Earlier this week I reviewed the Data Bank for Xbox One from Nyko, and really liked it. While testing it, and since then, I have been using their Type Pad product that came out in October. Full disclosure notice: I’m rarely play games online and I have very few Xbox Friends and I send even less messages through Xbox Live. So I sent several messages with this, did a lot of testing and searching within the Xbox Store and other text forms on the system to try to get a feel for it.
The Type Pad retails for about $35, but can be had for slightly less on storefronts like Amazon. It’s in direct competition with Microsoft’s own Chatpad which is priced the same. There are some key differences though, but without even having tried the Chatpad, I would lean towards it being the superior product, and I’ll explain why throughout this article.
Setting up the Type Pad is straight-forward. It supports original Xbox One controllers and the newer kind that have the 3.5mm audio/headset jack, and I believe it works with Windows but I did not test this. After unboxing the Type Pad, you’ll discover a nice foldout instruction booklet with large, detailed images. The first thing you’ll need to do is determine your controller type; if you have the newer model with the 3.5mm jack on the bottom edge, take the Type Pad and pull back the soft rubber cover on the back of the unit. This cover ‘hides’ a collapsed 3.5mm jack that will plug into the controller. Flip it up, snap it into place, and it then faces the same direction as the interface connector that goes into the controller for power. Then restore the position of the rubber cover. If you have an older controller like I do, you can just skip these steps.
At this point you might want to go ahead and plug in the mini 2.4Ghz USB dongle that comes with the Type Pad. This tiny device is the transmitter/receiver used between the console and the Type Pad to relay input. It can be placed in any of the Xbox One’s USB slots, although, for whatever reason I had to use the slot on the side of the system. I need to investigate this further and test with another system, but I could not achieve sync between the Type Pad and the dongle when I was using either of the two ports on the back of the system. I think this problem is somehow unique to me though, but just a heads up.
With this dongle plugged in and the system on, turn on your controller and look on the bottom of the Type Pad for the small Sync button. A small LED next to the button will indicate sync status, flashing rapidly at first while the connection is made, and then steadily flashing for 2-3 seconds and then turning off to indicate sync. At this point, connect your headset if you got one and you’re good to go. Other than the issue I had with the USB ports and the dongle, setting up the Type Pad is as easy as it should be.
Next, let’s talk features and real world use. First, the buttons — they are not backlit like the Chatpad, but they do glow in the dark, a nice touch. The Type Pad is marketed as being a full QWERTY keyboard, and as far as the letters go, this is true. There are however some liberties taken with the other buttons, which is not inherently a bad thing. In the age of texting and typing shorthand messages on platforms like Xbox Live, some adjustments to the standard keyboard should be made. For example, dedicated @ and .com buttons are on the Type Pad and these are good. The inclusion of a tiny stick control in the top right is quite nice, you can use it to move the text cursor or for navigating the Xbox dashboard.
It would be asking too much, but it would be neat if you could customize some of the other buttons, like if I could swap the colon and forward slash buttons for “!” and “?”, two characters I use a lot more often than colon and forward slash. As is, you have to press and hold the shift button and then press the corresponding number button to use those characters. This requires both hands which is unfortunately cumbersome. A related nuisance involves capital letters; call me old school, but even in text messages to friends I tend to use proper capitalization and punctuation. In doing so on the Type Pad, capital letters require pressing a Caps Lock key on the lower left of the keyboard and then pressing it again to disable it. Using shift and your letter does not work.
The button layout overall is workable, though. My biggest issue is the “sponginess” of the buttons themselves. The buttons are raised significantly up from the unit’s surface and have what feels to me like to much depth to them. I know I keep bringing up the Chatpad, but it’s a direct competitor to the Type Pad, so I think it’s fair to do so. That said, the Chatpad has flatter, harder keys. They remind me of an old HTC phone I had and texting on that sucker was smooth and fast, as the buttons provided good, firm feedback. That type of keyboard works better for me for quicker, more accurate typing as opposed to the spongy feel of the Type Pad buttons. The buttons’ size makes inadvertantly catching neighboring buttons on the edge and pushing them down while you push your intended button something that takes some getting used to as well, so it’s reasonable to expect a lot of typos and backspacing as you (probably) get accustomed to the keypad.
Were the Type Pad priced considerably less than the Chatpad, it would offer a more interesting value, especially for those gamers that have headsets that manage their own volume control and do not need their controllers to do so (as the Type Pad has no volume controls at all). However, as things stand, the design, features (not all of which were mentioned here) and price of Microsoft’s own Chatpad make it a more enticing product.