Bugging Out With the Mantis Q40: My Quick Take Review

Hey hey! Comin’ at ya from my new display. I have, after five years of great use with the Brailliant, acquired a Mantis Q40 from the American Printing House for the Blind. After all, technology marches on and this represents the potential fora significant upgrade. This machine has a full-sized laptop keyboard located above the row of Braille cells, which makes typing a lot easier and more intuitive.

I surprisingly received it yesterday. With APH’s ordering information, I had a hard time deducing when the device had actually shipped, and was thus kind of nervous and concerned until it finally arrived. After that, of course the rest of the day was spent playing with my new “toy”

So, first I had to familiarize myself with the display’s functioning by reading much of the user manual. It is relatively straightforward, but getting everything to work was… not. I would say the experience was similar to that when I first got my Brailliant five years ago, which is to say that a new device is going to have some issues. I think many of these are of Apple’s making, and I hope that they will be resolved sooon.

The primary issue I’m having, and just had as I typed this, is keeping the display connected to the phone via Bluetooth. It took four tries to even get some semblance of joining, and with each attempt after that the connection seemed to become more stable. Now, when it freezes periodically, I have only to go into the Bluetooth menu on my iPhone, disconnect and reconnect the display and it usually works. Obviously this would present long term challenges, but well we’ll see.

To find the positive: I love the machine’s size as they still manage to have a thin, very portable device with the full keyboard. The keys have nice spring and are just fun to type on, although the Braille bug that doesn’t let you type too fast, which has existed since iOS 11, is still a big nuisance. What was I saying about hope for a fix to these other problems soon? Yeah.

I also enjoy the crispness of the Braille, and find that I can now read at about 1.5 times the speed. Of what I used to manage. The thumb and panning buttons, while likely he Brailliant’s, are just a bi t smaller and perhaps more responsive in some way. So until the myriad writing stuff is reworked, I will likely most enjoy the reading experience.

So would I, in my short time having this device, recommend it? Well yes, and especially fort he educational//professional audience for whom it is most intended. As I mentioned before, typing is just easier than Braille in many respects, most notably when one must enter email and passwords, which even if I know the correct Braille symbols the translator just gets wrong. I would also recommend it for its charge, which seems lightning fast, and the replaceable batttery. This machine looks like it will hold up for at least another five years, and hopefully at some point I will be able to pound out my great American novel on it as well as to get back up to regular posting. There will be another probably in less than a wee k. Till then, have a good Fourth of July holiday.

2 Responses to Bugging Out With the Mantis Q40: My Quick Take Review

  1. Hello John

    Thanks so much for the great quick take review. I wanted to address a couple issues you mentioned as you are correct that there are a couple bugs on the Apple side that we are hopeful they will fix soon.

    1st the issue of not being able to type quickly. This is an issue found in many displays when using contracted braille entry. We did find that a work around that improves the experience is to, after pairing the Mantis to your iOS device, under Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Braille, change your braille input grade to 8 dot uncontracted. Because the Mantis uses a QWERTY keyboard, there is no need to use Apple’s braille input translation.

    Secondly you did see the bug that exists on Apple’s side, because we are the first device to use their new Braille HID protocol, and it is dropping the pairing occasionally. To work around this, you will find an option in the Mantis’s bluetooth connections menu called, “Reconnect”. This will force the iOS to re-recognize your mantis and is much faster than manually going into your iOS settings screen and forgetting the device.

    We sent Apple a Mantis device to help them debug these challenges and look forward to the day when we don’t have to use the work arounds. However as a user myself, once you get used to the work around process, it does not slow you down much.

    We here at APH hope you enjoy the Mantis device.

    Best regards

    Greg Stilson
    APH Head Of Global Innovation

    • Thanks for reading. The advice about changing input is good, I appreciate that. As for the connection issues, I hope Apple is able to clean them up but for now it’s no big deal. I’ve at least got things working consistently.

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