Griffin Technology PowerMate 1040-PMT USB Multimedia Controller and Input Device (Aluminum, PC/Mac)
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- Assignable USB controller knob for managing volume, scrubbing audio files, or scrolling video frames
- Easy-to-program settings can control virtually any function on your computer
- Compatible with any application that uses key commands
- Striking machined-aluminum housing with pulsing blue base
- Includes installation CD-ROM and 40-inch extension cable; 1-year warranty
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The PowerMate works by sending keyboard shortcuts, called key commands, to your computer. For example, users can set the PowerMate to open a new Microsoft Word document by inputting [command + D], or highlight text by inputting [command + shift + left arrow]. Each setting corresponds to one of the PowerMate's six main movements: rotate left, rotate right, click, long click, rotate left with click, and rotate right with click. The default configuration controls your computer's volume, along with specific audio applications such as iTunes. However, the PowerMate also comes with several preset configurations for such programs as iPhoto, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Acrobat Reader, and allows the user to change the settings or add new ones (for virtually any application) based on their needs.
Design and Setup
With its heavy-duty, black housing that sits atop a pulsing blue light, the PowerMate just looks cool. Many owners have compared it to the volume knobs on high-end stereo receivers, and the description is apt. It's also cleverly engineered, as the blue light responds to your commands, brightening when the volume increases, for example, and dimming when you turn it down. Its main cord is only 22 inches long, but it comes with a 40-inch extension so you can position it either next to your mouse or on the opposite side for two-handed control.
The PowerMate, which connects to your computer's USB port, includes an installer CD, with separate folders for Mac OS 9; OS X; Windows 98, 98 SE, and Me; and Windows 2000 and XP, along with an Acrobat user's manual. Griffin has been making Apple accessories since 1992, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that the PowerMate is a little Mac friendlier. Mac users merely need to run a basic installation and restart their computers and the PowerMate is ready to go. Windows users, on the other hand, will also have to configure their PCs to recognize the USB device and then update their drivers, among other hurdles. It shouldn't take terribly long, but it's not exactly plug-and-play either.
Features and Performance
Simply put, we dig this device. For applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, it's mostly just a fun add-on, as it doesn't do much that a mouse doesn't do just as well (though Mac users will doubtless appreciate the scrolling function). However, the potential of the device increases exponentially when applied to editing software. In GarageBand, for instance, you can set the PowerMate to play, pause, rewind, record, and skip measures--a far more convenient method than clicking the buttons or keys. You can also use the PowerMate as a jog/shuttle dial when editing your home movies. You can even adjust the speed of the action--a slow speed will leisurely advance the frames, while a quick speed will fly right through them. We tinkered with the PowerMate in iPhoto as well, setting it to zoom in and out of images (as suggested in the manual) and rotate them left and right.
It takes a while to adjust to the PowerMate, as your first instinct is to use it like a mouse. But you'll soon realize that shifting the knob across your desk doesn't accomplish much, so you'll be forced to develop a better feel. Many music and video editors will likely opt for two-handed control, managing the PowerMate in the left hand and the mouse in the right. Users should also test a variety of key commands in each application, as it's not immediately clear which functions are merely fun and which are genuinely convenient. But the more you play with the PowerMate, the more you realize its potential.
On the whole, the PowerMate is a blast, especially if you spend a lot of time laboring in multimedia applications. That doesn't mean it's a great fit for everyone--people who work exclusively in Word or Excel might find it overhyped. But you'd be hard pressed to find a desktop peripheral with more promise for audio and video professionals. --Rivers Janssen
- Assignable knob controls virtually any function on your computer
- Ideal for audio/video editing applications, music jukeboxes, games, and more
- Easy to program; works with any application that uses key commands
- Cool black housing with glowing blue base
- PC setup is a bit cumbersome
- Takes time to realize full potential
What's in the Box
PowerMate USB controller, 40-inch USB extension cable, CD-ROM with installation software, Adobe Acrobat user's manual (on CD).
Top Customer Reviews
The PowerMate is, basically, a knob. A big, machined aluminum knob that looks like it fell off an expensive piece of studio equipment. It sits on a slightly rubbery translucent base that gives it excellent grip (on my glass desktop at least). There are two blue LEDs hidden in the base, more of which later. The USB cable is somewhat dinky (maybe 18" long) but it does come with an extender that adds another 3' or so. The desk footprint of the unit is tiny - it's maybe 2" across.
The knob works with all recent versions of Windows, MacOS 9 and MacOS X. I've only tried it with the last of these, so your mileage may vary, but by the looks of the manual the only thing missing when used with Windows (and with some types of Mac) is the "soft power on" feature. Push the knob and the machine starts up. Note that this only seems to be a feature that works on recent PowerMac G4s, if the document is to be believed, and even then only if the PowerMate is plugged directly into one of the machines USB ports (i.e. not into one of the keyboard ports, or a hub).
