Review: Griffin PowerMate

by on March 12, 2004

Griffin Technology, maker of various cool Mac and iPod goodies, has recently released a new version of the PowerMate driver software. We had the opportunity to take it for a spin.

Looking like it came from an old stereo receiver, the PowerMate is a $45 USB knob, made of brushed aluminum atop a clear plastic base. A blue LED is in the base, and changes brightness to indicate the status. A 40-inch USB extension cable is included in the box – a nice touch. The primary use of the PowerMate is to emulate keystrokes without using the keyboard.

PowerMate
PowerMate

PowerMate
PowerMate (Bottom)

Having six functions (click, long click, turn right, turn left, click-and-turn right, click-and turn left), the PowerMate can perform many tasks easily. Unlike many programmable mice and keyboards, the functions of the PowerMate are application-specific. In other words, when the Finder is the active application, volume, mute, and eject are the controls. When Safari is the active application, the PowerMate serves as a scroll wheel. In iMovie and the two Final Cut siblings, the PowerMate acts like a jog dial.

The driver software allows you to customize application settings extensively. The default settings for many applications were quite satisfactory, including the newest one for GarageBand. If you want to create your own, or modify the existing ones, you are merely limited to the keystrokes a program recognizes. Other customizable settings include a key repeat rate adjustment and controls for the status LED. When the knob is used to adjust volume, the LED glows dimmer for quieter volumes, and brighter for louder volumes. When the Mac sleeps, the LED pulsates, just like the lights on recent Macs.

The PowerMate is comfortable to use, and works as expected. After a few weeks of testing it, I found myself using it for scrolling more than my mouse, as it feels more natural and comfortable (like the iPod’s scroll wheel).

The One-Sentence Verdictâ„¢

The extensive configurability of the software combined with the high-quality construction of the PowerMate make it a great value at $45.

The Facts

5/5Product: PowerMate
Company: Griffin Technology
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $45

This post has been filed in Input Devices and Reviews