entirely software-controlled. That's it. I'd've taken up one of these note-taking thingies (Baum VarioUltra, HIMS BrailleEdge) if they actually embodied operating systems other than Windows and did what they did well. These "smart" displays need to be at least as simple and as robust and as stable as something like the old Blazie Engineering devices again before I can go there. As I describe in this topic, I'm just not convinced that things are getting better while we're stuck having to choose Windows-powered devices, and I don't think soon-to-be-obsoleted Android versions is much better.

Just my thoughts.

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I spent a month with the Focus 40 Blue and was impressed with its battery life.  That was about it.  The form factor rivaled VarioUltra's, but certain hardware features were more appealing to me.  I'm not a fan of devices with buttons.  I'd prefer a switch, personally.  I was fortunate enough to have sent in a unit given to me to have it fixed under warranty due to a jammed power button.  A friend of mine didn't use it, so I thought I'd make a deal with her to get it.  The keyboard was fine, and the extraneous buttons made navigation and performing other operations, especially in iOS, much easier or at least smoother in my opinion.  Of course, it was fully integrated with Jaws, but I don't use Braille displays on desktop OS's.  I'd rather use a traditional qwerty keyboard with a screenreader.  Not sure why, that's just how I am.  The rocker bars and navkeys were a little too loud for my taste.  Having it charge via Micro-USB was nice.  You could charge it with an external battery pack (I'm sure you can do that with most devices today).  I heard the Braille cells were junk, but I didn't work with it nearly long enough to notice any deterioration or worn dots.  Overall, it was a good display.  I'd have kept it if it were my only choice, but I had other options, so I went with Baum.

Enjoy your new toy.
big_smile

Luke

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Well look, if form factor is the deciding factor, then I'd love to have a BrailleNote 40. I'm a real sucker for thumb keys. But I like the Focus for its buttons, for sure. When they did away with those god-awful "whiz wheels" I did a little dance of joy.

Yeah. This display is for keeps, that's for certain. Works with JAWS and VO, easy switching to iOS, robust, long-lasting battery, a just-about-managing display and keyboard. It'll do, you know. It'll do.

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I managed to get my hands on a Focus 40 Blue from a friend for an unbeatable price about a year ago. I haven't experienced the dots being especially prone to wear, but then again, it hasn't been used especially hard. My reason for this, while I do enjoy the seamless bluetooth pairing, is that I miss the days when I could load books onto a notetaker and read them on a standalone unit. Whether my Focus is tethered to my computer or phone, that's still an extra device that it needs to go through in order for me to read books. My computer doesn't have bluetooth, so I end up needing to use a USB cable. This presents a problem, since I used to enjoy reading while curled up in bed, which I can no longer do unless I use my phone and Voice Dream Reader, which for some reason just feels awkward to me. Even if I buy myself a bluetooth dongle, that's just one more device to filter things through, which just seems laborious even though it logically isn't.

So yeah, even though the Apex, which was my previous display, had its fair share of issues, I do miss it. I also had a Braille Lite 40, which weathered a huge chunk of my life with me, so I definitely understand the nostalgia for the Blazie Engineering line of products. The battery life was excellent, the file system relatively stable, and file transfers were smooth. Well, as smooth as they could be with floppy disks of questionable quality, and HyperTerminal doing whatever it did sometimes. Lol.

Ideally, I'd like to get my hands on something like the Orbit Reader, but not necessarily that. My patience is wearing thin because we've been promised this display for months and months, and no clear cut release date has been set. I've also heard conflicting reports on whether it is actually useful for a fast reader. Also, while the cost is certainly less prohibitive than everything else that's on the market, I'm wary of spending that kind of money on a productt I've never seen which has such a shaky start. In short, I would like a barebones note taker that I can use for reading conveniently, nothing more, nothing less. I don't mind if I don't use the document creation features that such a note taker would undoubtedly have. I would rather type using a qwerty keyboard these days. But I always have, and always will, love reading in Braille, and I despise audio books. So ever since I lost my Braille Note, reading any books has pretty much come to a screeching halt for me.

