Smarter Ways to Use Your Mac

Griffin PowerMate

When most people look at the Griffin PowerMate, they think, "Who would actually pay $45 for a knob?" or "Forty-five bucks for a knob, that's insane!" What most people do not realize, however, is that this is more than just a knob. To tell you the truth, I was a little skeptical of the PowerMate when I first heard about it, but my skepticism has been blasted away by this excellent multipurpose peripheral.

Let's start with the PowerMate's contents. The little plastic package includes the PowerMate itself, a 40-inch USB extension cable, and a PowerMate software CD. The CD includes the software needed for OS 9, OS X, and for Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP. The software is very user friendly, at least on OS X. (I didn't test it on OS 9 or Windows.) It allows the user to customize a number of the PowerMate's functions through a preference pane in System Preferences, including what will happen when you turn the knob to the left or to the right, when you push down on the top, or when you push the top and turn in either direction. For each movement on the PowerMate, settings to send a certain key, scroll up or down, move the cursor, or increase/decrease the volume can be defined.

The user can even customize the functions of each particular movement for individual applications. I was pleased to see that Griffin had several application profiles pre-installed with the PowerMate software. I was particularly pleased with the inclusion of profiles for commonplace apps such as iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, Final Cut Pro, and Microsoft Entourage. The PowerMate software also has a "global" profile, which acts as the standard setting for any application which the user has not set a profile for. This comes in handy when you need to quickly adjust the master system volume in an application without a profile. Please note that all of the pre-installed profiles are editable and that you can create your own.

The software also allows you to control the behavior of the blue LED on the bottom of the PowerMate. You have to choice between having it pulse when your Mac is sleeping, or to have it always pulse. The software CD also includes several Apple Scripts for changing the behavior of the LED. By default, the LED gets brighter when you increase the system volume, and darker when you decrease it. It also disappears/reappears when you press the default mute button (push down on PowerMate.

The overall appearance of the powerMate is pleasing. Griffin offers two models, one with an aluminum finish, and another with a polished black finish. Both feature super thin, silver-like USB cables. The USB extension cable also matches this USB cable. The extension cable has white connectors, whereas the PowerMate's cable has a clear connector. The blue LED gives it a great appearance during the darker hours. Now if the black one only had a red LED, then it would be the PowerMate of choice for Darth Vader.

Pros: Looks great, feels durable, software is user friendly and customizable

Cons: Price is slightly steep ($45)

MB Buying Advice: Although you will have to pay a pretty penny to gent your hands on one of these wonderful PowerMates, it's worth every cent. If you're one of those pro video editors who miss the jog/shuttle on your old VTR deck, or if you just want to use a knob to control your Mac's volume level, this is a must-have peripheral.

Posted by: MacBrilliance News Staff on May 30, 05 | 1:00 am