Review: Satechi X-Presenter SMART

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I’ve been aware of the presence of mobile presentation tools for some time now. However, I’ve never had much personal use for them in the past. I have conducted technical training classes for the last 12 years as part of my job, but I just don’t use Powerpoint that much. Other than a brief intro roll, most of my class centers on the customers’ web based system, and the engineering software used to work on and develop for it. Since 90% of my time in these classes is spent either in a web browser or in specialized software, presentation and mobile mouse tools never felt like they were worth the time.

Things changed a bit this Fall, as I started teaching a class at my church (on the use of tablets and smartphones, no less). Presentation software was an obvious choice to help with delivering class material, but since I wanted to make all of my presentations, notes, and handouts available online, Powerpoint didn’t seem like the best option. As popular as Microsoft Office is in the business world, you can’t depend on everyone having a copy at home. Because of this, I started out using Google Drive/Docs’ presentation tool because I was already using Drive to share materials with the class. After a couple of weeks, I decided to switch to the beta of Keynote in Apple’s iWork in the Cloud suite. It made sense to use this tool in the end, because my church has Apple TVs in every class, and it was really easy to use my iPad to run the show through the Keynote app.

Despite the fact that I’m not using a computer based presentation tool, I’m not necessarily married to the idea of using a smartphone or tablet to run a presentation. I always have my computer with me for work, so it always makes more sense for training classes. As for my class at church, it’s just whatever works easiest and best. I have AirParrot, which allows me to mirror my Windows desktop to an Apple TV, so it isn’t any more difficult to use than my iPad Air. Regardless of the situation, since I am using presentation tools more often now, the Satechi X-Presenter SMART was much more intriguing to me now than it would have been in the past. After trying it out, I am very glad that I decided to review it, because it is even more useful than I initially expected.

 

Video Review


 

Overview

The Satechi X-Presenter SMART package provides you with the ability to use a laser pointer and to control all aspects of a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation from a Windows or Mac computer, all right from your smartphone.

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X-Presenter comes with three small pieces of hardware. First off, there is a Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter for your computer or laptop. Second, we have the X-Pointer laser pointer adapter, which fits into the mic jack of your iOS device. Last, there is a small case to help you keep up with and protect the X-Pointer. It has a capacitive stylus pointer at one end, and a tether that also fits into a headphone jack at the other. This allows you to keep this accessory attached to your device at all times, if you wish.

The fourth part of this package is the Satechi X-Presenter SMART app, which is available free in the App Store (or the Play Store for Android users). The app brings all of the elements together, allowing your mobile device to control your laptop, and allowing you to trigger the laser pointer.

 

Features

While the individual components of X-Presenter SMART package were never all that attractive to me before, I found the combination of all of them into one integrated package much more interesting. First of all, the app can control either a Powerpoint or a Keynote presentation from its Presentation Mode. It certainly isn’t the first app to do this. Apple has actually had a free Keynote Remote app since 2008, and there are others, as well. But again, X-Presenter’s power is in the sum of all its parts.

Xpresenter-app-presentation-modeOverall, Presentation Mode is minimal and very easy to use. The large button in the center of the screen controls another of the X-Presenter’s primary features- the laser pointer (which we will get back to in a moment).

At the bottom of the screen, we have Play, Stop, and Blank Screen controls for your presentation.

At the top of the screen, there is a timer that can be set to provide countdowns of various lengths to help keep you on track. The only problem I had with this feature is that there doesn’t seem to be an option for a vibrating alarm to make sure you know when the timer lapses.

While it isn’t indicated on-screen, you can control the forward and backward progression through your presentation with left and right swipes in the area underneath the laser pointer button.

Since we’ve already brought it up, let’s take a look at the laser pointer next. This is where the attachment that plugs into your headphone jack comes into play. The end of the adapter houses the laser pointer, which the app can control via the headphone jack.

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When you first load the X-Presenter SMART app, you will be prompted to allow the app to access the microphone. Be sure to allow this, as it is necessary for the laser pointer to operate.

This adapter should prove to be very useful those who prefer to use a laser pointer during presentations. The pointer is large enough and bright enough to be effective from across the room.

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I was pleased to see that the developers chose to implement not only landscape orientation in the app, but also allow the screen to flip a full 180 degrees around, as well.

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This is essential for using the laser pointer with the iPhone 5, 5S, or 5C since their headphone jacks are on the bottom of the phone. It seems like such a minor thing, but it’s those small design choices that add up to make a strong app that’s easy to use on any device.

While I’ve never used a pointer or indicator myself, I could see myself doing so in the future with this package. After trying it out, I can see how much more effective it is at pointing out highlights than using the mouse cursor. My only complaint is that the button to trigger the laser is only available from the presentation screen.

The last major feature of the X-Presenter SMART app is its Mouse Mode, which I found to be quite useful. I’ve used other remote mouse apps in the past, but their dependence on WiFi limited their appeal to me. Ever tried to get a WiFi dependent app to connect at your local Starbucks? How did that work out for you?

Since X-Presenter SMART uses Bluetooth 4.0 through the included dongle, you never have to worry about this. The direct connection between app and dongle is stable, and the mouse control is smooth and reliable at reasonable distances.

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As with Presentation Mode, the interface is minimal and easy to understand. Simply scroll around the screen with your finger to move the cursor. The bottom of the screen has left and right mouse buttons, as well as a scroll wheel for scrolling through documents or web pages.

