BlackBerry Presenter review

CrackBerry Idol - Dave P.
By Kevin Michaluk on 12 Aug 2010 08:08 pm
0
loading...
13
loading...
31
loading...

BlackBerry Presenter Review

Why carry that heavy laptop and projector to your next presentation, when you could confidently waltz in with minimal baggage? Imagine the BlackBerry as a vessel for your PowerPoint slideshow, projected wirelessly via Bluetooth, with you at the helm, steering a dynamic presentation. You're nimbly traveling from city to city, lugging minimal gear, staking your claim as the road warrior king/queen and continually wowing board rooms with your style. Let's face it, your pageant is powerful, lightweight, and can practically run itself, allowing you to focus on your audience.

Sounds heavenly, right? That's the picture painted by RIM and its accessory, the BlackBerry Presenter. You simply plug it into a projector or monitor, and present Microsoft PowerPoint files wirelessly, leaving you free to roam the stage or room, using your BlackBerry smartphone as the presentation controller.

Out of the Box: BlackBerry Presenter

Here is what you can expect to receive when opening the package:

  • 1 BlackBerry Presenter.
  • 1 Micro-USB cable-to-wall AC adapter, which is used to power the device.
  • 1 Micro-USB cable, which is used in conjunction with the desktop software.
    • What? No CD? --- That's right, you have to download and install the desktop software in order to do the following:
      • Rename the device
      • Upgrade the device firmware (latest version is 1.2.0.9)
      • Transfer files to the device
  • 1 faux leather carrying case. Pretty nice little case, complete with a magnet clip.
  • Getting Started Guide. This paper fold-out is pretty straightforward.
  • It does not ship with VGA or S-Video cables, which must be used to connect the Presenter to a projector or display, so you'll need to pick up your own.

When connected via USB to a computer, the Presenter should map as an 8MB external drive, but don't get too excited. Testing has proved, that in order to protect your information, all files are deleted from the BlackBerry Presenter the next time that you power on the device. So it cannot be used as a portable drive. However, you can leave presentation files on the device, but only if they are leftover from a previous presentation.

Key takeaways from the Getting Started Guide:

  • There are 24 different supported animations and 55 transition styles you can use.
  • Slides using an aspect ratio other than 4:3 may not appear correctly.
  • The single multi-mode LED button on top of the device is used to put it to sleep, wake it up, or reset it to show a new presentation.

Reminder: If you're a MAC user this accessory is not supported. So in order to use the desktop software, you'll need to have access to a Windows PC.

Basic Usage:

RIM states it this way, "All you need to do is plug it in and select "Present" on your BlackBerry smartphone." While I will admit the device is fairly easy to set up, it's not that easy. If you have ever connected a PC monitor or projector, and paired something via Bluetooth, you should be able to get this going.

Here are the steps to use this accessory:

  1. Download the Presenter app to your BlackBerry device. It can be found in App World here: http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/8503.
  2. Connect the Presenter to an electrical outlet via the provided USB cable-to-wall adapter.
  3. Connect the Presenter to a display (projector, monitor or television). When the Presenter is powered-on a stand-by screen appears which will contain a passkey to be used when pairing via Bluetooth.
  4. Open the Presenter App on your BlackBerry and choose "Browse" to open a PowerPoint file already saved within your device memory or from a media card. You may also use files from an email or calendar attachment, but in my testing they must first be detached.
  5. Once your file has fully loaded in the app, click the menu button and choose "Present". Doing this will auto-pair your BlackBerry smartphone to the Presenter via Bluetooth. Note: You must first turn the handheld Bluetooth antenna on and this wireless connection is not encrypted.
  6. Once Bluetooth pairing is complete the PowerPoint file will begin loading into the accessory memory. Before proceeding I suggest waiting for the entire file to load. This waiting period is more dependent on how "busy" your slides are versus the total number. RIM's suggested solution to improve the loading time is to remove slide animations, photos and other effects from your PowerPoint file.

Getting Started and Being Frustrated:

Once your file has completely loaded onto the Presenter, you can easily move between slides by using your trackpad or trackball. You may also press the space key on your BlackBerry just like using the spacebar on a Windows keyboard. If you have animations that are timed or mouse-click-triggered, they should execute following another swipe of the trackpad or roll of the trackball. I was unable to test this on a touch-screen BlackBerry model, so I'm not certain if you can simply swipe to advance.

