Gadget Query: Presentation Remotes

I'm going to be giving a bunch of presentations in the coming year, mostly using PowerPoint on my Tablet PC. One of the awkward things about using it in class is that I have to keep walking back across the room to change slides (I prefer physically pointing at the screen to waving a laser pointer around). Thus, I am considering buying a presentation remote-- one of those wireless clicker things that lets you move back and forth without being at the computer.

This being the Internet, I'm sure people have Opinions about this. So, what sort of presentation remote should I buy?

Terms, conditions, and other fine print:

I've looked at Amazon, and the two most likely possibilities seem to be:

I am open to other suggestions, though.

The really essential requirements are:

  1. Must work with Windows Vista
  2. Must work on a Lenovo Tablet PC running Windows Vista
  3. Must actually work on my Lenovo X61 running Vista, not some hypothetical other tablet owned by a person who has better luck with Microsoft products than I do

I have essentially zero patience for dicking around with gadgets that don't work properly because of some device-specific driver problem.

I am not interested in:

  1. Hearing about the evils of PowerPoint
  2. Hearing about the evils of Vista. Believe me, I know.
  3. Hearing about the wonders of MacOS, UBUNTU!, Linux, or any other hardware or software system.

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I have no experience with this type of device, but from my use of a variety of other wireless devices, a key point is how many other wireless connections at what frequencies will this device be fighting with.

If you're always within a few metres and line-of-sight between the remote and whatever's receiving the signal, this becomes less of an issue ... probably.

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

No specific knowledge on presentation remotes, but over numerous years and numerous other devices I've found Logitech devices to be more sturdy and reliable than Kensington's.

I have the first remote and like it because there are very few buttons, so it's hard to mess things up. The laser pointer isn't terribly bright, but on the whole it works fine for me. Of course, I'm using a MacBook, so YMMV.

I've had my eye on the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000. Its Bluetooth, has the presenter functions and a built in laser pointer, but its also a mouse. The presenter buttons are on the bottom of the mouse.

I don't own one, nor have I used it with Vista, but it is a Microsoft product that is "Certified for Windows Vista." If their own products don't work on their OS... well, I'll be buying some Apple stock.

Unfortunately, it's a flash interface, which means I can't link to the results, but if you search for "presentation remote" here, you'll get a nice layout showing price and review numbers from Amazon.

It's my new favorite comparison site.


Many scientists use powerpoint slides with white backgrounds.
If that is your case, you may find the anemic red lasers of most powerpoint remotes rather disappointing. I get good results from the Jasper Keynote RF with green laser:

I don't know about vista, but it works fine with XP. It is a bit quirky in that it is not just "plug and play", after plugging the USB dongle, one has to press a button on it and then press another button on the remote to "pair them". Every time I do it I think "this is not going to work" or "it will surely get unpaired in the middle of the presentation". However, it has always worked correctly.


By Gordon Pasha (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

Well, you've set your criteria so narrow as to get no advice at all, but I'll just say that you're doing well to avoid Bluetooth things, since Bluetooth shit is, as advertised, shit.

I've got the Logitech one. It's worked fine for me on Windows XP and Vista. It's recognized as 'new hardware' when you plug it into a new computer, but after that first time it really is plug and play. The biggest complaint I've heard with that presenter (I've lent it to others) is that the laser pointer button is in the middle of the forward/back buttons. Once you get used to it, it's very convenient, but initially people have a tendency to hit forward or back while going for the laser pointer.

I own the logitech presenter. Aside from the very high price I recommend it highly.

It meets all your tech specs: I use it with Powerpoint under Vista on my HP laptop with no problems (and despite logitech's claims to the contrary it seems to work with adobe presentations and on macs, I've not tested it with Linux). Installation is driverless, just plug in the receiver and go.

For the Pros: It is lightweight, but hefty enough to use (it's like finding a good camera, light but not plasticky) and the ergonomics are decent (as opposed to microsoft's mouse/pointer which has so many bells and whistles that it fails to be useful at all). Very important to me was the fact that it is the most "left-hander-friendly" of the pointers out there. This may or may not matter to you. The range is fine for all the classroom teaching and conference presentations I've used it for. Also, it has a snazzy built in vibrating timer that is great at conferences.

As for negatives: The price! Also, it doesn't turn off automatically, so you have to remember to flip the switch or you'll kill the batteries. The laser isn't particularly bright, but no worse than anything else I've tried. Finally, if you use the "presenter mode" in Powerpoint, you have to make sure you have the correct pane active or you scroll your notes, but not the slideshow (this may be true of other pointers too).

And a couple bits of general presenter wisdom: When using someone else's computer for a presentation (say, at a conference) don't forget to grab the usb portion of the presenter when you're done. And remember, presenters are extremely theft-friendly, so keep your eyes on it.

I can't help you on a specific device. I'm a Mac user, so have no experience with Vista stuff. But I can tell you that the remote is well worth having. Get one. I'm a wander-around-the-room talker and really hated having to get myself back to the podium to go to the next slide. I lecture much more smoothly with the remote. Mine has a clip so I can attach it to my shirt pocket if I feel the need to gesture with both hands. It's the low-tech features that are the killers. For powerpoint (or equivalent, Keynote in my case), I've found I just need forward and back controls, so more buttons would just add complexity (and the opportunity to hit the wrong one and confuse yourself). On the (rare) occasions I show a movie clip (Quicktime in my case), though, I need stop, play and rewind buttons, because someone always asks a question to which the right response is "let's look at that bit again." Movie clips, by the way, it's even more important to use a remote, since I, at least, want to sit with them while *we're* watching.