Xpresenter-app-mouse-modeThere is also a sensitivity control slider on the bottom control bar, which really improved my experience. I like my mouse sensitive, so I can get around what I’m working on quickly, so this feature was essential for me. With the sensitivity turned up, the cursor is highly responsive and gets around with little to no lag. I also like the fact that this control slider is right on the Mouse Mode screen, rather than buried in the Settings.

While Mouse Mode’s basic operation is just fine, the addition of gestures puts it over the top for me. Like most trackpads these days, you can tap anywhere on the screen to simulate a left mouse click. Going a little further, you can do a two finger tap to simulate a right click, and do a two finger scroll to duplicate the scroll wheel function. In other words, once you are familiar with the gestures, you don’t ever have to touch the buttons. You can get to any mouse function, no matter where your fingers are on the screen.

 

Performance

Overall, I found the Satechi X-Presenter SMART to be a very effective tool for running a presentation. I’ve never been interested in using a laser pointer in the past, as having to deal with another device with limited usefulness had absolutely no appeal. However, having it here as part of this package has made me see the potential usefulness. The ability to access the laser without shuffling devices and having to think about it makes the feature much more useful.

While the laser pointer is great, the control that the X-Presenter SMART app provides is what really sold me. The Presentation Mode is much more flexible than I anticipated. Sure, it worked just fine with Powerpoint on my laptop, and is also able to run Keynote on a Mac. However, the functionality goes a little further than that. Remember where I mentioned using Google Drive’s Presenter and Keynote via iWork in the Cloud earlier? Even though these tools are web-based, the X-Presenter app can also control presentations run through them. The Blank Screen button didn’t work in either Drive or Keynote, and I couldn’t begin a presentation in Keynote with the Start button, but everything else I tried worked just fine. The fact that I can control the flow of any presentation from within the app means I will be using it in both my training classes and my church class.

While Presentation Mode’s versatility was a very pleasant surprise, Mouse Mode is the reason I will use X-Presenter as my teaching interface from now on. Being able to control a presentation, especially one from a web-based tool, is all well and good. This will be extremely helpful in my church class. However, my training classes for work center on software other than Powerpoint, greatly limiting the usefulness of Presentation Mode.

Enter the Mouse Mode. With one tap, I can switch over from Presentation Mode and control my computer’s movements in a web browser or engineering software without being tethered to a podium. Without this feature, X-Presenter would be absolutely useless to me at work, but with it, I can now run a training class from start to finish.

While I found X-Presenter’s performance to be quite good overall, there are a few things that can be improved upon. First off, there needs to be a button for the laser pointer somewhere on the Mouse Mode screen. Having to toggle back to Presentation Mode to trigger it while I am using Mouse Mode with an app other than Powerpoint is unnecessary.

Speaking of Mouse Mode, it would be great if there was an option to use the iPhone’s keyboard to enter text in any fields that a user might navigate to. As it stands right now, X-Presenter has mouse functionality only. Alleviating the need to go back and forth to your computer would be very handy. I have to enter setpoint changes and override values as part of the curriculum in my training classes. Being able to both navigate, and enter this information from the app would be a big time saver for me, and make X-Presenter even more useful.

As for Presentation Mode, it would be nice to see a real alarm added to the countdown timer. I can understand why an audible alarm isn’t desirable during a presentation, but why not include the option for a vibrating notification? It would be very easy to miss the end of a timer if you aren’t paying attention.

Last, while I understand the desire to pile on the features, but the addition of a capacitive stylus at on end of the holder for the laser pointer is a reach.

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While it does function as a stylus, one this small has limited usefulness. I mean, I could have used the iPhone 5’s on-screen keyboard to type this review. However, why would I when there are much better options available? I feel the same about this stylus tip. It’s not that it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t measure up to the rest of the X-Presenter’s features.

If there is one feature that I would like to see added to X-Presenter, it would be the ability to directly control a presentation from a tablet. I can understand that this is a very different task from its primary function. However, since it uses Bluetooth 4.0, setting up a connection between compatible devices and an app like Keynote on an iPad 3 or above shouldn’t be too difficult. For reference, Apple’s free Keynote Remote app has had this capability (albeit via WiFi) for a few years now, so hopefully it is possible.

 

Conclusion

While I was never very interested in presentation or remote mouse apps for iOS, I found X-Presenter SMART’s integration of these two features with a laser pointer to be much more interesting. Alone, none of these apps or items would be very useful to me, but together and controlled via a single app, it is versatile enough to handle both of the presentation situations that I work in.

For those who do already use a laser pointer or similar apps, I think X-Presenter is still well worth a look. The fact that the app is available for both iOS and Android means that the majority of smartphones are compatible. The app can also control both Powerpoint an Keynote, as well as web-based presentations, making the package quite versatile. The last big selling point for me is the fact that the Bluetooth dongle shows up as a generic USB HID on Windows, and USB keyboard/mouse combo on Mac, meaning that there are no downloads or drivers to load on a computer. It just works.

The Satechi X-Presenter retails for only $39.99, but is currently available at an even more reasonable $29.99. For all that you get with this package, I believe that X-Presenter is a steal at this price. So much so that, not only am I using it now, but I have recommended it for use across the company I work for. At this price, it’s pretty much an impulse-type buy, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who gives presentations on a regular basis, prefers to use a computer, and wants to control them remotely.

 

The Satechi X-Presenter SMART is available from satechi.net for $39.99, and is currently on sale from $29.99.

 

The Satechi X-Presenter SMART was provided by Satechi for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

 

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