You have the ability to view speaker notes on the phone, however, it isn't intuitive, and I was forced to look at my BlackBerry screen while fumbling with buttons and menus, all of which took my focus off of the audience. Personally, I have never used this feature and expect seasoned speakers to memorize their slide order and content, hence never needing the speaker notes. It defeats the point of "owning the room" if you have to stop and concentrate on your mobile screen for a few moments just to make a quick change. Better app development and programming could make use of the BlackBerry convenience keys for this type of feature.

Best Usage Scenarios:

Let's discuss a few situations suited for the BlackBerry Presenter.

  • Imagine a conference room with only one Presenter on the table. Multiple BlackBerry devices could individually connect throughout the meeting to project their users' slides.
  • To be on the safe side, I suggest pre-creating your slides with limitations in mind, including previewing/practicing your presentation before leaving the office.
    • Now, I guess you could edit a PowerPoint file directly on your BlackBerry with apps like eOffice or DocumentsToGo, but who really does that?
  • Clearly, one of the best features is the ability to loop your presentations. If you do a lot of booth presenting at trade shows, this feature can save someone from having to babysit a laptop all day. But be aware that once this feature is turned on and you walk away, or forget to click "End Show", it will play continuously and eventually lull anyone in the room into a paralyzing coma.

Presenter vs ShowMate:

When this device was first announced back in January, I immediately checked the Impatica website to see if RIM had acquired the company and/or the ShowMate device. Of course I didn't find anything, and continue to chuckle when someone says, "Wow, check out what RIM released. It's so innovative!"

Come on, the ShowMate has been around for a few years, but according to RIM, the BlackBerry Presenter has two advantages over the Impatica ShowMate:

  1. ShowMate requires a file-transcoding process on a PC prior to presenting slideshows, while RIM's device does not.
  2. Presenter has a max resolution output of 1024x768, compared to the Showmate's 800x600.

Check out the table below to help determine how the Presenter stacks up against the ShowMate.
BlackBerry Presenter

Pros:

  • Makes a great laptop alternative for the minimalist road warrior.
  • Auto-adjusting display resolution. This alone helps eliminates 90 percent of the headaches when connecting laptops to different projectors.
  • Looping - as mentioned above, easily my favorite feature, especially if you present at a lot of trade shows.

Cons:

  • Loading of PowerPoint files can be a lengthy process depending on quality of slides.
  • No HDMI, DVI or audio output. Not essential to its use, but would be nice.
  • Netbooks are similarly priced and offer more true to PowerPoint option.
  • Does not work with 8220 or 8300 series models.

What I'd Like To See Next:

  • This device could replace those pricey digital photo frames. Just hook this puppy up to a TV, load your images and loop it endlessly. (Oh, wait, it doesn't do photo slide shows ... yet.)
  • Allow the device to project the BlackBerry screen in real time. The ShowMate does offer this, and although there is often an odd lag time, at least you can project a live handheld to the big screen.
  • Battery power. If this device is meant to be a go-anywhere, project-anytime solution, less cables would be nice.
  • Full video and audio support. Think love child of the Presenter and Music Gateway. :)
  • Create hardware with a built-in, hand-held projector. A tiny projector may lack quality, but you could literally present almost anywhere with minimal equipment.
  • Offer a direct USB connect option between handheld and device (for added security against Bluetooth theft).
  • Better PowerPoint conversion when reproducing slide elements (photos, animations, transitions).

In Conclusion:

The BlackBerry Presenter is a solid piece of hardware, and a pretty good idea, but it lacks innovation and isn't all that practical. Put another way, if you want to truly appear untethered from a desk and laptop, utilizing a BlackBerry Presenter can lead toward this goal, but the price tag may be too high for what is being offered.

You pretty much need to create lame PowerPoint slides in order to use this device as nothing super-fancy will convert correctly. At this point it's been more than six months since this device was first released. How many of you have you bought and used one?

One Last Crumb:

Before I sign off, I'd like to leave you with this tidbit from my own experience. This accessory can be subject to random freezing, so when using it for a presentation, make sure to turn off the radio antenna and close all unnecessary apps.

And just because you're saved from toting an trunk full of equipment, it remains a good idea to have a backup plan in place. I'm suggesting you still bring your laptop (and a portable projector if you own one). Also, don't forget to have a spare VGA and/or S-video cable handy. True road warriors are better off following Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will.

