Airtame is a wireless screen sharing product that I was asked to review. I have gotten a few offers in the past to review products, but I always let those slide. But Airtame seemed interesting to me, and I agreed to give it a go.
This review is a first for me. Check out the video, that is part of my vlog series:
What did I know about Airtame prior to reviewing the product?
Prior to being contacted by Airtame marketing, I had heard about them through ads on social media.It seemed like an interesting product and triggered my attention to some extent. The branding was nice, it seemed slick and I wondered what would be the difference between them and let’s say Chromecast.
A bunch of people in my network seemed to be excited about the product, and that kind of “word of mouth” really convinced me.
The Airtame perception problem
Once I received the Airtame devices, I sent out the following teaser via Twitter:
— Thijs Feryn (@ThijsFeryn) August 24, 2018
I got some replies from people that were excited, but there was a recurring pattern in the feedback I got:
Great device, but so expensive!
That’s quite remarkable. Calling something cheap or expensive is based on a comparison with other products. And it seemed that nearly everyone I talked to, perceived it as an expensive Chromecast alternative. At 299 EUR, one could agree that this is very expensive, compared to 39 EUR for a Chromecast.
And prior to the demo call, I also thought that Airtame was an expensive Chromecast with more bells and whistles.
The reality is that Airtame doesn’t see itself as a Chromecast competitor at all, and you also shouldn’t judge them based on price.
Who does Airtame compete with?
Airtame is a business product, not a consumer product.
This quote was heavily emphasized during the demo call I had with the people from Airtame. If you’re not a company, you cannot buy this product. They do not want to be compared with Chromecast or Apple TV, as they serve a different audience.
Airtame wants to compete with products like Barco ClickShare, that ranges between 1000 EUR and 5000 EUR. At 299 EUR, Airtame suddenly looks cheap.
The package contains the Airtame device itself: a small “USB stick”-like product that connects to the screen through HDMI. The Airtame also has a mini-USB port that is used to power the device. There’s even a port to attach an ethernet adapter.
The package also contains:
- A mini-USB cable
- An HDMI extension cord
- A USB power adapter with EU, UK, and US extensions
Setting it up
Once the device is powered and the screen source points to the right HDMI port, a basic instruction screen appears.
The name of the device is displayed, as well the URL where you can download the app. YES, THE APP!
Airtame requires an app to perform the setup, but also to cast content to a screen.
The fact that you need an app, is a bit of an obstacle. In terms of usability towards visitors who will also cast content in your office, it’s definitely a hurdle.
However, the competing business products also require an app and only Chromecast and Apple TV have the luxury of having their casting protocol embedded in mainstream software ecosystems.
There are apps for the following operating systems:
Your Airtame device will emit a publicly accessible WiFi SSID. This will allow you to directly connect to it for setup purposes. However, this custom network is not connected to the internet (by default), and in general shouldn’t be used for casting.
In the setup phase, you’ll be able to select the WiFi network that Airtame should connect to.
I had a lot of issues setting up my Airtame devices at the office. The reason why it didn’t work is because Airtame doesn’t support Captive Portal guest networks. When you connect to such a network, Airtame will get an IP address, but because the Captive Portal username and password weren’t set, the device will have not internet connectivity.
Casting your screen or desktop
Once everything is set up and configured, you can simply click one of the available casting options. You can cast a single window, you can cast your full desktop, and you can choose to enable or disable audio mode.
When audio mode is enabled, the app will buffer the output and send it to the Airtame with a 1 second delay. This should ensure that video and audio are perfectly synchronised. Unfortunately the audio mode didn’t work during my demo: the frame rate was low and the audio not synchronized.
What Airtame displays when you’re not casting
In my opinion, you should also judge this product based on what is displayed when you’re not casting. Airtame has a bunch of options in the app. By default there’s a guide that has a welcome message and connection instructions. You can choose the type op guide and the message.
You can also upload a custom image, and you can even point it to a website.
This fits into a bigger strategy: digital signage. And that’s something Airtame as a company will focus on in the future. There will be a lot more app integrations that will allow you to display interactive content that is not casted from your computer: slides, calendars, …
Some extra features
What I’ve shown you so far in terms of features isn’t that sexy. However, the settings panel offers a lot features to enable and configure. Here’s a list of interesting features you can enable:
- Pin code connect: force the user to enter a pin code before being able to cast
- Password protection: force the user to enter a password before being able to enter the settings page
- 2,4 GHz access point: expose the Airtame as a 2,4 WiFi access point (enabled by default)
- 5,2 GHz access point: expose the Airtame as a 5,2 WiFi access point
- WiFi forwarding: forward internet connectivity to the access point and create a sort of guest network
- AirPlay: expose the Airtame as an Airplay device on iOS
The AirPlay feature only works for static data and will not perform well for video, which is a bit of a bummer. I hope Airtame can improve this in the future, if the hardware allows it.
Cast to multiple screens
This is particularly interesting in big meeting rooms, where there are multiple TV screens. From a digital signage point of view, you can display messages at the reception of your office, or display the menu in your cafeteria.
What your internal IT departement while like about Airtame
Airtame is designed for companies and offers a bunch of features that are often requested at larger organizations where there are a lot of meeting rooms, and where a lot of casting devices are required.
The settings panel in the app has a field called Cloud token. In this field you can enter an access token that is generated in the Airtame Cloud portal. This allow administrators to manage Airtame settings remotely in a single dashboard.
The app has a shortcut that directly links to the portal and where there’s a button to generate the token.
The Cloud portal gives you an overview of registered Airtame devices, which can be grouped. You can group them by any logical unit of choice. Grouping them by location could be a good idea.
You’re able to view the basics, but you can also modify all the settings remotely. That is a bug plus for administrators in bigger organizations.
There’s even a feature where you can view a snapshot of what is being casted on a particular device. From an IT-support point of view, that is convenient. From a privacy point of view, that’s a different story.
As mentioned, an administrator can set management passwords on Airtame devices to stop users from tinkering with the settings.
By default, Airtame only has one network interface, which is the WiFi interface. There’s also a port to connect an ethernet adapter.
This allows you to split your guest network from your internal network and apply very specific networking policies.
Additionally, you can use your Airtame devices as guest network access points, as they can emit 2,4 GHz and 5,2 GHz WiFi SSIDs.
I like Airtame a lot: it’s very smooth, the app works well, and the product offers a bunch of nice features for the office space. Casting is quite easy.
The setup phase was very frustrating for me, but after I solved those issues, the basic features were very easy to use.
I like the idea behind Audio mode and AirPlay, but it fails in terms execution:
- Video and audio lag, which is the exact opposite of what it should do
- AirPlay only works for documents and not for video
I get the fact that Airtame is not trying to compare itself to Chromecast and Apple TV, but I believe they should be on par when it comes to video streaming.
The product deserves a solid 7/10 rating. This is not perfect, but not bad either.
Back in school, I was quite OK getting 7/10 ratings. That being said, I would definitely consider buying more Airtame devices for the office. Airtame reached out and told me they would take a look at the video lag once I decide to purchase more devices.