The headset differs only slightly from the original, with a new volume slider and mute toggle that can clip onto your clothing. Other than that, the adjustable headset is nearly identical in looks and solid performance. Note that if you use the wireless headset, there is no change in operation when you attach the chatpad.
Once attached, the chatpad makes the controller noticeably heavier. While it doesn't directly compromise gameplay, its design certainly takes a bit of getting used to. Your fingers will feel the adapter below the rear triggers and you'll also feel the chatpad at the base of your thumbs. After some time playing, we began to get used to the new shape of the controller. That said, we decided to opt for leaving the chatpad disconnected until we needed to use it.
Using the chatpad is a very convenient experience. The buttons are great for thumb-typing and have a solid, tactile feel to them. We also really liked how the entire keyboard lights up when in use allowing you to clearly see when playing a dark room. We should also note that the controller's battery life was not noticeably affected by the chatpad's presence.
The chatpad also has Xbox 360-exclusive functionality including a shortcut key to Microsoft Messenger along with the ability to type symbols like the Microsoft Points currency symbol. Our only minor complaint about the alphanumeric keyboard is the odd location of the backspace button. Other than that, the chatpad works just as expected.
If you are an avid user of the messaging feature in Xbox Live, Microsoft Messenger, or play a game that supports in-game text chat, the Xbox 360 Messenger Kit will certainly make text-entry a whole lot easier. Some gamers may be turned off by the new shape your controller will take, but rest assured that it does not affect gameplay--and you always have the option of disconnecting it when not in use. At $30, the Messenger Kit is priced a bit higher than we'd like, but it is the best option for text entry on the Xbox 360.