When Microsoft announced they were creating a QWERTY style add-on for the Xbox 360 controllers, it immediately shot to the top of my list as a “must have” accessory. Having keyed in many of code for games and pre-paid Microsoft Points, the ability to use a compact keypad was not only intriguing, but becoming a necessity.
My first chance to get a hands-on came with an early build that was being shown off at the Chicago Gamerscoreblog Tour
event that I attended in May. I was very impressed with what I saw back then, and was looking forward to the updates that I was told had happened since that build was put together.
The final version of the Chatpad was finally released to retail on 9/4/2007 and came packaged with a re-configured Xbox 360 wired headset at a cost of $29.99.
The headset is identical to the current wired units except for one very distinctive difference. The volume and mute button are on a shirt pocket clip about a foot down the cord from the headset instead of configured in the base at the plug. The reason for this change is that the Chatpad has only a single 2.5-mm plug and does not have the space for the contoured plug/volume control area that is on the original wired headset.
There were a few negatives involving the headset, which tends to have a bit more echo than the original wired headset did. A few times the conversation sounded like it was taking place in the bottom of a 50-gallon drum. The other negative is that the Chatpad isn’t compatible with the existing wired headsets. If you have a wireless one, then the issue is moot, but considering the lifespan of the wired ones to date, I have a feeling that the included unit won’t last more than a few months of heavy gaming.
The Chatpad itself is feather light, and does nothing to throw off the balance or impact the weight of the Xbox 360 wireless controller. The only issue I could find was that my pinkies didn’t curl around the backside of the controller as much as without the Chatpad, which is really of no consequence.
The buttons are spaced apart enough to prevent accidental keystrokes and were surprisingly firm. They responded properly to my thumbs and decreased my typing speed for codes by at least half.
There are some curious layout choices for the pad though, mainly regarding characters like ; $ , ) - and others. A better grouping could have been done utilizing the letter keys below the normal Numerical key they are assigned to. I don’t have a lot of QWERTY experience, which could be why I am questioning the layout. Regardless, practically every key has two to three letters/characters assigned to it, so chances are you can use your full compliment of grammar and characters while messaging your friends on Live.
One final item to note involves a few eyebrows raised over the $29 price tag with the included headset. While it would have been nice to get the Chatpad by itself for $19.99, the way the interface for the wired headset is configured, existing wired headsets simply wont plug in. Not everyone can afford or chooses to get the wireless units, so I really don’t have much issue with this forced add-on. Personally, I would have paid the $30 for the Chatpad alone.
Overall, the Chatpad part of the Messenger Kit is a very innovative add-on for the Xbox 360 that is worth every cent paid for it. The quality, functionality and ease of use make this the best Xbox 360 accessory to date.
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