BlackBerry Presenter Review

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 0 comments

Blackberry PresenterThere has been a fair bit of hype surrounding BlackBerry’s latest piece of technology. The new device is designed for those who have to travel a lot while presenting, and would like to avoid carrying their laptops around for single presentations. It would also solve problems if the presenter was to encounter technical difficulties – the file could simply be sent to a BlackBerry phone via email, and presented from there.

RIM has produced the BlackBerry presenter, a pocket-sized device that is beautiful and designed to be portable. Now presenters with a BlackBerry don’t need to carry a laptop everywhere to present, as PowerPoint files can be carried conveniently on a phone. The phone connects to the device via Bluetooth, and from here the presentation can be delivered using a television screen or monitor.

Specifications

The device requires the use of a Bluetooth-enabled BlackBerry phone running BlackBerry Device Software 4.6 or later. The device connects to an external display via either a VGA cable or an S-video cable, neither of which are included with the purchase.

The Device

The BlackBerry Presenter device is petite and stylish, easily small enough to fit comfortably in a pocket. It comes with a carry case to protect it from bumps and scratches. The device has only one button – the power key. A VGA port and S-video port are offered to connect to the device to a screen, and for power and updates there is also the micro USB port that BlackBerry now favours for everything. This is useful, as it means that the device is compatible with BlackBerry cables the user may already have.

The Presenter comes handily with different plug attachments, so that the device can be used in various continents abroad without having to purchase an adaptor. Also included is a USB cable to enable the software to be updated regularly via the internet.

Setup

First of all the BlackBerry Presenter software must be downloaded to the phone, which can be done from the BlackBerry website for free. It is then advised that the  Update Manager is downloaded to a computer to check for updates. Once the software is downloaded (which must be done from an Internet Explorer browser – the site, awkwardly, does not support Firefox), simply connecting the Presenter device to the computer via the USB cable provided and clicking ‘Check for updates’ enables the user to perform this function.

For use, the device must be connected to a television or monitor – we used a VGA cable which worked with no problems – and plugged in to the mains.

The instructions state that the PowerPoint file can be opened and presented directly from an email attachment, but this function did not prove available. In fact, the attachment must be downloaded and saved to the phone. This immediately presents a problem if the phone does not have a memory card, as the phone alone is unlikely to hold enough memory to save the file. At this point the user would have to purchase a memory card if he or she didn’t have one already. So this is another added expense – although nowhere near the price of the device itself.

Once the file is downloaded, it can be accessed on the phone via the BlackBerry Presenter application, from where the user can click ‘Present’. At this point the user must enter the 4-key passcode for the device, which is clearly visible on the television screen or monitor.

Features

This is the point at which the difficulties begin. The file is slow to upload to the screen. Smaller files load with a short delay, but larger files – particularly those including images and animation – take much longer. This would require the presenter to set up in advance, or to feel comfortable enough to talk at the audience for a while as they wait for the slides to load.

In the presentations themselves, the actual graphics are represented accurately. Animations are progressed at the swipe of the touchscreen or rollerball, replacing the mouse click easily. BlackBerry states that it supports “24 animations and 55 transitions”, but do not provide a list of these. Not only this, but including a lot of detail in one slide causes significant problems – certain elements of the slide simply will not show. BlackBerry’s advice regarding this is to reduce slide content. This can be detrimental to a well-crafted presentation, as it means that checks would have to be run with each presentation to ensure that each slide is fully compatible with the device. Not only can this mean removing important parts of a presentation, but it is simply not practical.

The user can select slides and even view speaker notes from the phone. However, this practice is clumsy and would involve the presenter looking down at his screen and playing with buttons for a while, as the screen remains frozen in front of the audience. The awkward way the user must scroll through the menu means that the presenter is unlikely to offer a smooth presenting experience. This functionality is a nice touch, but is unlikely to prove useful on a regular basis.

Summary

The device does what it promised to do on a basic level, and once setup has been conducted once, it is quick and easy to do so again. Presenters should just be careful to allow a few minutes before they begin to speak for the PowerPoint file to load.

The fact that the device doesn’t support all animations and images is disappointing, and so is the amount of time it takes to load. One can hope that these will be fixed in the future, and perhaps we will see significant improvements via updates. The error printed in the instructions was misleading and wasted a lot of time in the initial testing phase, and the resulting conclusion that a memory card must be used should have been included in the specifications.

With the hefty price tag (£129.99/$199.99), it can be difficult to see what the true value of this device is. Those who truly resent carrying their laptops around may feel that the BlackBerry Presenter is worth it, but for the majority of presenters, it is hard to see the positives. Significant improvements in reproducing slide elements would yield a better verdict, but for now the BlackBerry Presenter is an added cost with little extra benefit – and several disadvantages.

The new device is designed for those who have to travel a lot while presenting, and would like to avoid carrying their laptops around for single presentations.

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