The idea of using the TV in my living room as a touchscreen device, akin to a giant tablet, leaving fingerprints and smears across the screen is enough to make me want to scream.
Yet, that's exactly what the $299 TouchJet Wave is designed to do. What started off as an Indiegogo project turned into a real product that amounts to a miniature Android computer equipped with an infrared laser sits on top of your TV, turning it into an Android tablet.
It's a unique idea but unfortunately, it falls short of delivering on its promise.
Initial setup of the TouchJet Wave consists of installing the device on top of your television, then going through a calibration process of the touch sensor.
Included in the box is the Wave unit itself, a wall adapter, and all the tools required for installation. You will need to provide your own HDMI cable.
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Wave consists of two parts, the main control unit and the Wave Arm that hangs over your TV and uses infrared technology to determine the location of a tap or swipe.
The first TV I attempted to install Wave on was too thick for the device, causing the sensor that reads your touch input to be misaligned with no clear way to fix it.
The second TV set I installed the device on was thinner and allowed for the Wave to be installed in about 10 minutes. The longest part of installation entails using a small black box, equipped with blinking lights of red, orange, or green to guide you through adjusting the sensor's alignment.
With the Laser Alignment Aid blinking green, indicating proper alignment, the next step is to calibrate the sensor. The calibration process takes just a few seconds, with the Wave prompting you to place a finger on five dots, one at a time.
There are two distinct ways to navigate the Wave's Android 4.4 interface. You can tap and swipe across your TV screen, or install the TouchJet app on your iOS or Android device and use it as a trackpad.
Connecting TouchJet Wave to your local Wi-Fi network is done through the companion app your smartphone. Unlike accessories that attempt to recognize the Wi-Fi network your phone is connected to, then asks if you want to connect the product to the same network, TouchJet requires you to manually type your network's name and password in respective text boxes.
It's a minor inconvenience, but one of many aspects of the over experience that left me frustrated. The frustration is only compounded when I revisit the settings section only to find the text fields where I would now expect to see filled with my network's information are blank, leaving the impression Wave has forgotten my network.
Using the Amazon App Store, users can download and install apps to expand the capability of the Wave. However, TouchJet has preinstalled a number of apps ranging from Spotify and Skype to Netflix and a dedicated browser.
On the left side of the screen are navigation buttons, commonly found on Android devices, such as a home and back button. These buttons are constantly present, even if that means they're placed on top of buttons within the app you're currently using.
For example, in the TouchJet presentation app, home button covers half of the new page button and the back button covers the majority of the button below it. There is an option to minimize the navigation bar, but even the arrow for hiding and revealing the navigation icons can get in the way.
It’s all about touch
During my time testing TouchJet Wave, I experienced issues with touch responsiveness and dead spots where touches weren't registered at all.
The problem was most visible when playing Fruit Ninja, one of the preinstalled games. Some swipes across the screen would slice the fruit in half, while other swipes would let the fruit fall off the screen. At first, I thought I was moving too fast across the screen, confusing the sensor. But even after slowing down, the issue would intermittently occur.
Throughout the process of troubleshooting, TouchJet sent a replacement unit. The new unit improved the speed at which Wave registered touches on the screen, but didn't do away with all issues.
One test TouchJet has me run was to open the presentation software and draw lines back and forth across the screen in one fluid movement. With the original unit, the top half of the screen registered a solid black like, yet the bottom half was made up of broken, spotty lines.
After aligning and adjusting the replacement Wave unit, ensuring the Laser Alignment Aid showed a green light, I ran the same test again. The results were nearly identical. Regardless of how fast or slow I moved across the screen, dots and squiggly lines were all I could get it to register.
A TouchJet representative sent me some usage stats, starting 55 percent of Wave users use the product for presentations and meetings. Only 20 percent of users are doing any sort of gaming on it.
I'm not particularly surprised at the numbers, as touch recognition isn't an issue when you're moving between slides and occasionally highlight an item. It's when you need to use the entire touch surface with multiple gestures when the issues I experienced on two devices surface.
TouchJet advertises the Wave as a gaming device "whether you're a serious gamer or casually play with friends." I can honestly say I was unable to get through more than two rounds of Fruit Ninja, something even a casual game would get annoyed with.
The TouchJet Wave is full of ideas but falls short on overall execution. Between design choices with the interface, companion app issues, words misspelled within the interface, and a touch experience that leaves a lot to be desired, it's hard to recommend the $299 Wave to anyone.
With improvements to the touch experience, I can see the Wave being a convenient piece of tech in a meeting room. But seeing a use case for it beyond that, especially as a gaming device, just isn't possible.