By November 13, 2007

Xbox 360 Messenger kit chat pad review

I was intrigued when I first saw pictures of the Xbox 360 controller chat pad. It’s a little keyboard that snaps onto the bottom of a 360 controller. The form factor looked really cool, and who wants to thumbstick around a virtual keyboard when you have to type shit in? Better yet, the chat pad was only $30. Inexpensive enough for a Gibberish experiment. I went to Best Buy and picked one up two days after it launched in September.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/3729-2/IMG_7237.JPG

The Messenger kit comes with the keyboard and a redesigned headset for voice communications. I like the way the new headset fits, and it seems more robust than the flimsy one that came with my elite. However, it has two problems the original headset does not: the mute and volume control is on a dongle halfway up the Messenger kit’s headset cord, which makes on-the-fly muting and volume adjustment difficult. The original headset had these controls at the base, and you could manipulate things without removing your hand from the controller. The sound quality is also worse on the new headset, despite feeling like it is made out of better materials.

I was very impressed with the fit and finish of the chat pad. It attached with a reassuring click and I don’t think any amount of tomfoolery could dislodge the accessory by accident. The keyboard itself seems well-made and I think the overall design is quite ingenious. I am a bit pissed that it only comes in white — the controller for my Elite is black — but I imagine there are vastly more Core and Premium units out there than Elites. The chat pad is designed well enough that it doesn’t interfere with my normal game play. Some early reviewers said that the chat pad added unnecessary weight to the controller, but I disagree. I don’t really notice the added weight at all, and it certainly doesn’t throw off the balance of the controller as some have claimed.

The chat pad has a few nice touches that I didn’t expect. The keyboard is backlit after you press the first button — just like a mobile phone keypad. I don’t always play in low-light conditions, but I do appreciate the ability to see WTF I am typing if the lights are off. The chat pad addresses “special” characters in a nifty way. There are green and orange keys on the pad that serve as “control” and “alt” buttons. This control scheme allows the chat pad to cram a SHIT TON of characters into a small form factor without reducing the keys to the size of pinheads.

Typing with the chat pad is pretty easy, but I am used to text messaging with my Samsung u740 mobile phone. I have gotten pretty good at typing with my thumbs but novice text-boarders may have a more difficult time adjusting. One thing I don’t like about the chat pad is that sometimes the 360 makes a “beep” noise when a key is depressed, and other times it is silent. I don’t care what it does one way or another, as long as it is consistent. When things are “beep beep beep”-ing along and then all of a sudden it’s quiet, I think that I’ve missed a keystroke. I stop typing and look up at the screen only to find that every character is present. Not a big deal, but it is annoying and should have been caught in QA.

The chat pad is pretty sweet, granted. It looks cool, is well made, and is easy to use. But the real question is … what the hell do you need it for?

The Xbox 360 has a very robust voice chat protocol that allows you to either talk in-game or in up to four chat channels. This means you don’t have to type to people to communicate in a game, unlike most PC games. People playing those games have to use an external voice service like Ventrilo or TeamSpeak.

The 360’s gamer-to-gamer messaging system allows you to attach up to ten (fifteen?) seconds of audio. Most of my friends just send each other short voice messages instead of typing stuff out. When I used the chat pad to send messages to my friends, they all responded with a voice note.

So, you don’t need the chat pad to talk to people while you’re playing a game. You don’t need it when you send people messages outside of a game. What do you need it for, then? Web browsing? No such thing on the 360. I was thinking that a real-time strategy game could make use of the keypad, but there aren’t any games that utilize keyboard-based shortcuts.

The only other reason to own the chat pad is for MSN Messenger integration, in case you want to communicate with users who do not have the 360’s voice capabilities. But really, do I want to instant message people while I am shooting Nazis in Medal of Honor?

The Xbox 360 Messenger kit is a fun gadget for $30, but doesn’t address any pressing problems with how 360 players communicate with each other. I’m mixed on how to rate this little device, because while it functions well, it’s a function that isn’t needed.