Both Windows and Mac versions of the software are "application sensitive". This means that you can define specific behaviors for the knob when specific applications have window focus.
The default behavior is to turn the volume up and down, while pressing it mutes/unmutes the sound. If that was all there was to it I'd have been unimpressed - I've got keys on my keyboard to do that.Read more ›
However, it's not as useful as I hoped it would be. I like to use iMovie and Final Cut Pro a lot, and hoped that the Powermate would work as a jog-shuttle contoller for quickly selecting frames and edit points. Well, the Powermate control software does allow mapping of keys to the left/right movement of the Powermate, but it's not quite enough to make it super useful. You can't set edit points for example, and the frame advance and rewind isn't very fast or easy to use.
Yes, it does make a great volume control for iTunes. BUT the nature of the Powermate is that it controls either the entire system or a specific application depending on how you have set it up, so it's possible to get confused and start scrolling through a webpage rather than adjusting the volume as expected. And don't forget that iTunes and the computer as a whole have separate volume settings - which one are you adjusting?
After a month or so of use, I find I use the Powermate to do these things:
1. Wake up my iMac when it's in Sleep mode
2. Impress friends with it's pulsing blue glow.
3. Er, that's about it.
It's still cool, but if you want a shuttle controller for video work, buy a dedicated shuttle controller, not the Powermate. If you enjoy having a lump of machined metal that glows on your desk (like I do) the Powermate is still worth getting.
Note: the driver software for the Mac was recently updated to version 1.5, which addresses some issues I listed above. For example, it's possible to make the Powermate ONLY work as a volume control, and avoid some confusing behavior.
In looking through the web, it seems that a lot of other people have software problems with the Powermate. In my case, the Powermate isn't seen at boot-up and requires unplugging and replugging the USB cable. This action (re)loads the driver which didn't get loaded at boot-up. But sometimes it does. Hit or miss...
To see if it was a driver issue, I downloaded the latest driver from the Griffin web site, version 1.5.3D for Windows. Other than the unplug/replug problem, everything else seems fine. I'm using the Powermate to control my HTPC so I use volume up/down, Mute, the long click for DVD Pause (space bar), and click+turn to change the channel up/down on my HDTV tuner in my HTPC.
Note that I am running WinXP SP2 and other people have reported problems with the Powermate and WinXP.
Also note that Girder is a popular remote driver for many classes of devices. However, I couldn't get the Girder driver to work with the Powermate using Girder4 and latest Girder Powermate plugin. Other people also reported similar problems with this also.
I've emailed the Griffin support people a couple of times but so far they have not replied. It appears that other users have had similar experiences with Griffin's poor customer service.
What I would like to do is have 2 Powermates, one on each side of the couch, so that my wife and I can control the muting of our HTPC. Macs were shown with 2 (and even 4) Powermates using the new version 1.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This does not work for tempest in mame. It does not have a real mouse driver and does not produce raw events. Read morePublished on September 25, 2012 by Sean
Doesn't work with Adobe After Effects timeline. From keyboard I use "PgUp" and "PgDn" keystrokes to move left and right. Read morePublished on March 11, 2010 by Michael Margolis
This could be a great product but I am having problems with the driver recognizing the hardware, half the time it works, half the time it doesent, and I have to disable and... Read morePublished on March 1, 2010 by Sebastian R. Bailey
It's a nice concept, I originaly purchased this for 3D development before 3D mice were available. It seems like it would be a nice addition to your system, but frankly the software... Read morePublished on August 17, 2008 by Adam Prall
The powermate is very easy to setup and it works great, its very easy to get in and set up custom commands for different applications. Read morePublished on September 10, 2007 by T. Scanlan
IF THE POWERMATE 2.0 SOFTWARE WAS SIMULAR TO SAITEKS SST SOFTWARE SO WE CAN CONTROLL THE KEYSTROKE TIMING THEN I'TS USE CAN BE USABLE FOR ALL KEYBOARD CONTROLL PROGRAMS REGARDLESS. Read morePublished on September 6, 2007 by Andrew Coriaty
The hardware went bad after 11 months (the LED failed). Got a replacement under warranty. Either the replacement hardware is broken, or the PowerMate's lame driver software for Mac... Read morePublished on July 31, 2007 by approach
but not as useful as it might seem.
I found msyelf hardly ever using it. It was mostly just cool to look at.
And if you upgrade to Windows Vista. Read more
doesn't contorl my audio break out box or my DVD playing software
MAC G5 10.4 Quad
no the intel processor