by Steve Rohde
I'm a pastor and a Treo evangelist and user, who makes good use of my Treo for basic tasks: voice calls, SMS to-do lists, managing my calendar, taking pictures for my blog and editing Word and Excel spreadsheets.
Very often I use PowerPoint in my presentations, so the idea of using my Treo to operate PowerPoint, without the need for a laptop is quite attractive. When I saw the iGo Pitch Duo advertised on the Palm website, I was very interested in finding out if it might work for my presentation needs.
I have several Pastor Friends who are always are asking what's up with my Treo 650... I have a reputation to live up to! But beyond being a cutting edge Treo guy, I really wanted to use my Treo and the iGo Pitch Duo at church — for presentations, playing videos or showing pictures.
What's the iGo Pitch Duo?
The iGo Pitch Duo is a presentation device for use with the Treo 650, built to replace a laptop for presenting PowerPoint slideshows. The iGo Pitch Duo can be connected via Bluetooth or Sync cable, depending upon your needs. My main requirement for the Pitch Duo was presentation of PowerPoint slides, video and screen shots of the Treo. I also wanted to connect it directly to RCA or SVideo inputs, which it does quite well.
Package: It comes in a cool nylon and mesh bag, nice and neat with a place for everything. It Easily fits in a bag and is much lighter than a laptop. The Items included with the package are: The iGo Pitch Duo machine, a Power cord with adapter (for some reason there's a little connector that attaches to the power plug for foreign power sources), a Belkin Bluetooth adapter, and an instruction booklet.
Software: Through a download on the Mobility Electronics website, you get the latest software package. There is no disk, so you must get it online.
The software package includes: iPresent Desktop software, a PowerPoint converter which makes files that iPresent can read. You can't just drop a PowerPoint on an SD card and go — presentations must be converted and compressed. iPresent, the Palm OS application that reads the converted files. iDisplay, another Palm OS program that sends screenshots to the Pitch Duo and Quick Display, and a Quick Connect program for Palm OS that sends screen shots to projector via the Pitch Duo.
Hardware: Pitch Duo is the heart of the package, with a power input port, two USB inputs a mouse and Keyboard input used for controlling the handheld, but only the mouse pointer worked for my Treo.
Ease of connection: It was Pretty easy to connect. The manual gave information, but it took me a few minutes to figure out that you had to connect the Treo to the Duo Pitch either through a sync cable or Bluetooth connection. The Bluetooth setup is only done through the iPresent, iDisplay or Quick Display programs. If you do the connection through the Bluetooth setup you have to enter a password.
How the Pitch Duo Lined up to my hopes and expectations
The PowerPoint feature worked great! The Bluetooth connection was fabulous using PowerPoint! You can really move around the room and still be connected. You have to make sure your Treo is set to stay on all the time or it will disconnect.
The cool part was that iPresent has several different views that you can use on the Treo, very similar to what you see on the Microsoft PowerPoint. You can see the slide, view the notes or view the list of slides. During the program you can switch between any of those views.
My favorite was the note view. This allows you to see your notes so you can read your notes while you give your presentation. If you wanted to skip to a different slide you can just change the view to list and use your stylus and click on the slide you want. You can also move slides around if need be, but you cannot edit the slides.
Now you may be able to edit it through QuickOffice's QuickPoint, but I did not test this, since I don't have a copy of QuickPoint on my Treo. One last word to note is that this will not do any transitions, embedded video or music. It is just a basic “click the next slide” kind of functionality.
iGo and Other Pitch Duo users say the product works with QuickOffice's QuickPoint, including editing of slides but doesn't work with Documents to Go. I only have Docs to Go on the Treo, so I'd really like to see support added for this other popular application.
I'd also like to see a few changes made to the desktop converter program. There isn't any option to select a destination for converted files — the application automatically sends converted files to the Palm Quick Install program. From there you can choose to send the file via HotSync to the Palm device itself or an SD card. I would prefer to send the file directly to the SD card without using the Palm HotSync program.
iDisplay and Quick Display program on Palm
The Bluetooth connection did not work well — It was slow and quite delayed — though the connection through the HotSync USB cable was excellent. When I used the sync cable the response was fast. Don’t even try to view video or even pictures from the Treo directly. Video is too slow and massively delayed. The serial connection cannot keep up with the data required to send video.
Picture display is also slow. For the first few times that I attempted to view a picture, my Treo Crashed. When I did get it to work the display took 10-15 seconds to display.
One of the most disappointing parts of the iDisplay was that the Display is not full screen. It shows a generic Palm device and the Pitch logo is displayed on the screen the whole time. I'd prefer to see the Palm screen only displayed, like a laptop screen is displayed on a projector.
The keyboard and mouse connections only seem to run through the iDisplay or QuickDisplay. You cannot run the converted PowerPoint via a mouse or keyboard. In iDisplay you can only use the mouse as a pointing device to run your Palm handheld — the keyboard was not supported on the Treo.
Since the screen shows a generic Palm you cannot click on the home button with your mouse and get to the home screen. I would have lived with the generic screen if the home button and drop down menu buttons worked properly.
Things I'd like to see work with the Treo 650:
1. Powerpoint slides
2. Transitions on PP
4. Video to the projector
Other Issues The Case is pretty nice to carry, but the power cable has to be tied every time you pack up because the wire does not fit into the mesh bag.
The design of the Pitch Duo is cool looking, but there are some problems. Without cables connected to it, the device will not stand upright like it's designed to. The projector VGA cable is the prop to stand it up, kind of goofy, but it does work.
The power cord and one of USB connectors are too close and may cause problems connecting a USB device to it. For me I had to turn the power cable sideways to make my USB cord fit. It just seems that there is plenty of space on the box to place the power cord farther away.
There is a IR connection option, but as with all IR connections it is slow and you must be in the line of sight and pretty close to the device's IR receiver port. I'd stick with the Bluetooth.
You may not have the laptop but cords and cables — those you can't so easily eliminate. There is of course the AC power cord, the HotSync cable and or a mouse cable. Best case scenario for traveling light would be using the power cable with a Bluetooth connection, to limit cords and cables to haul along.
Overall, the product works pretty well. The PowerPoint is a basic presenter and does not work with transitions, video or music. The Bluetooth connection with the presenter program was cool and worked very well. The views on iPresent worked well too, I liked the note view so you can read notes and use your handheld as a clicker.
The Palm OS view program (iDisplay) worked okay. The connection was too slow to show video, picture viewing and camera use. It is limited to the standard serial cable connection, this isn't actually the Pitch Duo’s problem, but is is limiting nonetheless.
If you want a good presentation device that works with your Palm or Pocket PC handheld — this is it. If you need to edit PowerPoint on the fly you will need QuickPoint or your laptop to edit the original PowerPoint slideshows. If you want to project video or pictures from your Treo 650, this is probably not the device for you.
The price for the iGo Pitch Duo is $279 directly from the company, though I found it for $252 at Amazon, with free shipping. Both prices are a little high for my limited budget, though I think this is a decently priced tool for road warriors who make a living using PowerPoint presentations and want to eliminate their laptop as much as possible.
Thanks to Mobility Electronics for allowing me to review their product, and to my brother Mike for hosting this review of the iGo Pitch Duo on his weblog!