Who knows? If we're lucky, RIM will soon release a firmware update that allows you to broadcast the BlackBerry in real time through the Presenter, hence negating me even mentioning the ShowMate. Crack on!

Kevin Michaluk Kevin Michaluk "Founder, Editor in Chief " 3922 (articles) 3286 (forum posts)
29 comments

Kevin Michaluk

Kevin (aka Ryan Seacrest): OK folks, this is the final featured accessory review of Round 2 of CrackBerry Idol. The community judging will start soon, and the community will choose who moves on to the final five. But before the voting starts, let's see what the judges thought of Dave's review!

CrackBerry Idol Judges

Dieter: Really good video review, glad to see that you didn't sugarcoat some of the problems there, but showed that some things worked fairly well - A good review should help people make buying decisions and you nailed that. Your written review seemed to be a little disorganized - or maybe just a little ADD. Good details in there, though. Nice job

Georgia: Enjoyed the video review Dave, though it was a bit long at over 8 minutes. Think about editing the video down post production to its main components. Your voice was clear and you spoke at consistent pace. You did good job demonstrating how to set up the device. I would have liked to know how long it took to load the full presentation. The written review was also well done, good job!

Craig: Dave, this was a solid review. I really wish your video was more in focus. You focused on the BlackBerry but never the monitor so we could see the presentation. I know low light is tough but this is the third round now so competition is high. Your written review was great, no complaints. I'm glad you compared it to Impatica's ShowMate which I really like.

donniejett

This is a great review! Good job Dave!

Spiral_ouT

You covered everything and did it well. Spoke clearly with very few "um's" and the flow was nice. Written review was well done too. You have my vote into next round.

As for the presenter.. wow. I was expecting it to be much better than that. I wouldn't be caught dead walking into a meeting with that. Would much rather just carry my laptop and 3M Mpro-150.

cdf3

I agree. Great review. I was also expecting more from the the presenter. I thought about grabbing one, but after I've seen the bugs fist hand, I'm going to pass on it.

Victor878787

Was hoping it would be a better piece of hardward than that. But however sad it makes me to say it, it is pretty much in line with the quality I would expect from RIM :(

Pathtek4

Finally Dave!!! I touch my nipples with your reviews!! Woohoo

Dave Peckens

I suppose nipple touching is appropriate as long as you use your BlackBerry in some way.

diegonei

Hey, this was a great review. Now I don't know who I am gonna vote for!

Torchlover

It seems all my apps from my Bold will not download to my Torch as they don't work on the new 6 os.
Vlingo support has not gotten back to me yet. But I love the phone. I was able to download Navigator. But nothing else yet. Anyone else have problems?

Toronto Girl

Dave: Thanks for the thorough review. Your video was a bit unplanned (What should I show you next?)
I have used an impatica showmate for two years. I've never had any of the problems that the presenter has with lag or with pictures appearing or disappearing. I'm guessing that the extra step enables the slides to be converted properly so that they appear as they would on a laptop screen. Another important point is that a showmate is compatible with devices other than the bb. (but not the iphone at my last check). I've had excellent support from impatica as well. New software was required at the time I upgraded to 5.0 OS. The download links were sent to me as I was boarding a plane and all went well upon arrival. I present and demonstrate software right on the bb so unfortunately the BB presenter won't do it for me. I had read about it and I was wondering. Thanks for the info.

Dave Peckens

Toronto Girl: I agree completely about the ShowMate being a more rounded device. Secretly, if you read between the RIM product lines, the Presenter will also work with other Bluetooth devices (although there is no device software for it).
Personally I will stick with the ShowMate solely for the fact that you can display the BlackBerry screen in real time.

John.P

You've got my vote Dave! Very well constructed video review, I liked that you showed basically from start to finish on a presentation with the device, pointed out some flaws, as well as some areas it did well at. My only negative about the whole thing would've been the focusing issue, but like I said, you've got my vote!

Dave Peckens

Thank you for the comment JohnP. I'm glad you enjoyed the review and I hope it was useful in making or not making a purchase. My dSLR lens was not auto-focusing when I shot the video, so I resorted to using a lesser camera.

Zipper

Hey, great job there, I have been mulling over buying this thing for a while and now you have solidified my decision to not bother, being that it's too unpredictable for my large presentations! I don't want to be weary of freezing etc or slides not displaying properly so it's my good ole Lappy that will still take care of that for me. Too bad because I really hoped this badboy would work well.

