Wireless presentation tool lets you go it alone

ReviewsJohn Whiting

There you are, making your high-tech presentation to the boss or an important client. You’ve got a laptop, a portable projector, a Power Point(tm) presentation . . . and an assistant to change to the next slide for you.

Wireless presentation tool contents

Wireless presentation tool contents

Kind of spoils the effect, doesn’t it?

What you really want is a device that lets you run the show all by yourself without all those awkward breaks for “next slide, please” or “run the map program, please”. Well, you’ve been heard and answered. This device is designed for the presenter who goes it alone. It has a trackball mouse to let you select and run your applications. It has several specialized short-cut buttons. And to help you make your point clear, it has a laser pointer built in.

People who watched the original Star Trek will immediately think of the smaller hand phaser they carried. It fits either hand very nicely and allows access to most of the controls with your thumb. The trackball glows to let you know when the mouse is active; a useful feature as the presenter goes to sleep after 30 seconds of non-use to conserve battery power. (Hit any button except the laser button to wake it back up.)

So, what do you get? You get the presentation controller, a thumb drive-sized wireless receiver, an 18 inch USB extension cable, a small manual, and a little bag to hold it all. It should all fit nicely into the average laptop bag. And it is multiple OS-friendly, working with Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista, Macs, and Linux. The manual doesn’t mention Windows 7, but it worked fine on my fiancee’s Windows 7 laptop, too. Your mileage may vary, so please don’t blame the reviewer or the manufacturer if it doesn’t work on your Windows 7 machine.

The manual indicates that there are several versions available. My review copy came with the standard 1 mW laser and no memory, but you can get a version with a 5 mW laser, and the receiver can hold additional memory from 128 MB up to 2 GB. The manual is ambiguous as to whether the additional memory can be added by the customer or has to be purchased as an installed option, and I can see no way to safely open the receiver’s case. There may be no way to retro-fit the receiver with more memory.

I mentioned the short-cut buttons; it’s time to elaborate on that. On the left side of the remote is a switch labeled M1/M2. In mode one, the short cuts give you one-click access to your email software, the desktop, your internet browser, or send an Alt+Tab command to alternate between two windows. On the right side is a control that allows you to page up or page down in your display. Slide the switch to mode two and the short-cuts allow you to close the selected window, access My Computer, an item on your Favorites list, or send the Esc key. The side control changes to allow zooming in or out.

There’s a lot of thoughtful design that went into this remote: there’s an LED on the remote to let you know it’s transmitting, and an LED on the receiver to let you know it’s receiving. When you press a button to wake it up, it “swallows” the first command so you don’t accidentally perform an unplanned action.

Multi-function presentation controller

Multi-function presentation controller

The left mouse button is underneath, where you can use it with your trigger finger. The right mouse button is on top, where it is easily reached. I couldn’t test the full ten meter range here at home, but I did go into another room about twenty feet away and when I came back, things had changed the way I wanted them to. The laser pointer does not wake up the remote, so you can use it without using the extra power. The track ball doesn’t wake it up either, so you don’t have to worry about it jostling on and killing the batteries while you travel. The batteries are common AAAs, readily available and simple to install. Actual installation of the device is a matter of putting the batteries into the remote and plugging the receiver into a USB port. That’s it; you’re done.

Putting the left mouse button underneath the device works very well, but is a little counter-intuitive for people who expect their mouse buttons on top. If you’re the type who doesn’t bother reading the manual first, you’re going to be a bit puzzled looking for the button. Once you find it, it will seem the most natural thing in the world. The USB extender cable works well when space is tight and your other USB devices refuse to share.

Unfortunately, there are a few cons, as well. There is no mention anywhere of who the manufacturer is. There’s no mention of a warranty. But if there is one, you have no idea to whom to send your remote for repair.  (Although it’s possible these guys might be the manufacturer or at least know who it is:  http://efo.buy-lowest.com/laser-c-90/wireless-laser-presentor-p-267)

The manual has the subtle feel of a translation into English from another language. As previously mentioned, it’s not clear if the receiver can be retro-fitted with additional memory, or if it must be purchased that way. The upgraded laser presumably must be chosen at the time of purchase.

The trackball is too sensitive for my taste, making it hard to hit some of the smaller on-screen buttons. Drawing is probably out of the question even for someone who can draw. It should be noted that there is a simple work-around for this: go into the control panel and make your mouse “slower”. This makes the pointer less sensitive to trackball movements, so you no longer require the hands of a surgeon to hit the spot you want.

The trackball mechanism is also a bit loose: it not only rattles a bit when you hold it, but I have accidentally moved the mouse pointer when trying to double-click on something, even when not touching the trackball.

I had trouble opening anything that required a double-click. I modified the double-click settings for the mouse in the control panel, but met with only partial success. Using the right mouse button and clicking on the “Open” item in the menu was an effective work-around.

The controller on the right side is not easily accessed without shifting your grip or giving your thumb cause to complain in pretty short order.

The only way to tell if it is in Mode One or Mode Two is to look at the switch on the left side, so you could find yourself closing a window when you wanted to open your email program. I would have made other minor ergonomic changes to make it easier and more comfortable to use one-handed, as well.

Unlike many other laser devices, the warning labels are only in the manual, not the device itself. So a reminder here: do NOT look into the laser beam with your remaining eye, or aim at shiny surfaces that might cause other people to lose their vision. Do not tease law enforcement officers by pretending it is a targeting laser. You know, the usual laser precautions.

In the end, if you’re looking for a versatile device to completely replace your mouse, you’re going to be disappointed. That’s not what it was designed for, and it won’t do well at it.

What it does do well is what it was designed to do: allow you to give a presentation while freeing your assistant to do more important work than being your remote control.

Now that I’ve figured out how to decrease the sensitivity of the trackball, I feel comfortable giving it a 7.5 out of 10.

MSRP: $28-$40

Some specifications straight from the manual for you:

Presenter:
RF Frequency: 2.4 GHz
RF Power: 0 dBm
Range: Up to ten meters
Trackball Resolution: Up to 400 dpi
Battery: 2XAAA
Voltage: 3V
Current Consumption: Working, <100 mA. Sleeping, <10 uA
Laser Distance: Up to 200 meters
Wavelength: 650 nm (red)
Laser Output: <1mW (Class II), optionally <5mW (Class III)
Dimensions: 125X51X47 mm
Weight: 55 g (no batteries)

Receiver:
USB interface
Operating Systems: Windows 98/SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, Mac OS, and Linux
Plug: USB 1.1, compatible with USB 2.0
Voltage: 4.5V to 5.5V (USB-supplied)
Current: <45mA
Dimensions: 73X26X14 mm
Weight: 16 g

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