There are replacement styluses and then there are replacement styluses. Belkin’s new Quadra 4-in-1 Pen aims at those who want a full-size pen-type stylus with an integrated ballpoint pen, LED flashlight, and laser pointer.
The Quadra’s body is three pieces of matte aluminum, which screw and slide together. Already seated into their sockets under the forward part are the pen and stylus tips. Both of these are removable, but the stylus is harder to pull out, leaving me with the suspicion that only the pen cartridge is meant to be replaced. The build quality is very nice. If you’re not mashing the clip or the buttons, the fully assembled Quadra is rock-solid.
The writing grip of the Quadra controls the available tip. Rotate it clockwise and you have a typical white-plastic PDA stylus tip similar to that featured on the stylus of the Axim, counter-clockwise results in an equally ordinary black ink ballpoint pen. Halfway between the two writing settings will retract both points into the body of the Quadra, protecting them. The writing action feels nice and smooth with both tips, and the pen’s grip is reasonably comfortable. There is a slightly unusual sensation when tapping with the stylus tip because it’s not fully attached to the inside of the opening, it feels almost ‘loose’. I got use to it after a few minutes though. It’s just one of those things that’s to be expected in trying out a new stylus.
Funny thing is, this pen goes perfectly with the stock stylus from the Axim–the tip is the same, the feel and color of the aluminum is the same, even the tiny dimples on the grip are the same, though a little larger. On the opposite end from the writing heads is an LED flashlight and a laser pointer. The light and pointer are powered by four tiny SG3 silver-oxide button cells, included in the packaging. These are about 7.9mm in diameter, or 0.31 inches, and rated at between 38 and 45 mAh depending on brand. The batteries slip into the top portion of the Quadra with the positive end facing out, and are held in place by screwing the top onto the middle section. Putting in the batteries is easier said than done–they have a tendency to spin around and face the negative side out when you put them in, requiring you to take them out and start again. I found that the best way is to line them all up and slide them in as a group, preventing them from rotating.
The LED and laser functions are activated by a pair of chrome buttons, seen here at left, on the upper portion of the Quadra. The LED light is controlled by the button nearer the emission end. This isn’t the typical cheap LED light you buy for $2 to put on your keychain. This thing has some power behind it. In a dark or semi-dark room, the Quadra throws quite a bit of light in a roughly 60-degree arc. The light is pretty bright–more so than I would have expected out of such a small apparatus–and reasonably even, save for a ‘ring’ of very slightly blue-tinted light around the center, giving the impression of a bulls-eye. Most people probably won’t even notice it though. The LED light is even bright enough that you can use it to light up an unlit reflective or transreflective PDA Screen in total darkness. The laser is triggered by the second button, nearest the middle of the pen. Laser performance was about average in brightness and distance. Belkin states a maximum range of 1500 feet (457 meters) and while it may make it that far it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to see a tiny red dot at almost a third of a mile. I satisfactorily tested the laser pointer to the farthest I could see it at night, which was give or take about 500 feet. It’s comparable to the standard midrange laser pointers you usually find for $10. Nothing too fancy, but very solid perfomance.
These functions come at a price, however. I used the Quadra very extensively, to test it’s capacity, and at the end of about 4 days I noticed that the batteries were starting to fail, resulting in decreased brightness of the LED and laser after a minute or two of use. If you plan to use these often, you’ll probably have to resign yourself to changing the batteries every few weeks to a month, but this applies equally to any laser pointer or flashlight that runs on button cells. If you use the LED and laser only occasionally, you’ll no doubt get much better life. Infrequent use would probably stretch the battery life to several months or probably longer. Fortunately for us frequent users; SG3 button cells are fairly cheap. A quick price search found a quantity of ten for $3, which boils down to a price of $1.20 per refill. Not unreasonable.
For $25, the Quadra 4-in-1 pen is a very nice multifunction accessory. It’s rugged, full featured, and has some excellent perks. Even the battery life is quite reasonable considering the power of the light and laser. This will definitely find it’s way into some gear bags and shirt pockets.
- Very stylish
- Well built
- Good quality LED & laser
- Frequent use eats batteries
The Quadra 4-in-1 is a great combo pen/stylus that also includes very good additional features.
The Quadra stylus can be purchased from PCConnection.com for the price of $13.95.