Great job sir.

antharris88

Don't listen to the judges! This is the only review ever where I have read the whole article! So well done you!

I wish people had better things to do instead of counting um's o well sign of the times.

Dave Peckens

antharris88, thank you for this comment. I'm glad you were able to read all the way through. Judges comments or not, I feel I did my best.

Crack on!

ka3yan#CB

Dave, that was an outstanding review. I appreciate how in the video, when things didn't go right...you just moved on. That's exactly what I wanted to see. I think you did a great job!!

Dave Peckens

ka3yan, thanks for your kind comment. You saw a true virgin run with that slideshow and the Presenter... I half expected a few things to go wrong. Ha ha ha.

Xopher

Very nice review. Definitely need to work on not so many Um's as it makes it sound like you aren't sure where to go next. But, very detailed and great on presenting a well-rounded presentation. The only thing missing was listing the Price.

Dave Peckens

Xopher, thank you for your comments. If there were any "um's" during the video it's because that was a true virgin test with the device and that particular slide show. I have used the Presenter and ShowMate many times in the past, but created a special test slideshow for this review. Anyway...

The price is and/or was listed in my original submitted written review and I'm not certain why it was edited out when published. My best guess is that the Presenter is currently offered at different prices around the web.

Crack on!

The_Adventist

This was great. The unboxing was a Kevin style with the added flick of the unwanted coverings. I laughed during your unboxing (but that's just me)

I was hoping for a good last review and you succeeded. Well done.

Dave Peckens

Ha! Thank you The_Adventist. I'm glad you enjoyed the video review. That's what happens when video shoots happen at 2am, I guess. :)

gabead

I don't use BB anymore, but thought you did a great job and thought the product was interesting. I can actually imagine how easy that would make someone's job for showing presentations. I also thought it was funny seeing the Crackberry Sticker on the monitor when it wasn't originally there. LOL.

Dave Peckens

gabead, I love the fact that you caught the sticker placement. That frackin' rocks! --- Oh, and thanks for the "great job" comment. May you have a pleasant mobile device experience.

Techno-Emigre

I was intensly interested in this review and appreciated it was a true first run. I did wonder if your experience would have been better if the slides had completely loaded before you started and how long they took to load. If anyone knows, please share.

You did a supreme review, therefore complicating my life. We have to eliminate FIVE contestants? That seems impossible. I am voting not only by current work but thinking which contestant's style fits with CB culture and really informs me. Great vids are entertaining, but I want intelligent information and honest pros and cons on products geared to every skill level of consumer. Again, excellent work.

Dave Peckens

Thank you Techno-Emigre. Allow me to answer that the next day I went back and allowed this same slideshow to fully load before proceeding ... and it failed again. Conversely, I loaded the same PowerPoint slides into the Impatica ShowMate and different issues came up.

Trust me, the original slides used minimal effects. Bottom line again is if you want to use these devices your slides need to be scaled-down and fully tested before you present them.

Crack on!

_X_

Dave great review,
Ignore the judges comments, except for Craig's he was spot on. I'd much rather see a long video covering all of the product feature than 5min of unrelated material.

What I really liked about your review was the detail; in product features and in your benchmark slide. You addressed some of the real world issues you might encounter when using such a product. This was a very informative review. I really enjoyed the video.

Constructive criticism
The boxing, was probably not needed you could have,and did list all of the content in your review, however you kept that part fast and did linger too much there.

What seemed a bit rough in the video, was it felt like your ran through the slides for the first time during the video shot. Personally what I like to see is the reviewer already doing their eval and giving us an already digested review of the product: features and know issues. I don't care to explore the product with the reviewer; it also makes the review feel unpolished.

Again great job,
=X=

Dave Peckens

Thank you _X_, that is some awesomely constructive feedback about the video review. You're correct, that was my first time running those slides through the device. I wanted a virgin run for this review as a precautionary measure, "real world" view of what I've seen happen to other presenters.

I've used both devices in the past and half expected the slides to have issues, but no where near as bad as they did.

Thanks again for your comments.

bibeberry

i used bb presenter as a pdf viewer and it lagged and was on the background for some days.
didn't do me much harm but just irritating that it's consuming power and my 8520 uses a lot for a day.