As you know by now, I do a fair bit of presenting and teaching. One of my primary tools is Powerpoint, and that necessitates a presentation clicker. I’ve been using a Logitech R400 for quite some time, and it does its job admirably. A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine showed me the new Logitech Spotlight presentation remote which boasts quite a few new functions (as well as a hefty price tag). We ordered one each a few days ago, and a couple of hours ago I got mine.
Here are my initial findings.
The box itself is very nice and thankfully simple to open. I’ve seen enough packaging that wants to cut your fingers off to have learned to appreciate the simple details. Included in the package is a USB to USB-C charging cable, a small leather-ish pouch and the remote itself.
The remote is very sleek, has an excellent feel to it and fits comfortably in my hand. It has three buttons that can easily be discerned by touch and with a nice, distinct tactile feedback when pushed. The receiver is cleverly hidden inside the remote, accessible via a small strap at the bottom.
Setup was a breeze on my windows machine – I downloaded and installed the Spotlight software, paired the remote to my machine via Bluetooth (negating the need for the receiver), charged the device for a minute(!) and off I went. One minute of charging is supposed to give you three hours of presenting – not something I’ve managed to test out, so I’ll buy that for now.
The charging cable is a short thing with a standard USB connector on one end and an USB-C connector in the other. Behind the receiver, hidden deep in the remote hides the charging port. The USB-C slides in without a hitch, but here is my first issue with this remote – to pull the cable out, one has to grab the cable itself and not the connector. I wonder how long this cable will survive day to day use.
Moving on to the actual use of the remote, I found the basic functionality (clicking forward and back) to work excellent. The forward button is much larger than the other two and my thumb easily rested on the button with no fear of accidentally pushing it. So far, I have seen nothing to warrant the $130 price tag, but that’s about to change.
The remote has haptic feedback in the form of vibration that can be set on a timer. It will vibrate five minutes before the end of your presentation as well as at the end of the presentation. The timer can be preset at 30 or 60 minutes, or you can set any time in minutes that you like. A very handy feature that I’d like to see expanded upon, but more on that later.
The most interesting (and the most hyped) function is the airmouse functionality. It can be set to one of three modes – highlight, magnify and circle. Each mode can be run with or without the pointer visible. The idea is that the presenter can point to the screen and highlight items or click a link. This is great in theory, but in my opinion there are a number of issues:
Every mode can be used with or without the pointer visible. With the pointer invisible, there is no way of clicking a link with the remote, just as one would expect. However, since one most often use two display outputs from the laptop while presenting (the slide on the larger display and presenter mode with notes, etc. on the laptop screen), this leads to issues with the pointer itself. When pushing the top button on the remote to bring up the highlighter, the pointer starts out on the presenter screen and must be dragged over to the presentation screen. Unfortunately, the pointer won’t hide either, but stays visible all the time on the presentation.
By turning off “show pointer”, this behavior changes completely and the remote doesn’t care that there are two outputs, and behaves as there is just one. A much better experience, but one without the ability to push any links or buttons.
Next, in order to use the highlighter, magnifier or circle, I have to press *and hold* the top button. This leads to me turning towards the screen (and thus AWAY from my audience) to see where I’m pointing. Then I have to turn back, all while keeping my hand steady so the highlight circle doesn’t move by mistake. I’d love for this feature to be slightly modified so that I could lock the highlighter/magnifier/circle at a specific place, talk freely and click again to move on.
Third, the software allows me to seamlessly switch between the highlighter, magnifier and the circle with a double-click on the top button. This works well enough, but unfortunately every change in mode results in visual artifacts and thus cannot be done covertly. Not so seamless in practice.
Moving beyond the pointer features, another useful feature is the ability to bind a long press of either the back or forward button to different functions. The ability to blank the screen is nice in and of itself, but Logitech has gone one step further – it doesn’t matter if you’re in Powerpoint or not – the screen gets blanked, period. This is very useful for among other things blanking a demonstration while talking. It also possible to bind a custom keyboard combination (including control-, alt- or shift combinations.)
Having used the remote for a few hours I’m positive but not blown away. It’s an excellent presentation remote with a huge potential, but I’d like to see a lot of refinements rather quickly for it to justify its hefty price tag. The good thing is that I believe that most of my issues can be fixed by updating the software and/or firmware of the remote. The ball is firmly in Logitech’s court.
- Excellent design and build quality.
- Amazing battery capacity.
- Unique functions (highlighter/magnifier, keyboard bindings, haptic timer) that can be truly great if refined a bit.
- The ability to blank the screen regardless of using Powerpoint or not.
- On my machine (Dell XPS13 2016) I experienced several Bluetooth disconnects during the three hours I used the remote. Granted, this might be due to my machine misbehaving. The included adapter did not exhibit this behavior.
- No way to lock the highlighter or magnifier.
- No ability to send keyboard macros
- Visual artifacts when changing pointer mode
- Difficult behavior with the pointer visible and using Powerpoint presenter mode
Poorly designed charging cable
Ideas for improvement:
- The ability to turn on or off the pointer like the ability to change pointer mode.
- Ability to run keyboard macros and not just a single keystroke.
- The ability to lock the pointer in magnified/highlighted mode.
- Remove the visual artifacts when changing pointer mode.
This is what I found from a few hours of use. In a week, I’ll be teaching a course and I’ll be back with an update to this blog post after that.