Braillenote Touch vs Esytime - Part 2

Published on 2018-04-01 by TheFake VIP
Edited on 2020-04-22 by TheFake VIP

Note: This was the second piece of content I ever made for this site. It’s been converted and transferred many times, is at least 4 years old now and isn’t formatted and layed out the best.


Recently, I started looking to get my old, tatty braillenote apex bt32 notetaker replaced with something new. I, along with my VI team at school found 2 devices. The braillenote touch, which is a braille tablet running android and with new features including touch braille (where you can type in braille on the glass of the screen) and the esytime, a braille laptop that runs full blown windows 7 (soon to be windows 10) with some cool features as well. I then published the first report on these devices, documenting all of my research up until that point. After that, I got somebody from each side of the battle to come out and demonstrate there product. This, my second report, is the most important notes I found out from these people and further research.

I’ll also publish a list of questions I had for theaformentioned sails people later, so you can see what my thoughtprocess was.

Also note that this document was written for me and the VI team to decide which device to buy, if any and was not originally meant to be published here.

Similarities between both units

  1. Both devices seem to be bigger than my current braillenote apex. The braillenote seems to have a larger surface area, but the esytime seems to be thicker.

  2. Both units have standard cursor keys above the braille display.

  3. Both units have a 32 cell braille display. The braillenote touch has an option for an 18 cell display, but I’m not sure about the esytime.

  4. Both products have clear, sharp braille displays, at least to my fingers.

  5. They both are considerably more advanced and overall more useful than my braillenote apex.

  6. Both take longer to boot up from a cold start than my braillenote, but unless the devices crash, this shouldn’t be an issue, because I can leave the chosen device in sleep mode.

  7. Both devices have a braille terminal, allowing the user to connect the display to another computer and enter/read text.

Notes on the braillenote touch

  1. Runs android 4.4 kitkat, which is several versions out of date. It still does have security updates directly from google, however.

  2. The touch braille works remarkably better than I’m sure anybody expected and I can easily get used to it. The included keyboard is also very simple to use and it is not much different from the braillenote apex.

  3. Key math, which is the program used to enter math equasions, could come in very handy and once we work out the technical side of things, I could much more easily do class and home work using it. NOTE: The esytime does integrate similar functionality, but I haven’t tried it.

  4. KNFB reader seems to work well enough (I gave it a bulletted list and it put all the numbers before the text, but that’s managable).

  5. Because of the fact that the touch comes with android, the google integration (which will be useful for me in school) is very tight, as google makes android

  6. Because the braillenote touch has a screen, classwork will be easier because the teacher can read what’s being entered at the press of a key (when editting text, only the braille dots show up on the display and you have to hit the visual preview button to see it as rendered text). The esytime requires an external display.

  7. The braillenote touch is much more customised than the esytime. In some ways, this is better and in others, it’s worse. For example, the touch has it’s own menu for selecting which voice to use, whereas the esytime relies on the screen reader’s settings dialog.

  8. The braillenote has a built-in camera on the botton of the device, whereas the esytime does not have any camera. The esytime does have more usb ports though (3 compared to 1), so the required facilities are there to connect an external camera.

  9. One thing that bugs me is that the touch has changed the navigation keys from space and backspace, to space with dot one and space with dot 4 respectively. Thumb key navigation is still possible, but this is not how I use to navigate my apex. The esytime has, in my opinion, a better navigation controller (2 joy sticks that can, with the right screen reader, be customised to act as many different things, but by default, both act as the arrow keys).

Notes on the esytime

  1. The device is made of metal and although this will make it heavier, I think it’s better in the long run more durability.

  2. The design seems a little unconventional, with the top portion of the device being the braille display and the bottom being the braille keyboard. There are no thumb keys (panning is achieved through 2 buttons below the braille display on the left and right). There are also 2 space bars, the left hand one of which acts like the backspace key and the right hand one as a normal space. Both keys together act as enter. This is required because of the way screen readers interface with the keyboard.

  3. The keyboard it’s self feels quite nice and is very quiet, though not as quiet as the touch braille.

  4. When using NVDA or window eyes, grade 2 can not be entered natively, however, the esysuite package provides the ability to bypass this limmitation and type in grade 2. Other screen readers support native grade 2 entry. This wouldn’t really bug me that much, however.

  5. As mentioned in the first report, Any software program that can run on windows (the operating system of choice for the school) will work, even without an accessable framework in place. A mouse and screen can be connected and the esytime can be used just like my current laptop, even allowing for transcription to happen on the device itself (although this is not very practical).

  6. Like the braillenote, the esytime can attempt to use OCR to read PDF files, but there is no direct way to take a picture of something and have it appear on the screen.

  7. The esytime seems to be quite good with different types of braille, such as braille maths and braille music.

  8. The braille music functionality allows the creation of midi files, a feature that I could make much use of at home, although purely for fun.

  9. Unlike the braillenote touch, the esytime would allow me to do all of my computing work directly on it, as any programming language that can work under windows will work. Android will definitely not be able to do this.

  10. Even with moddern technology, I still am unsure as to whether a spinning hard drive is a good idea in a school environment (I’m sure it would work fine?) But this shouldn’t be a problem, as a solid state version is due to be released.

  11. The esytime does not come with a case, nor is one available to my knolage. This shouldn’t be much of a problem, but it’s a consideration non the less.


I’m still not sure which unit is better for me. Mainly because of the computing work I’ll have to do, I think the esytime is the better braille device. But then again, the braillenote is already solid state, requires somewhat less adjusting to and has touch braille. One thing is for sure, they are both well designed, good products. It’s just a matter of do you want a braille tablet or a braille computer. Most geeks, at least, would immediately say the latter, but then again, a computer has more parts and is more complex than a tablet.

Update 2020

In 2017, I ended up getting myself a brand new Braillenote Touch. I used this device for about two and a half years, before moving on to using a macbook with my own, home grown document creation workflow which I plan to cover in another article. While I may still make an article reviewing the Braillenote, the TL, DR is that it is a fantastic device that revolutionised what a braille note-taker should be, but the original version suffered from major slowdown and was overall underpowered and out-dated (software wise that is). Humanware is now pushing the Braillenote Touch Plus which, from what I’ve read and heard, looks like a much more well-designed product. Existing Braillenote Touch users can upgrade their devices if they wish.

Thanks for reading this epic of a report.