Provides: Wireless touchpad and remote functionality
GlideTV’s Navigator is another gadget that brings a lot of potential to the table of the home theater Mac Mini setup. The Mac Mini is a great choice for a home theater Mac, but there’s one problem: controlling it. Does the Navigator’s unique curved touchpad and buttons answer this problem?
Like I said, the Mac Mini is one of the best devices you can hook up to your TV, but it’s hard to control the thing while sitting on your couch. Sure, you could use an Apple Remote, but then you’d essentially have an expensive AppleTV, not a Mac Mini. All wired keyboards and mice are pretty much out of the question unless you’re cool with running 10 or so feet of USB extension cables. Doubtful. So, we’re left with wireless keyboards and mice.
There is a bunch of choices, but this time around, I’m looking at GlideTV’s Navigator. It’s a very unique solution just for this type of problem. It’s billed as the “World’s first couch mouse.” At first look, you can tell it’s unique. The top is curved, and so is the bottom. It fits very easily onto its recharging cradle, keeping it charged constantly, as if it needed to be docked often. Actually, the battery life is superb. I’ve had this guy off of its dock for 2 weeks and it has yet to complain.
The top surface of the Navigator houses a number of buttons encircling a curved touchpad. This touchpad works very similarly to the touchpad on any notebook, though it does not support multitouch. This is of little concern since the entire unit is fairly small, and it would be a bit awkward to perform multitouch gestures on it, anyway. It’s really designed to be used in one hand, with one thumb driving all of the controls.
The touchpad is very nice, and is quite unique with its curved shape. You can really tell it’s designed for single-thumbed use. When you want to click on something, just depress the entire touchpad. It’s like a big button, or a touchpad on a MacBook Pro. If you want to scroll, just slide your thumb along the right edge or along the bottom edge. Tracking is very smooth, and the surface feels nice on your thumb.
But the device is more than just trackpad. It has dedicated buttons for all the things you want access to from your couch. There are volume controls, media playback controls (play, fast forward, rewind) and more. There’s a sleep button, a search button (which searches the internet), a GlideTV button (more on this later), and eight buttons around the trackpad. But in order to get use out of all of this, you’ll need to install the GlideTV software, which is still in beta at the time of this writing.
I’ll be blunt, the GlideTV software isn’t the greatest. It attempts to solve the one problem with this device you probably identified early on. It doesn’t have a keyboard. The software has a keyboard that covers the entire screen and allows you to enter text with your thumb mouse-style. This is incredibly slow, but then again, it’s not the intended purpose of the device, so I’ll overlook this. You’re supposed to use this thing to control media playback, not write novels, so this isn’t that big of a deal. You can use this keyboard to search the internet, though you likely won’t want to. You can also launch applications, create bookmarks or edit settings of the software.
As you can see, the device has eight buttons around the touchpad without labels. These buttons are screaming for functionality set from within the software. Well, it’s not that easy. If you want to change their functionality, you’ll have to do it from within Mac OS X’s System Preferences. As you might already know, you can set global or application specific shortcuts from here. So, you can get these buttons (which send Function key presses) to do whatever you want, it’s just not as easy and selecting functionality from within the setting of GlideTV. Again, not really a huge problem, just me being nitpicky. And honestly, this could change in a future version of the software, so I’m not concerned.
If there are any real issues I have with the device (long with its price), it’s with reception. First, I’m not sure why this device wasn’t made with Bluetooth support. This would allow you to go without the included USB dongle. And if you have your Mac Mini inside of a TV stand, there’s a good chance that it will be sticking out the back and have limited reception. I had to add a small USB extension between the dongle and my Mac Mini while I was testing this so that all button presses would be recognized from my couch. I really think that Bluetooth support would fix all of this.
Overall, the Navigator is a wonderful device that solves nearly all of your Mac control-from-couch problems. I love the design, as it really is tailored for your hand and thumb, and it has some serious style going here on too. It’s just expensive. At $80, I could recommend this device, even at $100 it would still have real potential as a gift. $149 just seems like too much when you can get two Logitech DiNovo Edge for Mac keyboards for about the same price. That device has a keyboard, media controls and a track pad, it’s just bigger. The GlideTV Navigator is definitely smaller, and possibly more stylish, but I’m doubting that its $149 price tag can be justified by most.