Braille on the Go: A Review of Braille Notetakers

October 15, 2018 | Leave a Comment

by David Flament

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Sumaya uses reads the refreshable braille display on her BrailleNote Touch.

 

I have been fielding a lot of calls about notetakers lately.  These are expensive devices, so I encourage you to do your research before purchasing.  You can start here with information and links to reviews for three of the major notetaking devices on the market, BrailleNote Touch, BrailleSense Polaris and ElBraille.

 

BrailleNote Touch

The BrailleNote Touch is the latest entry in the line of BrailleNote notetakers from Humanware.  It is their first Android-based notetaker and combines a touch screen with a braille display.  You can either use the traditional KeySoft applications like KeyWord or KeyPlan or your favorite Google apps like Google Docs or Google calendar.

The BrailleNote Touch has 2 GB of RAM and the lowest amount of internal storage for the three notetakers discussed in this article.  It comes with a 32-cell braille display for $5,495 and an 18-cell model for $3,995.

The BrailleNote Touch features include:

  • The Android operating system combined with the familiar KeySoft suite of apps
  • Both contracted and uncontracted Braille including UEB
  • Google Play store access
  • touch screen like mainstream tablets
  • Both TouchBraille and smart keyboard cover

You can read reviews of the BrailleNote Touch at iAccessibility.net and in AccessWorld.

 

BrailleSense Polaris

The BrailleSense Polaris is the latest notetaker from HIMS.  It is an Android-based notetaker, however, it is not a touch screen tablet.  HIMS has chosen to keep the same style notetaker design as its previous models while switching to the Android operating system.   The Polaris does support Google apps like Drive and Docs.

With 3 GB of RAM, the BrailleSense Polaris has the most RAM of these three notetakers.  The Polaris has a 32-cell braille display and a standard Perkins style keyboard.  It is priced at $5,795.  The Polaris Mini has a 20-cell braille display and comes with the same Perkins style keyboard.  The price for the Mini is $4,195.

The BrailleSense Polaris models features include:

  • Android OS Lollipop
  • Google Play store access
  • Suite of familiar BrailleSense apps like web browser, word processor and media player
  • 11-key Perkins keyboard with CTRL and ALT keys like a traditional notetaker
  • Powerful 8 core processor
  • 13 MP camera
  • Memory card slot
  • USB 3.0
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

AccessWorld and the NFB have reviews on the BrailleSense Polaris.

ElBraille

It has been a long time since the PacMate was retired.  Freedom Scientific has finally introduced a new notetaking device, the ElBraille.  The ElBraille is a Windows 10 based notetaker.  It will run Windows 10 apps, but with only 2 GB of memory, it may not have all the capabilities of a standard PC.  This notetaker comes with a Perkins style keyboard, however, JAWS and a braille display are sold separately.

The ElBraille has the most internal storage of the three notetakers discussed here.  The ElBraille is priced, for the unit alone, at $1,795 for use with a 14-cell braille display or $1,895 for use with a 40-cell braille display.  You can also purchase the ElBraille with a braille display already included.  The price for the ElBraille with a 14-cell display included is $2,795 and with a 40-cell braille display for $4,390.

The ElBraille features include:

  • Windows 10
  • Intel quad core Atom processor
  • 160 GB internal HDD
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • 4G LTE modem
  • USB 3.0
  • Memory card slot

Note: While a 14-cell braille display can be docked and undocked from the ElBraille, a 40-cell display must be permanently mated to the ElBraille by VFO.

You can read reviews of the ElBraille in AccessWorld and on the NFB’s website.

David is the Manager of Assistive Technology at Second Sense

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