Using the Pertelian X2040 display is about two steps away from having a data feed shunted into your arm as though you were one of Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons. If you can’t bear to be disconnected from real-time information feeds, this device will keep you up to speed.
The Pertelian certainly has a geeky appeal. The device connects to your PC via USB and consists of a four-line LCD panel that serves as a scrolling meta-information display. Using a somewhat-clunky configuration utility, you can pick from a host of plugins that will output data to the Pertelian’s 1-by-3-inch screen, including what’s playing on your iTunes, the latest news on your favorite RSS feeds, and who’s on your current TeamSpeak channel.
You can also use the Pertelian as a supplemental screen for your IM and IRC clients. Incoming instant messages will pop up on the Pertelian’s screen (the client supports Gaim, Yahoo Messenger, and AIM), where your typed responses will also appear—an intriguing idea for gamers who don’t want to quit conversations while fragging. In practice, it’s a bit tough to navigate a flurry of IM conversations.
Once you start chatting with more than one person, you’re better off just alt-tabbing to your main display. And that’s assuming your IM conversations even get picked up—some don’t—and you can only respond to messages; you can’t initiate an IM conversation. Also, sometimes the device locks out your entire keyboard, rendering it useless until you reset the Pertelian. D’oh!
The Pertelian’s accompanying software looks like it was hacked together at the last minute—and performs like it. Either the unit or the utility occasionally forgets the other exists, which forces you to restart the software, reconnect the Pertelian, or do a mad combination of both.
The device’s hotkeys could also be better labeled in the utility, which would spare you from sifting through the device’s lengthy PDF manual. We actually found it easier to just button-mash our way into figuring out commands for each plugin.
We definitely began to enjoy the Pertelian the more we used it, but it doesn’t quite escape the event horizon that separates “neat gimmick” from “must-have device.”
Update: The printed article incorrectly stated the MSRP as $70. The Pertelian's actual MSRP is $49.
GREEN SCREEN CHALLENGE
Ton of options as to what you can actually put on said display, and it's fun to control your tunes with keyboard commands.
Lil' buggy, lil' useless, and the accompanying software isn't exactly user-friendly. And the manual is akin to a tome.