At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Griffin debuted a new version of its PowerMate device, the PowerMate Bluetooth. The programmable spinning knob can turn up the volume, scrub videos, flip through documents, scroll through Web sites, and much more on your Mac. This $59.99 device goes on sale in the summer of 2014.
The sleek aluminum knob, first introduced in 2001, gets a stunning design update in 2014. Most noticeably, the PowerMate Bluetooth has no cables or wires, instead it uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect with your computer. One of the biggest gripes about the earlier PowerMate is that it wasn't wireless. It's also smaller and more streamlined, with less bulk than the previous model.
The PowerMate Bluetooth can be programmed to perform a seemingly endless number of tasks. Out of the box, it works as a simple volume knob, and you can use click and turn commands to pause and play audio and video in iTunes and other media applications. It's also preprogrammed with editing commands for GarageBand and iMovie, where you can quickly scrub through video and audio by twisting the wheel.
Next, it can take the place of your mouse for certain tasks, such as scrolling through Web pages and documents, and clicking into text boxes. You can also use it to pan, zoom, and control editing tools in photo applications such as Photoshop.
Aside from the preinstalled controls, the PowerMate comes with software that lets you create your own commands that work with your computer's system and installed applications. A few examples include refreshing a Web page in Safari or ejecting a thumbdrive with a few turns and clicks.
You can also program a keyboard command, such as "command + C," into a PowerMate action. Instead of using a keystroke, you turn the knob in a specific sequence to complete the action. Griffin boasts that its customers have used earlier models of the PowerMate to create custom-programmed controls for games, multimedia editing software, and even in-car entertainment systems.
Like earlier models of the PowerMate, this new version glows blue at the bottom, thanks to a few LEDs. When you set it on a flat surface, it emits a ring of light that gives you information about your system's status at a glance. You can program the lights to pulse in a pattern or stay on to correspond with different system alerts, such as when your Mac goes to sleep or is using too much CPU power. The lights can also grow brighter or dimmer as you turn your music up and down.
At launch, the PowerMate Bluetooth is only compatible with Mac computers. Specifically, it works with Macs running Mac OS 10.8 and up and that use Bluetooth 4.0. That includes MacBook Airs from 2011 and newer, MacBook Pros from 2012 and newer, and the 2013 Mac Pro. It requires two AAA batteries to run.
In short, the PowerMate's nearly endless custom programming options makes a fun extra device to hook up to your computer and help automate the tasks that take up much of your time. For $60, it's too expensive to just use as a volume knob for the average at-home Mac owner, but if you find yourself doing a lot of video and audio editing, it might be worth the money.