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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Living With: Griffin PowerMate Bluetooth

Living With: Griffin PowerMate Bluetooth
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Nov 2, 2015, 08:30 AM
About two months and one day ago, we met the Griffin PowerMate Bluetooth -- and with umpteen years of technology experience, cut straight to the key questions: what in the world is this thing, and why would anyone want it? About two months, 23 hours and 50 minutes ago, we found both answers, and become smitten. Infatuated. This is a remote control for your Mac: at its very least, it is a giant volume knob, but you can also set it to scroll or scrub through applications. In the unashamedly gushing initial Hands On we had exactly no criticisms, and just one concern.

That concern was that because this is Bluetooth -- where its predecessors plugged directly into your Mac via USB -- there was an issue of how long its batteries would last. The ones that came with the unit lasted us throughout the testing and review, but there's no indication of battery level. So we said that "we can't begin to guess how long we've got with these [AAA batteries], and we do wonder how long we'll take to get around replacing them when necessary."
Part of the problem that AAA is far less common than AA, so where we usually have some batteries knocking around for whenever our (now old-style) Magic Trackpad runs out of power, we knew we'd have to especially go buy some AAA. We also knew that we'd never remember until pressed,, plus the real crux of the question wasn't to do with batteries, it was to do with how useful the device was. We were fully clear that it is a gorgeous piece of design work and that it is desirably useful: if it were neither, we'd have said it and there wouldn't have been all that gushing. However, it's one thing to be using something in order to test it, and using it as part of your regular work. The Hands On process stress-tests and uncovers issues, but longer-term use shows whether it has staying power. It shows whether you don't just admire or enjoy or even covet it, it shows whether you use and need it. We use and need it. The batteries lasted about another week after the testing process, and we replaced those AAA ones later the same day. Now another six weeks on, we're still using that second set. So the battery life is good, if not exceptional. There's also been a change that we are clearly using it less than we did at first. Less than we did on our first-date behavior. Back then, we were using it for volume control, for pausing and restarting music in iTunes, for skipping tracks too. We also used it for scrolling up and down Safari, Pages and Word documents. By far the most intense use we had was in scrubbing through audio in Adobe Audition. Now we still do almost all of that, but a little less. The Adobe Audition work remains as it was: it just automatic now for us to reach for the Griffin PowerMate when editing audio. We'd love it to speed up the scrubbing along an audio track as we're turning the knob; instead it moves at a steady pace throughout. It's a fine enough pace, and quicker than using the keyboard, but when we want to skip to the end of a recording and back to the start again, it's a little tedious. We find we go back to the trackpad to click roughly near the end, and then use the PowerMate to finish off the job.
Since we added so many other uses to the PowerMate -- you can set it to do different things in different apps -- we have to come out to the Finder to get the volume control to work. Occasionally the first time you do that, it takes quite a measurable time for the PowerMate to start changing the volume. It looks to us like that's a Bluetooth issue with our old late 2012 iMac, but it's a thing. Just once or twice, there's been a similar delay going back from the Finder to Safari: you're in the web browser and turn the knob to scroll down the page, but instead it raises the volume. We're talking rare, and we're talking fractions of seconds, so it's not as if our adoration is dented all that much; possibly a little bruised. Consciously looking now to see what we use the PowerMate for now, we were surprised that we weren't scrolling much with it anymore, and this rare delay is the only reason we can think of. There is one more use that we admitted to at the start: it's not an advertised feature, but we very soon found that the Griffin PowerMate is an oddly stress-releasing object. We'd twist the control left and right like professionals, we'd press down on the whole unit to pause and restart music, we'd grapple with it during audio and video editing -- but we'd also just hold it sometimes. Practically stroking it. We've moved on from our first-date infatuation, but we've also moved in. This has become a long-term relationship, and this device we were initially so skeptical about is now as much a part of our working life as the keyboard, the trackpad and the iMac itself. Griffin Powermate Bluetooth requires OS X 10.8 or higher, and Bluetooth 4.0. The later is the real limitation: the oldest iMac you can have is our late 2012 one, and the oldest MacBook Air is mid-2012. The oldest MacBook Pro is also mid-2012, the minimum Mac Pro you need is the 2013 one, but the Mac mini from mid-2011 does the job. It retails for $60 and at time of writing, that is also about the typical street price: it's up slightly from when we first reviewed it. -- William Gallagher (@WGallagher) Readers: do you have an app that you'd like to see us review? Developers: do you want us to take a look at your app? Send your suggestions to our Tips email.
Mac Enthusiast
Join Date: Apr 2000
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Nov 2, 2015, 12:45 PM
Get some rechargeable AAA Eneloop batteries and You Are Good To Go. Battery and charger bundles are often discounted. Eneloops hold a charge for a long time and can be recharged hundreds of times.

I use Eneloops in all my compatible electronic devices. They are particularly good with hotshoe mounted camera strobes. Eneloops have a much faster flash recycle time than alkaline batteries. It is so fast I no longer use a heavy and expensive Quantum Turbo battery pack!
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Join Date: May 1999
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Nov 2, 2015, 01:25 PM
So, does the software appear to be upgraded recently? Loved the USB iteration back in the day, but they dropped the ball on the software and I ended up ditching it...
Hoping this is an honest review as I got bit once waiting for them to do right.
Charles Martin
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Maitland, FL
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Nov 2, 2015, 02:20 PM
slboett: if you could respond with something specific about the software you are looking for, I will have William get back to you. Drop us a line at [email protected] if your question is too long for a comment post, use the subject re: Living With Powermate. Thanks.
Charles Martin
MacNN Editor
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