Some musing on the engineering of Smart Response XE...
These things are just... solid. When I first opened one, I was tempted to call it over-engineered, maybe it's a requirement for education tools handed out to students that may or may not care, but it seems someone cared and went extra mile to build these to last.
The case may be plastic but with the matte finish it doesn't scratch easily, the keyboard has friendly clicky feel. The battery cover is a marvel in itself, unlike the typical design that is held by plastic latches that wear-out and break off, this one just slides into place and is secured with a screw. And the screw screws into a BRASS INSERT. Inside, the battery contacts are some sort of super resistant stainless steel. I've seen them covered in leaked battery stuff, only to come out shiny and chrome after applying a drop of vinegar. Two are soldered directly to the board, and the other ones aren't glued or anything - the tolerances are just so perfect they fit snugly in their spots, they can be pulled out for cleaning and then put back in.
There's also the nice touches, such as a dedicated spot for a speaker, a place for serial interface chip, and an assortment of contact pads, some of which can be bridged to route signals around the board.
About the only imperfection of the design is lack of hardware power switch, resulting in slow drain when stored with batteries, potentially ending with aforementioned battery leak. But the QUALITY is such, that even after a bad battery leak it's quite likely to function perfectly with minimal cleanup.
In fact, after the first set, I was so impressed with the resilience of SmartResponseXE, that I bought another set - a lot of 40 for 80$(+shipping), labelled as "stored with batteries [...], sold for parts only, no refunds"; a bit of a gamble... they've arrived, and wow:
Of the 40:
5 had no leak at all!
9 had only small leaks (ie. possible to clean without disassembly)
22 had either a big leak all over, or looking like it might have leaked towards the insides, but seemed to power up fine. So I'm opening them up to prevent further damage. So far 6 turned out nearly perfect, and only one had damage - a broken key (and possibly a broken antenna)
Only 4 units didn't power up, but even for those there may be a chance, for example if it's just the screen they may be repurposed into serial to IEEE 802.15.4 bridges like for the wireless bootloader.
So, likely to end up with over 30 functioning units, and a couple of specimens for guilt-free practice of opening/hardware modding/spare parts (that's almost a feature not a bug). "For parts only" indeed.
If the shipping to my location wasn't so expensive I'd be tempted to get another set...
-this update was 80% typed on the SmartResponseXE text editor and exported via QR code.