Thursday, August 27, 2015

Palm Single Key - Review

The Palm Single Key

I've had my Palm Single Key for a few weeks now would like to offer a review.
Palm Paddle Single Hand-held mode
I sought advice from a few experienced QRP HAMs regarding an appropriate paddle for portable use and the Palm Paddle was a favorite.  There are lots of alternatives for small keys out there.  American Morse makes a couple of popular models but I settled on the Palm Single Key.  I ordered mine from the fine folks at Morse Express he had them in stock in the US without me needing to order from Germany..
Palm Radio Keys

Palm Radio has been around for years making small, lightweight portable paddles and straight keys.  One of their most popular models is the Palm Paddle which is a dual paddle model.  The most obvious difference between the Palm Single and the Palm Paddle is that it only has a single paddle versus two paddles.  Since it only has one lever sending iambic mode is not possible because you can't "squeeze" for iambic sending, but I not really into squeezing my paddles.

The single lever is also larger than the individual levers on the Paddle model and that offers some interesting options as we'll see later.

One of the reasons the Palm keys are so popular for portable use is because they can be hand held while sending rather than having to set them on a surface or strap them to your leg.  This works well when you don't have a convenient surface and sometimes now I find myself holding it to send even when I have a surface because it's relaxing to sit back in the chair while sending.



Unique features of the Palm Key

Key in travel mode
They key can be pushed into the carrier for protection during travel.
Button that holds it in travel or operating mode
The key uses a spring loaded button on the bottom to hold it in the carrier in either travel or operating mode. Push the button in while pushing the key out the back to remove it from the carrier to make adjustments.


The cable uses a proprietary connector rather than a stereo jack.  That is a bit of a downside as you can't easily replace the cable.  Palm sells a "Palminator" to allow the use of a stereo cable but that would stick out the back of the key and potentially cause side loads that could break the connector.  So far the connector has worked well but I'd like to be able to easily replace the cable if it breaks in the field.

Adjustments

 The key mechanism is easily removed from it's enclosure for adjustments.  The contacts are two PCBs on either side of what appears to be a gold plated post.  There are set screws to adjust the left and right spacing as well as screws for firmness in either direction.  I did find that I had to set the firmness rather tight to prevent bounce-back from accidentally sending.  If you use a very, very light touch then this would not be necessary but I guess I'm used to slapping my Bencher paddle around.

Key removed from enclosure
Adjustment screws for left throw 
PC board with gold plating touches gold plated post
The mechanism is very lightweight and true to the nature of a portable key.  It has a base with magnets that it snaps into from either side or the bottom so that it can be oriented in multiple ways from a magnetic surface.  Here I have it firmly attached to a block of steel.  It doesn't move around when attached in this way.

Snap on base has magnets to attache to any appropriate surface
 One added benefit of being able to snap into it's base from each side is the ability to use the key "on its side" as a straight key.  The key has a screw setting to turn itself into a straight key or sideswiper but I simply change my keyer to "HAND" key rather than TIP=DIT.  This gives you a portable paddle and straight key depending on your mood.
Mounted sideways it can be used as a straight key

Videos

Here are some videos of the Palm Single in operation.

This video gives you a sense of the key's size and touch. I was using my phone for the video so I couldn't hold the phone and demonstrate operating the key while holding it in my hand but let me assure you it's very comfortable to hold and my sending was no worse being hand held than on a table, at least at the meager speeds I send at.



One thing of note that I didn't see in other reviews was how "loose" the key feels.  If you are looking for a "precision" feel this isn't going to give it to you but then you shouldn't expect that from a 40 gram key.


Wobbly but usable

Lastly here's a video using the Palm Single as a straight key.



Palm Single as a Straight key


Hopefully this will be helpful to those considering the Palm Single.

Lower you power and raise your expectations

72s
Richard
N4PBQ

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