The Airtame 2 is a neat little device which at its core, will allow you to share content from pretty much any of your devices to any HDMI enabled screen the Airtame 2 is connected to.
As the name suggests, this the second version of the device following on from the initial device which was crowd funded to the tune of $1.3m! Now, 100,000 shipped devices later, the folks at Airtame have released an all-new version with some interesting new features.
The folks at Airtame were kind enough to send us a review unit to try out (but have had no input into the article whatsoever).
What’s in the Box
Once you have opened the box you are greeted with some suggestions as to where you should install the device to allow for best wireless signal and to be mindful of heat projectors can give off.
Below that you get your first glimpse at the device itself. The Airtame 2 is a small, black, hard plastic disk with a small white circle on the top which has an indicator light embedded.
Once you remove the device, below is a proprietary power/HDMI combo cable (more on that later), a power adapter and plug tops to allow IE/UK, EU & USA usage.
Beyond the obligatory paperwork, that’s pretty much it.
Looking around the device
As I mentioned above, the white circle on the top of the device acts as an indicator light but for the most part, you pay little attention to it. On the side of the device, there is a USB C port, a Micro USB port, a reset button and a Kensington lock so you can secure it if needed. The underside of the device has a sticky pad and magnetic coupling which you can use for mounting the device.
This didn’t go so smoothly for us initially. Be it a bad combination of equipment or just bad luck, we could not get the Airtame 2 set up on the 5Ghz network in the office. At least initially anyway. To get around the issue we set up a second network using equipment from a different manufacturer with no other equipment using it. Once we did this we could get on with setting up the device for the first time.
The device needs to be connected to a power source and to an HDMI enabled screen using the bundled, proprietary cable. The cable forks from the plug with one side connecting to the Airtame 2 via USB C and the other side connects to a display using a standard sized HDMI connection.
The use of a proprietary cable never goes down well with users, especially those who may have used the first Airtame device as it could be powered via USB from a TV set, but the higher frame rate video output on offer requires more power and the set up used here isn’t that much different than what you’d experience outputting from USB C to HDMI on any device. If the device is left in situ attached to a screen there shouldn’t be any issues with cables getting damaged or worn out.
Once you have connected up the device and everything’s had a chance to boot up, you head over to the Airtame website on your computer and install the applicable app. We set things up using a MacBook Pro but there are Android, iOS and Windows Apps available too.
To connect to the Airtame 2 initially, you need to join the wireless network it generates. From there, the app gets you to connect to the wireless network it will ordinarily be connecting to.
This is where we experienced our initial issues with the device, but once we connected to the new network we set up and later went back to set up the wireless settings again, our initial 5Ghz network was now showing up as available.
I can’t say for sure what happened but I’m guessing that there may have been an update during the time we were trying to get things up and running.
How does it perform?
From the App, once you want to share your screen you can pick to either share a window or the whole desktop. Being able to just share the window is obviously great if you will be using the device for showing display ads for example as you can continue to use your device in the background while still displaying the desired content.
Within the App, you have a number of options available which allow you to change the quality of the stream. 1080p at 60fps makes things a lot smoother, especially if you are sharing your whole desktop, but there is also an option to introduce a buffer period which works great if you are going to be sharing video with the device.
Once you have found and changed those settings everything works quite well. There is a small lag between an input of the source device being realised on the display but at the 60fps setting, and considering this is a wireless device, it is perfectly acceptable.
One observation while using it was that the device gets pretty hot under heavy load. We left the device playing a 4K movie for about 20 minutes to check how it would perform and during that time it got very hot to touch (the Airtame doesn’t output in 4K but scales down content to 1080p). We also noticed this after it completed a firmware update too. Airtame has a support page on their site covering this topic. It basically states that higher temperatures are expected due the extra load the new device can handle and that there are thermal protections in place to reduce the load or even shut it off if the temperature gets too high.
During our time using the device, we didn’t notice any impact on performance due to the heat but it goes without saying that where you choose to install the device needs to be thought out.
One of the new features available is the ability to remotely manage your Airtame 2 devices from a web interface. Some of the features are still in Beta and there is a notice about some of the apps being charged for once out of Beta but we don’t have details about that just yet. I can understand the business model here but I can’t imagine people will be happy to pay again when the cloud is advertised as an included, new feature.
Like with most other elements of the Airtame experience, things are kept very simple and it’s easy to add a device and then manage how it looks and what it displays in the field.
Device registration is handled via a generated token and once you’ve added that to your desktop app, the Airtame 2 can be controlled from the cloud.
It’s possible to have the unit display a website, an image, slideshow or gallery for example. In an office environment, you could display your company logo and details about how to share your screen or if you were using the device for an advertisement board you could technically manage what the device displays from anywhere and never need to connect directly to the device from a computer or other device again. If you have a network of these devices this will be a killer feature for rolling out fast changes and it could be managed by anyone in reality.
Who will benefit most from using an Airtame 2?
There are a number of areas where the Airtame 2 makes real sense and I think the people or companies in those spaces will look at this device and recognise how it could work for them instantly.
It’s easy to imagine a scenario where every shared display in an office or meeting room has an Airtame 2 attached, making it simple for employees to share a presentation or give a product demo without fumbling for cables or adapters. That may seem like a basic reason but it still amazes me how many people pitch up to meetings with the wrong laptop or have forgotten to bring a dongle or power supply.
It is also easy to see how Airtame devices could replace thin clients often used in static advertising displays in shopping centres or public areas. With the cloud interface, it makes managing multiple devices simple and means normal staff without any specific background or training can manage these. Setting up Microsoft RDP sessions to remote clients is usually left to IT staff due to port forwarding and so on so to be able to set up and manage Airtame devices without knowledge such as this is a key selling point.
The other key area Airtame is targeting with this device is in the classroom. Like in the office setting, if it is easy to use, then there is a far better chance people will avail of it and new ways to collaborate or learn can be explored.
Realistically that is what this device is about. Making it really simple to share content from any of your devices with a screen and to that end, it does its job.
During our time using the device, there have been a number of firmware updates and while we may have experienced some issues initially, things are working better now. The whole network connection part still needs more work but overall it is good to see regular updates happening.
The team at Airtame go to great lengths to ensure the experience you are having is a good one. Once the device is dispatched to you, you start receiving “how to” type emails from Airtame so you can be up to speed with the features before the device arrives. It is also simple to get in touch with their support team through chat if required.
As I mentioned above, this type of device will make complete sense for some companies. It makes sharing your screen a simple task and works with a broad range of devices. If you are looking for a screen sharing solution then the Airtame 2 is worth considering.
It’s available now for €399 from the Airtame site.