As I hold my Day One controller from my launch Xbox One, it occurs to me that it has been two years since I’ve been able to chat with my readers via my console without frustration. My trusty Xbox 360 Chatpad was the key to my sanity entering in 25-character product keys and answering messages from all of you. The Xbox One had some promise with the QR code side of things, but we’ve not seen wide adoption there. There are other chatpads on the market, but they are from companies you’ve never heard of, and the reviews are less than stellar. Why hasn’t anyone released a decent Chatpad until now?
Nyko hit the ground running ahead of the official release of the Microsoft Chatpad which hits shelves later this November with the Nyko Type Pad. A quick look at the box showed off a pretty decent feature set, including a dedicated mini-thumbstick and glow-in-the-dark buttons for low-light situations. Could this compete with my much-loved Xbox 360 chatpad, while bringing new functionality to this current generation?
Talk QWERTY to me
The Type Pad, as you might imagine, features a 47 button keyboard, the same as chatpads of the previous generation. The rubber buttons are backlit green with the top two rows serving double duty tackling symbols like ? and #. As far as special keys go, shift, alt, period, comma, colon, /, and return get single-function keys all to themselves. Uniquely, there is also a dedicated .com and @ button — a pretty handy addition for web navigation.
Speaking of navigation, the tiny analog nub in the upper right of the Type Pad is very helpful in that regard. With a very small set of bumps to help your thumb stuck to the surface, the micro-analog allows you to use the right thumbstick without moving your hands away from the keyboard. It is a 1:1 replication of the right analog stick, all the way down to being able to depress it as R3. This is handy during web surfing, but it’s equally as handy navigating the menu system of the console.
One of the complaints I have with the Type Pad is the rubber buttons. I prefer the tactile clicky keys on the first party Xbox 360 and Xbox One pads. The longer press of the rubber buttons makes it fairly easy to accidentally press adjacent keys when typing quickly. It isn’t an insurmountable problem, it just has a bit of a learning curve. Even after a few days use, I still prefer the short-throw hard plastic keys.
There is something very strange going on with the Shift key on the Type Pad, though. On every QWERTY keyboard I’ve ever used you use the shift key to capitalize letters. That is not the case here. The shift key is more like a mislabeled alt key as it instead activates the sub-functions of the aforementioned top two rows of keys. Equally as strange is that those buttons don’t correspond to a standard keyboard. Without looking, I’m sure you can tell me that the exclamation point is shift and the number 1, but you might be surprised to find that the question mark has replaced the @ symbol on the number 2 key. Strangeness persists across the landscape as the # has been moved off 3 and onto 5, with “ taking its place. Keyboards have been pretty standard as a reference since the late 1800s, so I’m a little confused why Nyko tried to reinvent the wheel on this one.
The buttons on the Type Pad are backlit in a soft green — appropriate for the Xbox family. This is perfect for typing in the dark. The Type Pad doesn’t require a secondary power source, feeding off the controller at large. It doesn’t seem to soak power noticeably faster, but unlike my Xbox 360 Chatpad, the lights stay on all the time. It’s not a big deal, but it would have been nice to see the Type Pad dim itself when not in use.
Just passing through
On the rear of the launch Xbox One controller is the proprietary “expansion port”, but decidedly missing was a dedicated 3.5mm headphone port. While the new Elite and 2nd Generation controllers have this port, most of us are stuck with the original setup. The great news is that the Nyko Type Pad has you covered either way. Hidden behind a rubber plug on the rear of the system is an optional 3.5mm jack that can be used on either model.
If you are using an original controller, this provides a way to plug in a standard 3.5mm headset, though it offers none of the functionality of a first-party Headset Adapter. This means you will have to mute and adjust volume via whatever mechanism exists on your headphones. That said, there is a port on the bottom to plug in the Xbox One Headset Adapter or headphones, but it extends the controller profile to something approaching ridiculous.
Putting the Universal in USB
I once owned a Dodge Stratus. To change the battery I had to jack up the car, remove the left front tire, the brake housing, and the interior firewall to even reach the sealed box that held the it. It was a stupid design, and living in Phoenix, Arizona meant I had to deal with it frequently due to the effect heat has on batteries. The USB setup on the Xbox One is a level of stupid beyond the Dodge Stratus.
Rocksmith cables, adapters for Guitar Hero Live, legacy adapters for Rock Band 4, external hard drives to replace the dog-slow internal one, thumb drives for portability, Xbox One Play & Charge kits, FightSticks from Mad Catz, Thrustmaster racing wheels, and wired USB keyboards all seem to want to consume the paltry three USB 3.0 ports on the Xbox One. Microsoft, for reasons that defy any logical explanation, decided to locate exactly zero of these ports on the front of the system. One port is located on the left side of the console, and two are located in the most inconvenient place possible — the rear of the system. Nyko wants to use one of these precious and highly-inaccessable ports for their Type Pad. I’m baffled because the first-party Chatpad from Microsoft does not.