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Presentations are moving on, becoming more visual, animated, and interactive, but most of us are still stuck with using the same presentation remote that we’ve had for years. There are quite a few alternatives available now, so are any of them worth using over the standard clicker? We investigate to find the best presentation remotes.
There are many presentation remote options, but the most popular of the standard clickers is the Kensington Wireless Presenter. It’s small, simple, comfortable, and lets you go forward, backward, and blank the screen. It’s plug and play through USB, with no software to install. Two AAA batteries provide power, it has a range of 60 feet, and it works anywhere. Why would you need anything else?
Well, the best presentation remotes bring more to the table than simply advancing your slides. Interactivity is one reason you might want to switch. Air mice have been around for a while, but always remained fairly niche. They tend to look like normal computer mice, and work in the same way. However, when you pick them up, the cursor moves in line with your movement of the mouse in space – up, down, left, and right. Think of a Wii Remote, and you’ll get the idea. It means that now you can not only control the clicks in your presentation, but also control the cursor, opening up the ability to annotate on your slides using the pen function in PowerPoint show mode, or use hyperlinked or trigger menus to navigate around a slide deck, or open a webpage or another file. You aren’t constrained by the order of the slides, so you can make your story come to life, respond to your audience, and have a conversation with them – all in a pretty natural way without having to escape out of show mode, or pull up the thumbnail view (G key in PowerPoint 2013 and 2016) thanks to your presentation remote.
Gyration seems to be the leader in this category of presentation remote, with several models available. My preference was for their smallest mouse, the Gyration Wireless Air Mouse Mobile. It looks like a normal mouse and works pretty well. It’s plug and play, wireless, and uses a 2.4GHz radio antenna USB dongle to connect, so all pretty simple. It’s a decent enough mouse and comfortable on a table, but when you pick it up, it feels a little odd as the shape doesn’t fit in your hand in the way most people are used to, with things like TV remotes or phones, so it can take some getting used to. In its favour, rather than trying to awkwardly use the regular mouse buttons on top of the device, there is a trigger button underneath which you can click easily with your forefinger. It also positions your hand around the remote so it’s easier to move around and control your cursor. Given it’s dual purpose as a desktop mouse and a wireless presentation remote with cursor control, it’s pretty good. But, can you do more with the other options?
Smart TV remote
With the rise of Smart TVs and app-enabled media boxes, there have been a number of TV remote-style controllers released that are essentially air mice too. They don’t work as a desktop mouse, but they do control your mouse cursor and, as you move the remote around, the cursor moves as you direct it. They usually have quite a few function keys available, so you can not only go forwards, backwards, and blank the screen, but also control the volume of media, and even flip over the presentation remote for a full keyboard. The Wii Remote-style functionality that controls the cursor is somewhat easier to use and a little more intuitive than a traditional air mouse. The shape of these devices, the way you hold them in your hand, and the positioning of the buttons makes it feel pretty natural to move the remote around and control the cursor position. So it becomes very easy to navigate around your slide, and if you use hyperlinks or triggers, you can seamlessly move through your entire slide deck. This freedom of movement means that you can quickly respond to your audience and get to the content that’s useful.
As I mentioned, when you flip over these presentation remotes you get a full keyboard, so even if you’ve not put hyperlinks into your deck, you can use the number keys to type in the slide number you want and press enter to jump straight to that slide. Just print out a thumbnail view with numbers of all of your slides for a quick reference guide, and you’ll be moving through your presentation pretty seamlessly.
Another nice bonus about the keyboard is that it essentially gives you full control over your computer. If you want to bring up a new document and type in responses to questions, or show an Excel spreadsheet and update numbers, it’s pretty easy to do. You’re not going to do this in every presentation, but for some meetings it can be a useful ability making these types of devices some of the best presentation remotes.
There are quite a few options. The Aerb Mini Wireless Keyboard Mouse is about the size of a standard TV remote and has a lot of function buttons, but it’s mainly focused on TV controls. It’s comfortable enough, but a bit large and all of the buttons means that you’re more likely to press the wrong thing. The LYNEC C120 Mini Wireless Remote is smaller, narrower, and slimmer. The curved shape fits a little better in your hand, and it has just a couple of function controls that make it really easy to use as a presentation remote. It also uses a micro USB rechargeable battery, so a little more convenient than having to use AAA batteries. Both have decent sized keys, have a cursor lock so that you can reposition the mouse/cursor alignment, and disable the side that faces down when you flip over, so no accidental pressing of buttons on the reverse. They’re also about half the price of traditional presentation remotes and a third of the cost of normal air mice.
The form factor and added functionality mean that you should consider getting one of these instead of, or as a replacement for, a standard clicker.
If you don’t want to buy something new, Smartphone apps are another option, giving you the ability to control your presentation on your phone through a Bluetooth or WiFi connection.
Microsoft has its own app called Office Remote, that allows you to control Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but with very limited functionality, so don’t get too excited about Word or Excel. In PowerPoint, you can go forwards and backwards through your slides, click by click, with haptic feedback each time, which is a nice touch. The app shows the current slide, on which you can trace a laser pointer that shows up on the main screen, although you’re probably better off interacting directly with your slide. You can see a thumbnail of the next slide which is neat and helps you to keep the flow but be aware of it becoming a distraction. You also get the speaker notes for your slides but be very careful you don’t just read them and present to your phone and not your audience. Otherwise, you don’t get a lot. Disappointingly, hyperlinks and triggers don’t work, so you can’t take advantage of interactive presentations. Although you can switch between presentations that are open on your computer, which could be useful.
Despite haptic feedback for ‘clicks’, the lack of physical buttons means that you end up spending too much time looking at your phone to check that you’re hitting the right area. The buttons on the screen are pretty large, but it takes some getting used to.
Connecting everything up is pretty easy. It requires a Bluetooth connection and a quick app install on your computer, which puts a new tab in the Office ribbon called Office Remote that has an on/off switch for the function. The Bluetooth connection is nice, as many of the other apps available work through a WiFi connection, which can be tricky if you can’t connect, although it does mean that the range can be pretty limited, so be wary of that if you’re in a large room.
The app gives you reasonable control, but compared with standard clickers or Smart TV Remotes, it’s not the best. Mainly because it’s awkward to hold your phone and click on the right areas of the screen without constantly looking down. The screen is always on so you can inadvertently press something mid-flow. Oh, and it only works for PowerPoint 2013 and PowerPoint 2016, and on Windows Phone and Android phones (Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC etc.), so if you’re an iPhone user with iOS then you’ll have to go for a third party app.
Update: As of 2019 it looks like Office remote is only available with a Windows Phone.
Which is the best presentation remote?
It depends what you want to do, but the best balance of functionality, comfort, convenience, and cost probably makes the Smart TV Remotes the presentation remotes to choose.Leave a comment
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