Improve your presentation skills with this laser controller (review)

Wireless USB Laser Presenter
I don’t think that giving presentations in front of crowds would be on anybody’s “favorite things to do” list, but there are some tricks you can use to help make it easier. This slick little handheld remote lets you control your computer, flip PowerPoint slides, point things out with a laser, and then stores handily inside your laptop.

I recently received a USB compatible computer remote control with integrated laser thanks to Vavolo.com and put it through a few tests to see how it performs.

If you’re the impatient type and want to know the results quickly, I’ll say that it rates an 8/10 score and that you should buy it if you give presentations.

Pros:

  • Small and convenient
  • Stores inside your laptop
  • Works like a keyboard (works on Mac, Linux, etc.)
  • Useful range and functions
  • Remote control is via RF and not IR

Cons:

  • Keypad somewhat flimsy
  • Battery door pops off

If you’d like more details from the review, read on…

General Features:
The Wireless USB Laser Presenter (we’ll call it the Presenter from now on) is a handy gadget. The Presenter consists of a keypad remote which also houses the USB receiver which is plugged into your computer when you want to use the remote control functions. Also built-in is a standard, low power red laser much like other pointers you may have seen or used.

The Wireless USB Presenter in the box The Presenter with it's tiny battery The size of the Presenter The size of the Presenter

Physical Construction:
The Presenter is shaped such that it will plug into an empty PCMCIA/PCCard slot on your laptop, so it’s always handy and harder to lose. The device is made from a hard black plastic with silver “bubble” type switches on the keypad. There are no “nubs” or other things to help you orient your fingers on the keypad without looking, which may be a problem until you get used to the layout of the buttons. The USB receiver is very thin and hides quite nicely in the underside of the Presenter when not in use.

Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter

A brief multi-lingual manual is included which describes the basic use of the Presenter as well as what keyboard functions are invoked when you press each button. Also included in the package is a CR2032 “watch battery” which powers the handheld portion of the Presenter system. Speaking of the battery, it is installed behind a small door which can be opened with your fingernail. Unfortunately, on my unit, the door doesn’t close securely with the battery installed, so it is likely to pop-open if accidentally bumped. This is not a big problem, but if you’re giving very important presentations and your unit has the same issue, you’ll want to put a bit of tape over the door to prevent it from opening.

Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter

Use:
When you plug the USB receiver into your computer, it is recognized as a standard USB keyboard device. This means that you do not need special drivers and that the Presenter will work with any system, including Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, or pretty much anything else you can think of.

Pressing the buttons on the remote cause the “keyboard” to send various keypresses to the computer. For example, there are buttons which send a PageUp and PageDown signal. Some of the buttons send commands which are Windows and Powerpoint specific, yet most of the buttons work without this particular affinity for one brand of software.

The remote’s buttons have many useful features including directional buttons which actually move the mouse, click the left and right buttons on the mouse, and even blank the screen. Thus, since you can control the mouse and click on icons, you can crudely control your computer and change applications should the need arise.

Since the Presenter utilizes radio signals (RF) instead of infrared (IR – like your TV remote), you don’t have to physically point the remote at the computer for the commands to be received. You can roam reasonably far from the receiver and operate the presentation discretely. I have tested the remote up to 20 feet away from the computer and it was working fine – you may be able to go even further.

As with most low-power laser pointers, the red laser that is built into the Presenter is useful and bright. It is visible in normal office lighting and very visible in dimmed lighting. You can be well over 20 feet from the screen and the red dot is still very visible and vibrant.

Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter Wireless USB Laser Presenter

Conclusion:
The Wireless USB Laser Presenter is a well designed, useful device for those who give presentations. I was able to demonstrate the device to several office professionals and all were impressed with the device and indicated interest in having one. The battery door popped off while one person was inspecting the Presenter, but this was a minor setback.

The fact that the device works without drivers of any type and also supports operating systems other than Windows is a refreshing change in this field of proprietary Windows-only devices. Being able to store the Presenter inside the laptop itself is a stroke of genius which ensure that it will always be handy when you need it.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the Vavolo Wireless USB Laser Presenter and I look forward to having it available when I give presentations. At only $40, it’s a computer gizmo that you don’t have to justify.

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