ZNF regular Chucky seeks our assistance in choosing the right iOS IR remote solution for his situation…
I’ve always avoided Harmony universal remotes. I’ve never really liked the Harmony UI, in either the touchscreen or physical button incarnations. But now, with the variety of iOS based universal remotes available, I’m suddenly interested in getting myself a universal remote with a better UI.
In figuring out which remote to buy, I have specific needs, which may greatly vary from yours. I place a high degree of value on software that is easy to use on a daily basis, easy to customize, and easy to initially learn. I’m willing to “teach” the new remote my button codes by pointing old remotes at it. In short, I’m willing to spend 1 day setting up the new remote just the way I want in order to enjoy it the next 364 days of the year.
The hardware must be functional, with a minimum of hassles on a regular basis, but I’ll take good software over good hardware for this project.
Also, I rarely watch live TV, and prefer scheduling my DVR recordings from the massive real estate and fine control offered by desktop or laptop computers, so programming “discovery” is not high on my priorities.
Here are the devices I’m looking to control for my single room media center:
- TiVo HD DVR
- Mac Mini HTPC (Apple Remote commands intercepted by Sofa Control software.)
- Modern HDTV
- Antique Audio Receiver
Here is a comprehensive list of all the potential solutions I could find, starting with what seems the most attractive to me, and working my way down the list to the least appealing.
First up are the three solutions I’m seriously considering, (drum roll), The Contenders:
- Absolutely perfect software from a UI perspective. You’ve got to try it to believe it. You can download the app for free and completely set up your remotes prior to purchasing the hardware. If I were designing iOS remote software from scratch, I’d come up with something quite close to this. Easy to intuitively learn. Easy to customize your setup. Truly admirable software.
- Cloud integration. Backup your remotes to the L5 servers. Download other pre-made remotes from the servers.
- Useful web support forum for getting answers to obscure questions.
- Low price.
- Dealing with an IR dongle. (Though this is a small dongle.)
- Reports that dongle has limited range and power.
The software is pretty much exactly what I have in mind. But the hardware worries me a bit. Still, if I were buying today, I’d buy this.
- Plug-in IR blaster totally eliminates dongle, range, and battery worries.
- IR blaster doubles as docking station to charge your (non-iPod) iOS device’s battery.
- IR is controllable via web browser as well as via the iOS app, for more flexibility in usage.
- High price, (though potentially worth it.)
- Difficult to fully test software without first buying hardware.
- AC wire to the IR blaster complicates media room layout.
The hardware seems excellent, other than the high price. If I could combine the L5 software with the RedEye hardware, I’d be sold. But, of course, I can’t do that. Perhaps the software is better in practice than the sense I’m getting from playing with it sans hardware.
- Large IR dongle supposedly has better range and power than L5.
- Software offers fine control over button durations and delays for timing control of macros and other edge-case situations. May perhaps work in situations where the L5 software fails.
- Dealing with IR dongle.
- Reports that the large IR dongle is fragile when connected.
- Software seems somewhat unintuitive, difficult to learn, and impossible to finely customize in the ways I’d prefer.
Next up are the ones I’m not currently seriously considering, (rimshot), The Pretenders:
- Clever software provides for photorealistic replicas of actual remotes, as well as custom-build remotes.
- Custom-build remote software seems quite buggy, and incredibly, includes a mandatory advertisement bar on something you’re paying $100 for. Additionally, the ad bar gets in the way of your use of the remote.
- Hardware setup and options are confusingly explained by iWavit website.
- No iPad app.
- The price is nice.
- Headphone IR dongle seems less clunky than dock connecter dongle.
- Many reports of insufficient power and flexibility with IR dongle.
- The hardware sounds pretty wonderful. No AC wire to the IR blaster, yet won’t eat through huge amounts of batteries.
- Software utterly insufficient for remote customization. Focused on discovery and social sharing.
- Peel can’t “learn” from existing remotes. If your remote isn’t in the database, you’re out of luck. A deal-breaker for me.
- You must go over to the IR blaster and physically ‘wake it up’ every time you start using the remote to save batteries. That’s a deal-breaker for me.
- Software is inadequate for my needs. Lacks customizability.
So, does the ZNF commentariat have any suggestions or tips for me? Are you using any of these solutions? All feedback and experiences welcome.