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Turtlepower17, haven't Orbit Reader units been sold? I was under the impression that they could be purchased at the NFB national convention in July, and users with not-so-fast reading speeds really like it.

Why could you not connect your braille display to your phone via Bluetooth and then read books in bed with it that way? It's not how I would read books, but it certainly works.

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Some Orbit Readers seem to have been sold at the NFB and ACB National conventions, yeah. And that is all, and also it was a whole year earlier that I got to look at one at the previous NFB National Convention, and it was slated for a Fall release at that time. Then it got pushed back every couple months, until they gave up and removed the release date circa May or so. Apparently, the units at the conventions were the only units available. And the main reason I heard for the delays was software related (the text editor?). Did they run out of money, or something? Are the people working on it involved in 50 other projects simultaneously? Why isn't there an open-source braille text editor, at this point? Wasn't this developed by contributions from multiple organizations? Is _someone_ going to give an interview on this after it stops being so ethereal? Because it'd be useful to anyone trying to work on braille tech to know what in the world has been going on for the past year.

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I still have my Apex, and I agree it's a fab reading machine. But I've always wanted to upgrade to 40 cells. So what would be your recommendation for that, do you think?

@TJT1234 basically because it's slow, and creates the obligation to keep your device unlocked, and to be in Bluetooth range, and because it's not as free and fluid, or aesthetically pleasing, or other reasons which don't matter because they're mine, mine I tell you, and nobody's interfering with them but me. smile Yeah I'm with TurtlePower here.

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Sebby, I agree with you. Unlike most people here, I actually started using a braille display and then switched to a notetaker. I don't think I would ever take a step back.

As for the 40-cell problem, I find this to be a problem as well. I really miss that 20% of extra braille per line, but there is no braille display in the market that satisfies my needs for a 40-cell notetaker. This is why I was quite annoyed when HIMS announced their new Braille Sense Polaris with only 32 cells. It makes so much more sense to have a 40-cell display, the most significant reason being that most hardcopy braille is printed with 40 cells per line, so why should electronic braille not be the same?

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I have used school braille notes going back to one that was similar to the original. I think I remember the braille on the mpower and older feeling crisper and more sturdy than that on the apex, but the apex at that time was the earliest version of keysoft 9.0 and the software bugs way outdid any complaints I had about any braille problems. I have seen the bong display that aph use to redistribute on quota funds or something, so lots of people at the blind school I went to got one, but they didn't start getting them until after I graduated. I used an old braillesense onhand for years, and that thing can really take a beating. It still works 6 years later with minimal damage except for the sd card reader for some reason, but the display is surprisingly fine, especially considering all the dusty places i took it. It's successor the U2 mini on the other hand, had a lot to live up to, and it hasn't. I had to get it repaired once this first year, and the display already has several dots glitching. Also, I have never been able to connect it to my phone with bluetooth, but the old one connected to both Iphone and my old android no problem. The fact that the successor to this uses a version of android that is 2 desserts behind (probably already too old for some apps) makes me reluctant to beg the state for one. I very much enjoy the ability to read documents on the display independent of my phone though. It saves battery on my phone, and I can take my display to class and know that I don't have to rely on 2 devices and 2 batteries just to read my notes. I would like a display that had more than 1 line, but then it wouldn't be so portable then would it. The only drawback of document reading displays like the braillesense are for strange nerdy people who want to learn multiple languages of braille, especially non-european languages. lol My dream display would have many braille language tables, and ability to save and edit text documents, and audio documents as well. Then you could use it to read and listen to song lyrics. It would also have wireless connectivity and be extra durable, as in half a year in rural China shouldn't kill it.

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40 cells is definitely pushing the comfort barrier for me, which is just fine. You just get used to a teeeensy bit more movement of your hand, maybe exercise your shoulder to keep your reading hand moving a bit, but otherwise the extra space is a bonus. My Apex is just beside me on the desk, off but next to my Focus, and it's still perfectly cute despite its 32 cells. It's just not enough for an integrated note-taker. It's frustrating, when I use it, to notice the lack of eight little cells ...

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