The Mantis, My Updated Thoughts

I’ve owned a Mantis QX40 Braille display from the American Printing House for the Blind for almost ten months, and my viewership numbers at least suggest that there is still a lot of interest in what I make of this product. So I figured it was high time to capture some of the things I love about this device as well as those that I hope change in some way or would just like to see added. My overall impression though is that this is one of the best little machines I’ve ever had. I’ve written every blog post since its acquisition on this springy QWERTY keyboard. So that’s a good start, right?
And that would probably be my favorite element of the Mantis, its keyboard. I probably noted that in the original post, but it still holds true: having the easy ability to type and to see a Braille display at the bottom without carrying around 2 devices is a big plus. I can certainly type on a Perkins-style keyboard, but it just seems that in some way that can impede my thinking. I should note that for those who want what the Mantis offers (and a little more) on a display with the Perkins keyboard, HumanWare has just released the Brailliant BI 40X. It’s like the previous display I owned, but definitely improved. I know that some would just prefer that form factor, and it’s good to be in a world of choice where we have such options.
Anyway, my second favorite thing about the Mantis is it size. It feels good on my lap and allows me to read easily even in confined spaces, without too much fear of it sliding off of said lap and hitting the floor. The APH-provided case adds to its heft and also decreases the slidiness (that’s a word because I say so!) That Brailliant I had before was built like a tank, having flown from my hand more than a few times but only carrying slight dents and still functioning quite well. I suppose the Mantis is equally strong, but because of its purchasing price I have no desire to test that theory.
Stability and typing speed are all well and good, but my truly favorite thing about the Mantis is the reading services present therein. It connects to NFB Newsline and Bookshare, both of which I have now signed up for. The latter requires a $50 membership fee, but for all of the reading I do these days it’s well worth it.
And I suppose here I can get into some of the things I wish the Mantis had, noting that APH is already aware of some of these and have made significant updates to the unit since I acquired it. The first, and this is superficial to me and not overtly necessary, is that it would be cool if the Mantis allowed access to the NLS BARD Braille catalog, as I hear the Brailliant BI X will. This is not a big problem for me, as I’d guess that Bookshare already has many of the titles available on NLS, but for a true book junkie like me the browsing and adding to wish list never stops.
A more wished-for update whose implementation I do not know even is possible, is for the Mantis to maintain the Braille settings used on the device when it is connected via the Terminal. For example, I have reversed the thumb key configuration, because I have found it easier to advance forward through a document using my left hand. If I use my right hand, I tend to bounce a spot ahead of what I had intended too many times for my liking. It will not allow me to access this setting though when working on the iPhone, which affects my ability to read in Kindle or Apple Books.
Finally, I discovered recently that when charging the unit, it seems best to leave it powered off for the entire time to get the most accurate reading on battery status. For a while, I thought that the fast-rising percentage I’d seen if the Mantis had been turned on and then back off during charging was accurate, but I noticed that when the status reads say 60% it would suddenly plummet to 20% and need immediate recharging. This would often happen a day and a half after having refilled it. Now, when I let it go to full charge at power-off, I can get about 4 days before needing to recharge. I would find it beneficial if somehow the unit could be made to display a accurate battery status no matter its powered state.
Those are surly small potatoes though, and do not at all detract from my enjoyment of using this device nearly all the time. I would still recommend it, and especially as the connectivity has also improved a great deal with the latest update, along with a near vanquishing of the Terminal Stopped issue that would occasionally pop up requiring a force quit. I certainly hope to get many more years out of it.

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