Always Do a Trial Run
Once the connection is established, the file transfer to the appliance begins by way of the Bluetooth connection, but the process can be very slow. In my tests, a 5GB, 15-slide PowerPoint presentation took anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes to transfer fully. While I could start the presentation once the first few slides had transferred, I found the transitions between slides as well as on-screen animations to be very sluggish with the file transfer still in progress, sometimes taking up to 10 seconds to advance from one slide to the next. Therefore, I would advise users to transfer the presentation to the device prior to the meeting, as the Presenter appliance has onboard persistent storage accessible only to Presenter-enabled BlackBerrys. As this memory is persistent across a device reboot, users should periodically wipe the appliance memory to avoid leaving potentially sensitive corporate data behind on unsecured device. An appliance wipe command can be triggered from the Presenter software menus.With the presentation displayed on the external display unit, I could move to the next slide by depressing the BlackBerry track ball or track pad twice. I could also navigate to the previous slide or skip to a specific slide, or set the slides to advance forward at a specified interval. Presenters can also pop up their notes for a particular slide on the BlackBerry, while the main slide appears on the external display. I could also blank the external screen with the presentation still showing on the BlackBerry.While many presentations used in my tests displayed well via the Presenter, I found it could be finicky with some files. RIM's documentation states that all presentations must be formatted with a 4:3 landscape orientation, although in my tests I was successfully able to display very basic slides in both 16:10 landscape and 4:3 portrait via the Presenter, although the latter was definitely off-center on the external display. Of more concern, I found that with some presentations tables or pictures that looked fine on a PC failed to render correctly within the Presenter software and via the Presenter appliance. Also, on occasion, file transfer would halt midstream and the presentation would fail to show on the external display at all. Size appears to matter, although perhaps more with the size of an individual slide than of the presentation as a whole. For instance, I was able to display a 256-slide, 13GB presentation via the Presenter, while a smaller 5GB presentation with 10 extremely busy slides failed to load. RIM recommends adjusting the amount of textual content and animations in troublesome slides to decrease the size of individual slides, so it is important that users test all the slides of the presentation prior to their meetings to avoid any glitches or hang-ups. Also, the BlackBerry Presenter does not extend its remote display capabilities to any other formats or file types beyond PowerPoint. I found that I could not use the device in conjunction with Word Documents, PDFs, photos or even Keynote presentations. During tests I once also found that my presentation kept looping on the external display even though I had instructed the software to end the presentation and had turned off the Bluetooth radio on the BlackBerry. In this case, the only way to stop the presentation was to power down the Presenter appliance. Thankfully, it appears that RIM intends to deliver improvements for the BlackBerry Presenter that hopefully will address some of these problems. The company has already released a Presenter manager application for Windows that can install firmware updates down the road, although none were available during my tests. I also noted that the Presenter offers itself to Windows as an 8GB flash drive, but I could not pretransfer files to the device in this manner, as the storage available to Windows is not persistent once the appliance powers down.