Xbox 360 Messenger kit, I thumb-QWERTY out:
Four out of five STFU mugs!

full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug empty STFU mug

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Posted in: games, review, technology

17 Comments on "Xbox 360 Messenger kit chat pad review"

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  1. Agreschn says:

    DrFaulken,

    The ‘beep’ing noise and then quiet is something that bothered me as well, until I figured out what was causing it. When you’re getting the beeps it means that you’re typing in the character set that is displayed on the on-screen keyboard (lower case letters, for example). If you hit ‘Shift + key’ on the chatpad to get a capital letter, it won’t beep because that letter is on a different screen for the keyboard. Same with symbols.

    Also, how does the ‘t’ key on your chatpad work? I’ve noticed that while all of the keys are pretty much fine when I hit the ‘t’ with the same force I hit any other key, it fails to register sometimes. I’m wondering if this is something that other people are seeing, or if this is just my chatpad that is having issues.

  2. DjStriker says:

    Actually one of the nice functualities of this keypad is the use in FFXI online for Xbox 360 instead of a seperate keyboard.

  3. James says:

    I know this is a old post and probably wont receive a reply but I have to ask.

    “who wants to thumbstick around a virtual keyboard when you have to type shit in?”

    I just found it odd that you called it a virtual keyboard. How is it a virtual keyboard?

  4. drfaulken says:

    Sorry James, I wasn’t clear. Without the Messenger kit chat pad you have to use the virtual keyboard that is part of the 360 Dashboard.

    My dog Pearl ate the unit I reviewed above, and I missed having it for naming my Call of Duty 4 builds that I bought another one. So there’s one use for it ;).

  5. VerbalPainter says:

    This is perfect for my gaming needs…and all of us w/ family’s that enjoy sleeping anytime w/ out disturbance 🙂

    I only play my violent games (cod4, gta sa and iv, etc.) when my wife and 6yr old are either gone or sleep. They don’t even know I own those games. So to communicate w/ online pals, I can’t chat w/ the headset as I have to speak too loud so it picks me up, thus risking “getting caught” w/ the contraband, etc.

    this device makes takes that risk to a very low %. I am going to pick one up this weekend.

    I hope it works for other aspects of games; naming saves, other in game typing scenarios…but just to have it for the reason I mentioned will be fantastic.

  6. Joe says:

    apparently it works with GTA IV when using the police computer.

  7. Velks75 says:

    i cant get mine to work

  8. drfaulken says:

    Hey Velks75, when I first got mine I was really worried about breaking it — it fits REALLY tight to the bottom. Are you sure it’s snapped all the way in?

  9. Velks75 says:

    yeah it had that loud snap.but my pad doesnt glow or anything no beeping. so i just use it as a port to my mic. ide really love to know what i did wrong

  10. Jase says:

    I still think a $10 USB keyboard is the way to go, but I can type as well.

  11. Dora says:

    Cool addon! Now it makes the control pad even bigger.

  12. drfaulken says:

    Holy crap I never thought about investigating using a 360 remote on my Windows 7 HTPC. I’m also using Boxee. If I can find a 360-to-USB adapter I may try this out and give you an answer.

    Right now I’m using the Lenovo Multimedia Remote.

  13. marky-b says:

    Again, bumping an old post:

    Does anyone know if this keyboard works when you are interfacing the controller with Windows (7)?

    I’m currently using my 360 controller as a Boxee remote, and this would be a nice little add-on to that setup.

    Thanks :]

  14. marky-b says:

    I use the USB adaptor ( http://is.gd/82jxb ) and JoyToKey software to map out some buttons.

    However.. I can almost see some compatibility issues w/ some of the keys/letters/buttons I’ve mapped with JoyToKey software ( http://is.gd/82ku0 ), but i would imagine I could circumvent them somehow.

    Would be interesting to find out :]

  15. Brandon says:

    Hey just so you guys know there is a Web Browser for the Xbox 360 and it even works with NXE. Just search it on youtube and google and try it out! I imagine it works wonders with the chat pad. Also just fyi the browser is downloaded to your comp as a windows media program and when you connect to your computer through your xbox its in programs and just click it and surf the net with a FULL web browser. Including youtube! Have fun guys!

  16. Wale says:

    You know its interesting that I had to find a blog to help me understand why I could not get my chat pad working. Microsoft doesn’t tell you how hard you have to press to get a connection. Happy I know this now. Many thanks.

  17. Sammy says:

    HELP!!

    partner has just brought a chatpad and it wont connect or work when plugged into his controller? can someone give us help with how the hell to make it work, thank you 🙂