I just came back from Vision 2015 Conference at Baltimore run by Foundation Fighting Blindness. Since this conference was attended by many visually impaired people. So, there were lots of products like video magnifiers in the exhibit. I wasn't expecting to see Braille displays.
But to my pleasant surprise, 3 Braille Display manufacturers, HIMS, Freedom Scientific, and Humanware were there to exhibit their products. Even more surprising was that HIMS showed their Smart Beetle. The sales people told me that you can order Smart Beetle from them directly or from your local distributors. They are shipping Smart Beetle now.
I must admit that I am not a Braille display user yet. I have Usher Syndrome (that's why I went to that conference). My eyesight is getting to the point where I am learning Braille and am considering buying a Braille display. Actually, this was my first hands-on experience with ANY Braille displays. So, I can only give you my impressions based on the physical look and feel. I can't give you any opinions on the functionality.
Since Freedom Scientific was also showing their Freedom 14, so I ran back and forth between the two booths and compared the two devices. Smart Beetle is actually very similar to Freedom 14 in terms of dimensions (width, height, and depth). With carrying cases on both products, Smart Beetle seems a bit heavier than Freedom 14. But I have to emphasize that the impressions were very subjective. I couldn't bring both devices together and compare them side by side, because the companies had 2 booths separated by a hallway. I don't think it would be appropriate to ask for a side-by-side comparison in an exhibit with sales people running around.
They both have Perkins keyboard. The braille cells seem to be very similar to my touches. Both are very crisp. I think (but I can't be 100% sure from my memory) Smart Beetle, just like Freedon 14, has cursor routing buttons. Even their carrying cases are quite similar. They both carry 2-year warranty. They both sell for $1295.
So, from my very rudimentary, 5-minute, non-expert impressions, these two products are very similar in their physical look. Of course, they have very different sets of function keys. Smart Beetle has more connectivity (baesd on what the sales people told me).
I walked away not making any commitment to either device. I wanted to come back home and take a look at their manuals and look deeper at their functionality, such as function keys. But I am sure that both are very good products. I don't think I'll go wrong with either product.
Now that we have competition in the market. I hope that we will see deep reviews and comparisons on these products soon.