I previously reviewedthe Brailliant BI 40X. In that evaluation, I mentioned there was a 20-cell model as well. Unlike when I reviewed the Focus Blue Fifth Generation displays, which are the same display other than the amount of cells, the two models of Brailliants sport some differences. Physical differences aside, the software functions the same. This includes how these devices behave with working with screen readers. This evaluation has been adapted for the AppleVis website. The full review contains sections on the new features in version 1.1.1 of the firmware such as PDF support, new shortcut keys and the new documentation.
What’s in the box?
The box was divided into three layers. The top layer is where you will find the Brailliant BI 20X, along with a print getting started guide. The second layer inside the box contains a USB-A to USB-C cable, along with a wall charger. On the bottom layer, you will find a case with a lanyard attached to it. Due to how this display was packed, it could be easy to miss the case since it is buried under two other layers.
The case fits around the Brailliant BI 20X snugly and covers all keys, the braille display, and cursor routing buttons. Like the BI 40X case, it closes with a magnet and does not cover the ports on the sides or front. Unlike the Brailliant BI 40X case, the one that comes with the 20 cell model is nylon, and fits together with glue. During the time I was using a similar product called the Chameleon 20, which ships with the same case, I found that relatively short amounts of time spent in the sun melted a lot of the glue. Humanware did replace my case, since this happened roughly three months after purchase, but it may be worth noting. There is a case which can be purchased from Executive Products for $89.95 which works very well with the Brailliant. It has an anti-slip material on the back, contains a pocket for storing things like SD cards, and appears to stand up well when in sunny and warm environments.
The Brailliant BI 20X is a twenty cell braille display featuring a ergonomic Perkins-style Keyboard, 16 gigabytes of internal memory, and the ability to connect to external media through the USB-A port and SD card reader. It measures 7.2 inches long by 3.3 inches wide by 0.8 inches thick and weighs 0.88 pounds.
Orientation of Brailliant BI 20X
Positioning the device so the spacebars are closest to you, the lay-out is as follows. On the front edge from left to right, just like its larger counterpart, are five buttons. First is the Previous Thumb Key followed by the Left Thumb Key, which is about twice as long as the Previous Thumb Key. In the middle is a circular shaped button known as the Home Key. This Key is always used to return you to the previous menu. To the right of the Home Key is the Right Key, followed by the Next Key. The Right Thumb Key is larger than the Next Key. The two larger thumb Keys on the front of the device are what pans the display back and forth.
The Previous and Next Thumb Keys are used for navigational purposes that depend on the application in use and how they are configured. On the left side you will find three items. Moving from front to back, you will encounter a USB-A port used for inserting a thumb drive. Behind this is the Power button. Pressing and holding it for several seconds will toggle the power, and a quick press when the device is on will either wake it up or put it to sleep. Behind this is a USBC port for charging or connecting it to a computer.
On the right side are two volume buttons and a 3.5MM headphone jack, which are not operational at the time of this evaluation. On the top surface, the Keys located closest to you are two spacebars. Behind these, you will find the twenty braille cells with a corresponding Cursor Routing Key behind each cell. Behind the Cursor Routing Keys, is a standard eight-dot Perkins-style braille keyboard. Finally, on the very back of the surface, in the middle of the device, is a speaker. Like the volume controls and headphone jack, these items are not currently implemented, but Humanware has indicated they will be activated in a future update. Along the back side of the Brailliant BI 20X, you will find an SD card reader. The under-side of the display has a braille serial number and a couple of rubber feet to hold it in place. The differences between the twenty and forty cell models are that the twenty lacks C keys, stereo speakers, and a microphone. The forty cell model does not have an SD card reader, but does have twice the amount of internal memory.
Other differences between the Brailliant BI 20X and BI 40X
The differences between the 20- and 40-cell models are that the 20 lacks C keys, stereo speakers and a microphone. The 40-cell model does not have an SD card reader but does have twice the amount of internal memory. The 40-cell model does not have a removable battery like the 20 does. The Brailliant BI 40X is using Bluetooth 5 which also supports 2.4ghz and 5ghz Wi-Fi. The Brailliant BIi 20x has Bluetooth 4.2 and only supports 2.4ghz Wi-Fi.
The updating process
The User Guide has been updated to reflect firmware version 1.1.1. The User Guide does provide helpful information on the various ways in which a user can update their Brailliant BI 20X or Brailliant BI 40X. However, when updating manually through the online method, version 1.1 requires you to go to the options menu, then select about, and then choose to check for update. Once updated to 1.1.1, there will be a new feature in the Options menu called “Software update”. I have upgraded three devices so far, and all of them have updated successfully. The only thing to be aware of when updating is that once complete, the device will shut off and not restart. You will need to press and hold the power button to restart it and then verify you are running the latest version by pressing space with i.
Comparing overall performance
As noted above, the Brailliant BI 20X and BI 40X run the same firmware, meaning they have the same feature set. Battery life, file load time, connecting over USB, the downloading of content, and almost every other function appears to perform equally. One of the few differences is in the Bluetooth connection between the Brailliant and a screen reader. I found that the connectivity on the 40X was slightly more reliable than the 20X, particularly with regard to the range of the signal. The 20X only seems to be fully reliable from around twenty feet away. The Brailliant BI 40X seems to be able to handle the connection for up to thirty feet. This is most likely on account of the 20X running Bluetooth version 4.2, while the 40X runs Bluetooth version 5.
One thing I enjoy more about the 20X over its larger counterpart is that it is much more portable yet offers the same amount of access and features. It is encouraging to see Humanware continue to innovate, issuing new firmware updates and ultimately making these devices more capable. Individuals often on-the-go, will likely find the twenty cell Brailliant to be an excellent fit. It is portable and offers respectable battery life. I find the full sized SD card reader to be a welcomed feature, as unlike with a thumb drive, the SD card can remain in the unit and will not stick out, risking damage to the drive or the USB port. Beyond these points, my conclusions are the same as they were in my review of the Brailliant BI 40X.
The Brailliant BI 20X is available for purchase through Humanware and costs $1895.00.