Griffin PowerMate Review

By Dave

USB Multimedia Controller Knob

For a while now, Griffin Technology has had out many products for PC’s and Mac’s as well as the iPod. Once such piece of equipment is the Griffin PowerMate, a USB multimedia controller knob.

I recently got to test the device, and have to admit that while I am impressed by many things, I am unsure if I could make the device part of my commonly used computer interface devices.

I am used to having one hand always on the keyboard, and one hand on the mouse, or both hands on the keyboard when typing, but the PowerMate allows me another option. I can control different programs via the control knob. I think the PowerMate would be especially great for those that don’t have multimedia keyboards will all kinds of quick functions, or those that want such a device for a specific program.

The PowerMate allows you to program up to six actions per program through rotating left, rotating right, tapping the wheel (click), holding the wheel down (long click), click and rotate left, and finally click and rotate right.

vHeight: 1.3 in. (33.4 mm)
Diameter: 2.1 in. (53.8 mm)
Weight: .26 lb. (.11 kg)
Cable Length: 22″
USB Extension Cable Length: 40�

System Requirements
Mac: Mac OS 9.0.4 or greater, or OS X, USB port
PC: Windows 98SE, Me, 2000 or XP, USB port

Taking It Out of the Box
The packaging of the PowerMate is very simple and makes me think of Apple, in that it is just the device, a few simple instructions, and a CD.

I almost laughed thinking my finicky Windows XP machine would never allow this device to work. I plugged it into the front USB port on my computer after installing the software and two seconds later, I could rotate the knob to fast forward through video in Windows Media Player. There were a few steps on the CD, but it was the standard â??next, next, next, finishâ?.

Build Quality
The Griffin PowerMate is lightweight, which would make you think that it is going to be cheap, and plastic, but when you take it out of the package and feel its sturdy metal finish, you can’t help but be impressed. I almost wish it was black, so that it would match the rest of my devices, but I am not going to complain about something as small as that, and because it looks so good, I have no problem having it stand out a bit. Later on, I learned that you can get it in black, but because I was too excited, I did not notice. So you can get it in silver or black. No price difference for getting the black one, in case you were wondering.

The stock, attached cable is very short, and will be fine for those using Apple computer’s that have USB hubs built in, but for us PC users, they have included an extension allowing me to plug it all the way in the back of my computer if I had to. The connection between the two cables is strong, and both seem very high quality.

To add to the coolness factor, Griffin has included a LED light on the bottom of the device, which thanks to some clear plastic makes the knob look like its glowing from the bottom. A very pimp my knob experience.

You can control how often the light is on, if it blinks, and how fast, through the very simple to use software controls.

Software Controls
Griffin has made sure to include a few actions for Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player, but who uses either of those anymore? I clicked add, and it showed the programs running. I selected Firefox, and then set what I wanted rotating left and rotating right to do. I clicked apply now, and instantly I was able to scroll up and down pages on Firefox just by rotating the dial. I also added a custom profile to WinAmp, and Open Office, allowing me to change volumes in WinAmp, and scroll up and down pages in Open Office.

I am not a video editing person, so I don’t know how useful this would be for such applications, but just through going through other applications, I know that the software would allow for some interesting abilities.

Practical Use
Through the six actions the PowerMate allows you to do, plus the fact that it could support just about any application, I think the PowerMate could be useful to many people, especially those without any quick keys on their keyboard and whatnot, but it takes a little time to get used to having another input device.

simple to install
simple to use
great build quality

a little gimmicky
concerned about long term use (mouse and keyboard are quick and easy)
more expensive than a middle class mouse

Final Thoughts
I think that there is some appeal to the device. It is interesting, and reasonably useful, though its usefulness takes time to realize, as you program various applications to take commands from the device. For most applications you have to have it as the selected window for the PowerMate to control it, which makes sense if you think about it, but one thing I love is the Universal control, that means even if you have no application selected you can control the system volume. So if you are listening to WinAmp, but don’t have it selected, rotating the knob will decrease or increase the system volume, thus turning the music up or down.

I also like how strongly built it feels, as it feels like a device I can have and use for a very long time, and there is comfort in that. Even if I don’t use it often, I feel confident it will work next time I need it, even if it has been shipped across the country.

I enjoy the slow pulsing of the LED light, and overall, I think that this product is worth buying for those that have everything else, need to scroll through lots of pages of text or other materials, or are editing video or audio.

You can get the black or silver Griffin PowerMate at the Griffin Technology website for $45.00 USD.

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