Device Review: X-keys XK-24 USB Keypad by P.I. Engineering - Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services
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Device Review: X-keys XK-24 USB Keypad by P.I. Engineering


Reviewed on July 17th, 2017

By:  Leanna Warsaw – Physical Therapy Student, University of Buffalo

         Amy Baxter, PT, DPT, ATP/SMS Syracuse VA Medical Center


Overview:

X-keys keypad is a user-programmable USB computer input device developed by P.I. Engineering. The keyboard consists of programmable keys to trigger Macros, shortcuts, applications, or select tools, open files, and open directories. X-keys can be used with any device that supports USB. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android devices. This is a highly versatile device and can be programmed to meet the specific needs of the user. Keypads come in a variety sizes from 4 to 128 programmable keys. For the purpose of this review, XK-24 will be the focus.

The device can be programmed in one of two modes, hardware mode or software mode.  When programmed in hardware mode, the keypad’s internal memory stores the information without the use of additional software installed on the computer, thus enabling the user to plug n play on any computer. XK-24 has a memory of approximately 1000 keystrokes. 

When programmed in software mode, the macros are stored on the computer/device. The macros will not launch if the keypad is plugged into a different device.  However, there is no limitation to the size of the macros as they are stored on the computer and not on the keypad.

Indications:

X-keys is a highly versatile device and can be used for many different applications. This keypad may be used by individuals with memory impairments such as, dementia or those with residual effects of TBI and stroke.  It may also be useful for individuals with physical limitations including spinal cord injury, upper extremity amputation, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or overuse injuries.  This product is commonly used by individuals without physical or cognitive impairments as well for more efficient task completion.

Contraindications:

A user must have good cognitive ability to program the device, as it may be challenging when first learning.  However, if the user is only operating the device, it is simple to use and is appropriate for those with moderate cognitive impairment. A user must also have the appropriate motor control and strength to push the keys.

Criteria for Evaluation of Assistive Device Technology

Affordability:

This product is reasonably priced at $139.95 on the P.I. Engineering website.  It includes free software for Windows (MacroWorks 3.1) and Mac (ControllerMate for X-keys), as well as, free software development kits for C++, C#, VB.NET, Java, and OS.

Additional pricing for mounts and accessories are available on the P.I. Engineering website.

Compatibility:

This product is compatible with any Windows (XP through 10), Mac (OS X 10.4 through 10.8), Linux, and Android device that supports USB.

Consumer Repairability:

A consumer may not be able to repair a broken keyboard, but does have the ability to program new keys.  Tech support is available through the company via phone or email.  There is also a forum for customers to post questions/suggestions to the developers, tech support, and other customers. The website also has free tutorials for use of the software.

Dependability:

Based on customer reviews, the x-keys products tend to be highly dependable with very little issues. If there is a problem, it can usually be resolved by restarting the computer the device is plugged into.

Durability:

Based on reviews, customers find the products highly durable and are often in good working condition for many years.

Ease of Assembly:

No assembly is required, although the keyboard is easiest to use when labeled.   The clear key caps can be removed with a small finger, small screw driver, or paper clip and printed text, pictures, or other cues can be inserted to label each key.  Larger caps can be purchased to tie two to four keys together if size is a concern. 

Ease of Maintenance:

This product does not require updates and is little to no maintenance once programmed.

Effectiveness:

X-keys are very effective once programmed. It allows for more efficient task completion and gives users with cognitive or physical impairments the ability to perform tasks that they may not be able to complete otherwise.

Flexibility:

This is a highly flexible device and can be used for almost any computer task a user could imagine. In hardware mode, a user can transport the keyboard to different devices and it will continue to function.

Learnability:

There is a learning curve when programming the device. However, there are tools such as tech support and online tutorials to assist with this task.  

Once programmed, the device is simple to use with the labels/visual cues to describe the function of each key.  The device enables a user to open files, open websites, type multiple lines of text, open email, remember passwords, and perform other mouse functions with a single push of a button.

Operability:

In order to operate this product, a user needs sufficient UE/hand function to depress they keys. There are larger keys, key blockers, or tall and wide key caps if necessary.  There is also two color adjustable backlighting to help section off keys. The user also needs the appropriate cognition to understand the function of each key and how to operate the computer/device it is being used on.

Personal Acceptability:

This product is professional looking and is used by those with and without disabilities. It tends to be highly accepted by individuals due to the ability to complete tasks more efficiently, or even make certain computer tasks possible for some users.

Physical Comfort:

This review focused specifically on XK-24 with 24 keys. However, there are a variety of different sizes available depending on a user’s needs. It comes with an angled foot for a more ergonomic style.

Portability:

Due to the small size and light weight (xk-24: 10.1 oz), the product is easily portable. The USB cable that comes with the product is 4.7 feet long. A USB extender can be purchased separately that will allow for up to 150 foot cable.

Securability:

This device can be mounted to a desk or table.  When programmed in software mode, the keyboard will not function without the macro software installed on the computer.  Therefore security is based on security of the user’s computer system.  In hardware mode the information is stored on the keyboard and could easily be viewed if the device is stolen.  Measures should be taken not to store passwords on a device programmed in hardware mode or extra physical measures should be taken to ensure the device is secured when not in use.   

Supplier Repairability:

There is a 1 year warranty on this product. The warranty can be extended up to 4 years.  An additional year will be added for each of the following:  posting a picture and description of keypad to Facebook, tweeting a picture on Twitter, or writing a review of x-keys on Amazon.com.  The company also includes a 30 day money back guarantee with your purchase.

As stated above, tech support and forums are available, as well as, free tutorials.

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5

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Very Satisfied

 

Category

Score

Affordability

 

5

Compatibility

 

4

Consumer Repairability

 

3

Dependability

 

5

Durability

 

5

Ease of Assembly

 

4

Ease of Maintenance

 

4

Effectiveness

 

5

Flexibility

 

5

Learnability

 

3

Operability

 

4

Personal Acceptability

 

5

Physical Comfort

 

5

Physical Security

 

5

Portability

 

5

Securability

2

Supplier Reparability

 

4

Average

4.1