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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2012 Issue  Volume 13  Number 5

Product Evaluations

Product Evaluation: Plextalk Pocket PTP1 DAISY Book Player and Digital Recorder from Shinano Kenshi

The PLEXTALK Pocket PTP1 is a sleek DAISY book player and digital recorder made for use by people who are blind or have low vision. Smaller than some cell phones, the PLEXTALK Pocket is about the size of a deck of cards and weighs less than four ounces.

Contents and Accessories

The PLEXTALK Pocket comes to you with a 2 GB secure digital (SD) card already inserted, stereo earbuds, an AC adapter, a USB cable for transferring material from a computer, a short USB adapter for connecting a USB memory stick or CD player, and a CD containing the User's Guide in HTML and Microsoft Word formats. The device also comes with a zippered, padded, fabric pouch that is adequate protecting the unit and all of its accessories.

Product Design

The PLEXTALK Pocket has an exceptionally smooth surface. The face has a standard 12-button phone-style keypad, with 11 additional keys located above. The layout of buttons on the PLEXTALK Pocket is extremely well planned. Every button is distinctly shaped and textured, so that the location of keys without sight is absolutely effortless.

Above the key panel is a speaker, which is activated when earbuds for private listening are not in use. This is perhaps the best internal speaker I've ever encountered on a handheld player.

On the top edge of the unit are the ports for headphones and external microphone and on the bottom are the ports for the USB cable and AC adapter. The left edge has the slot for the SD card, and the right edge has an up-down volume switch and a switch for locking all keys.

Using the PLEXTALK Pocket

The PLEXTALK Pocket plays quaint melodic sounds when powering on or off, executing a command, or directing you to wait for a task to be completed. Somewhat akin to the sounds one might hear in a children's play to indicate magical happenings, I found these sounds utterly charming. If you don't share my feelings, they can be silenced.

The logic employed in the device's operation soon becomes intuitive as patterns of performing tasks emerge. For example, one of the most prominent features on the face of the unit is a circle of four arrow keys with a concave Enter button in the center. Many functions are performed by first pressing one of the four corner keys (Go To, Bookmark, Menu, and Title) surrounding this circle, followed by a combination of arrow keys and presses of the Enter key. It did seem cumbersome at first, but again, once the pattern emerges, the operation is easy and intuitive. PLEXTALK audibly confirms every command executed, so that learning is facilitated and errors are difficult to make. The entire user's manual is available at any time with a press of the #0 key, and a Key Describer mode can be invoked by long-pressing the Menu key at any time for learning the names of the various buttons.

Overview of Functions

The PLEXTALK Pocket is a DAISY book player and DAISY recorder. It can play your books and music from a variety of sources, and does all recording in DAISY format, meaning that you can easily insert Headings in your own recordings to improve ease of navigation and review. The PLEXTALK Pocket offers a Voice Memo feature for quick recordings or notes lasting up to one minute on the go, and it can tell you the time and date. Because it's always in standby mode, you can perform any of these functions instantly at the touch of a button. A complete power-off is necessary only when you wish to leave the unit for an extended period of time; powering up again takes 30 to 40 seconds.

Playing Media

The PLEXTALK Pocket can play just about any type of audio content you might want to load onto it, including books from Bookshare, the National Library service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Learning Ally, and Audible. It plays a variety of audio formats directly from your commercial CDs, and can download podcasts or stream content from your favorite Internet radio stations.

While many of the above book sources require authorization for any player, I found the installation of authorization keys and activation processes to be extremely simple. The Audible.com activation was so straightforward that I was almost surprised to find that my books had already transferred to the player and were ready for listening!

Navigation

PLEXTALK Pocket organizes material in folders. You can access these folders (by initially pressing the Title key) either as one long string of titles or by arrowing up to select folder or category review. While playing a book or other file, you can move forward and backward by DAISY levels (the number of which depends on the original markup of the material) or by time increments of 30 seconds or ten minutes. This latter feature seemed inadequate at first, since some players offer a much wider range of time intervals for navigating, but the PLEXTALK Pocket also allows you to move forward by percentages which is a fair compensation.

To change speed of the narration, speed, or volume of the PLEXTALK voice, or tone, you press the #1 key repeatedly until you find the desired setting, then use the up and down arrows to adjust.

Voice Memos and Recordings

Where the PLEXTALK Pocket truly shines is as a DAISY recorder. The Voice Memo feature is available at any time by simply pressing and holding the Record key for up to one minute. This is useful, for example, when you want to capture a short reminder to yourself on the fly. Voice memos are stored internally in their own folder and can be reviewed, played, and deleted easily.

All other user-recorded material is stored on the SD card (up to 32GB) in a separate folder. You can record using the built-in microphone. For higher quality recordings, you can attach an external microphone or cable directly to another output device (such as a CD player, radio, or other source.) Recording quality from the internal microphone is quite good and, if you use headphones, the PLEXTALK voice can guide you through all monitoring without interfering with the recording itself.

All recording done with the unit can be easily marked for navigation, either during or after the recording process, by a simple press of a few buttons. Headings are inserted, allowing for delightfully swift and efficient navigation of a lecture, presentation, or program recorded from another audio source.

The Bottom Line

The PLEXTALK Pocket is a delightful digital player and recorder designed specifically for people who are blind or have low vision. Whether listening with headphones or via the built-in speaker, the device produces excellent sound clarity. The PLEXTALK Pocket shines as a personal DAISY recorder. It is an extremely stable device; in two months of testing, I never once had to reset or troubleshoot operation.

The learning curve for operating the PLEXTALK Pocket is a bit steeper than for some other players on the access technology market, but particularly for those who need to record lectures or other information, the time spent learning is well worth the effort.

Product: PLEXTALK Pocket PTP1 DAISY Book Player and Digital Recorder from Shinano Kenshi

Price: $275.00 (until May 31, 2012)

Available From: Freedom Scientific or Plextalk, (800) 444-4443

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