I tried out the floor model and the first thing I noticed was that there was no button control pad to change positions like my old M300 has. It was always an additional option (apparently originally intended to be for carers used in the back), not standard, but apparently they stopped making them?! This is terrible. Without the buttons you have to go into a menu on the home screen and have a very fiddly time adjusting the seat positions part by part with that. If you can even see the screen in bright daylight (which I couldn’t). For people like me who adjust their position constantly, often while in motion using the buttons this is TERRIBLE. They said I can move my old button panel over, but if it breaks I can’t replace it. It also lacks a button for the new feature of lengthening and shortening the legs with the controls. One story is the subsidiary company that makes them went out of business. The other story is a chip shortage. I really hope Permobile fixes this. Those buttons make the seat positions practically usable in real time.
One thing the controls do have (if you have headlights as a feature) is turn signals (bottom side buttons), headlights (right top button) and hazard lights (left top button) that are easy to use. I don’t know that I’d use the turn signals, but the headlights will be very helpful at night.
As you can see in the picture, the on/off switch is to the left, and the speed control is to the right. Annoyingly, most functions and menus use a combination of repeatedly shifting to “on” with joystick controls to get through the menus. It is counter-intuitive, because to go forward through the menu you push up, so you want to push down to go back, but that just turns off the chair. To get to the main menu you have to hold down the top left (hazard light) button).
You can see how dim this display is. This is in part shade/part sunlight and the display is as bright as it gets.
In conclusion, the User Interface SUCKS. Unfortunately, everything else about the chair is about as good as it gets for this kind of chair. Honestly though, the UI made me think about finding a different brand. I would have if I couldn’t have my position buttons.
“Luci” is a new sensor system. Apparently you can use it to call the chair to you, it stops it at curbs, senses when you are backing into something and stops you, etc. Link to the site on it. I did not test it out because the tech showing me the chair had not been taught how to use it yet and couldn’t;t show me.
It is an optional extra I won’t be getting. The iPhone ap allows you to drive the chair to you as well and I would rather manage my own driving, but I can imagine how it could be useful for many users, especially people with vision issues or with their head in a fixed direction that makes turning to look behind you while backing up difficult.
Leg Shorten/Lengthen Feature
This new feature (lengthen and shortening the legs through the controls) is very good. The thing I noticed with the controls through the menu (which has a sucky User Interface) is that when I raised or lowered the legs on the chair it shortened them, so I had to go back into the leg-lengthening thing to fix it. In my old chair it goes out when you raise it and it works together. The wheelchair store tech said that it should work that way- that the floor model had a programming issue that can be fixed. Before this feature was added adjusting the length was a annoying process with an allan wrench. You had to remove various things first to get at the bit to adjust length. This means if you wear heels, for example, it is easy to adjust the length to the heel.
All the positions were as I was used to with the M300. The chair tilts back as well as reclining so that you don’t slide off the chair. It does a full recline and lifts the legs fully. Apparently you can program three favorite seat positions, but none of us (me, wheelchair tech and occupational therapist) could find that in the system. Apparently it is easier to access through the ap on your phone.
I think for the commercials they put shorter people next to the chair. It is not quite eye-height with an average height person. Still, way better than being lower down in a crowd, way easier to talk to people and see. In this mode seated upright you can move slowly, but in a recline or tilt it doesn’t want to move until you lower it.
It is definitely better than my old M300 (2016), but it’s not blow-me-away better in terms of being smooth on regular bumps. At first I tried it out with a more firm cushion and I really felt the bumps, but when I swapped that for my Roho air cushion it was noticeably better than my old chair. I would have liked to have tried the M3 next to it to see the difference between those though. It did go up a short curb (3-4 inches?) when I put it into a higher speed, which is pretty amazing. At the same time but it wasn’t as stable-feeling doing that as I hoped. Overall jolting on rough pavement was less.
This has a known issue (as of 3/2022). It sounds great to be able to plug in your phone but it can short the whole seat-positioning system if it fails. I originally wanted to get one but decided to pass based on this. Permobile knows this is a problem and will hopefully fix it in future models.
Using it with the Permobile Ap
The ap (on the iPhone) has a better User Interface than the chair controls, especially for things like tracking battery, tracking miles, and for favorite positions.
***I will update the review in about one month when I have my own new M5 chair and can really put it through it’s paces and explore the ap while it is connected to the wheelchair.