Archives For Remotes

A Tale Of Three Remotes

Dave Zatz —  April 12, 2014

remotes

While we rarely have the inclination to tackle a full-on review (like Adam), the $99 Amazon Fire TV streamer that we tracked so closely ahead of launch is worthy of a few posts. Overall, it’s a solid debut… but not quite ready to displace the similarly priced Roku 3 or Apple TV, for those that have already outfitted their televisions.

I’m always fascinated by the decisions companies make in regards to the remote control, which is the primary interface to their TV-based experience. Take the now defunct Sezmi for example – they originally promoted a unique and beautiful remote… only to launch with an off-the-shelf skinned variant to save a few bucks. While that alone didn’t sink the product, a clunky clicker earns no fans. By comparison, TiVo is quite well known for their iconic and practical peanut… still going strong well over a decade now.

In the small streamer category, and without the need for channel number buttons, all entrants have gone for similarly small remotes. None more minimalistic than Apple’s metal sliver of a thing.

remote-profiles

While it’s beautiful to look at, it’s not at all ergonomic, prone to misplacement, and knee-capped by such a tiny IR emitter window – requiring pretty darn good line-of-site for remote control. Further, the “back” function isn’t entirely intuitive and there’s probably not enough buttons in general. By comparison, the Fire TV remote falls somewhere between the Roku 3 and aTV in sleekness and thickness, relying on AAA batteries versus Apple’s CR2032, and is more comfortable hold. Amazon reproduces Apple’s 4-way disc, which is useful and more attractive than Roku’s cross – although Amazon’s build quality isn’t equivalent to Apple as mine is a bit jiggly.

Unlike Apple, Fire TV and Roku do not require remote line-of-site: Fire TV is Bluetooth only, while Roku is more flexible in communicating via WiFi Direct and IR — meaning all your universal remotes are supported. And, along with that RF communication, comes additional features. Fire TV provides a mic to feed Amazon’s (incomplete) voice search functionality, whereas the Roku 3 ships with a headphone jack (and volume rocker) allowing you to stream content without disturbing a sleeping partner. The more bulbous AA-powered Roku 3 remote also integrates Hillcrest’s Wii-esque motion control, along with A/B buttons, to power a very limited number of gaming apps.

Of the three, Amazon strikes the best balance of form, function, and iconography although it could benefit from a bit more heft and girth. And while it doesn’t include Roku’s instant replay button, Amazon has competently addressed this feature via the transport controls interaction.

tivo-slide-pro-remote

Based on a prematurely published blog post, we’ve learned that the refreshed TiVo QWERTY remote leaked by the WSJ and FCC docs is the real deal and presumably launching this week. The backlit TiVo Slide Pro Remote features both IR and RF capabilities that link to a single TiVo box. Beyond the obvious keyboard convenience, when mated to a Roamio (versus Premiere or Mini), the Slide Pro provides an audible remote finder. While the cached post mentions learning capabilities in passing, TiVo’s updated support page elaborates — and the feature previously seen on Glo and Slide remotes does indeed make its triumphant return. Pricing should drop any day now…

Update: The Slide Pro is now available for purchase via TiVo.com and ships in two forms: one with a RF USB dongle to support Premiere and Mini hardware, and one without as Roamio has RF built-in. Unlike the lofty $90 pricing of the original TiVo Slide, both versions of the new model run a reasonable $50.

(Thanks Link & Philip!)

New TiVo Remote On The Way

Dave Zatz —  October 25, 2013

new-tivo-remote-fcc

By way of the FCC (1, 2), we’ve learned a new TiVo remote and RF USB dongle are on the way. While the rear looks quite similar to the new TiVo Roamio remote, due to a short term confidentiality request, we’re unable to confirm if this is the incoming Roamio Slide with QWERTY keyboard or merely an accessory to bring the updated button layout and RF control to TiVo Premiere and Mini hardware. Related, we wonder if this mysterious device will return learning capabilities to TiVo’s remote stable. It probably won’t be long until the answer presents itself…

tivo-roamio-remote

If your household is anything like mine, you might find you’re in need of his and hers TiVo remotes – one for each nightstand. Fortunately, new Roamio owners now have that option… as TiVo has launched a Roamio Remote accessory for $29.99:

  • Award-winning peanut shape in a more compact size and with new “back” button for use in apps.
  • Control power, input, volume and mute of your TV and/or audio receiver.
  • IR/RF signal removes line-of-sight requirements, ideal for in-cabinet setups.
  • Press the remote finder button on your TiVo Roamio™ Plus or Pro to have the remote play a TiVo jingle so you can easily find it.

Officially, the remote only supports Roamio hardware. However, Continue Reading…

tivo-roamio-slide-remote

Thanks to WSJ Live, via AOL ON, it looks like an upcoming TiVo Roamio Slide Remote has just been outed. The new IR/RF remote currently shipping with Roamio is getting something of mixed reviews, due to the exclusion of a learning function, as provided by prior TiVo remotes, and reduced range compared to the discontinued TiVo Slide. Perhaps this accessory will improve upon both of those… while obviously returning the much-desired physical QWERTY keyboard! No telling if backlit keys will also make a repeat appearance, or if there’s even much value in such a feature. Stay tuned? (sourced via the IDF)

roku-streaming-stick-remote-audio

RC03 and RC04 RF remote control models are mechanically and electrically identical except that RC03 contains audio codec IC (U11) and several additional passive components needed for its proper operation, as well as it’s equipped with a 3.5mm audio jack for headset connection.

The clever remote control audio out capabilities introduced with the Roku 3 will be making their way to the Roku Streaming Stick according to today’s FCC filing. Despite new MHL-compatible partners, we can’t imagine Streaming Stick sales have been significant… as it’s often cheaper and always conceptually simpler to bring “Smart TV” capabilities to a HDTV via a set-top. And we suspect Roku would be better served by integrating their platform directly into the television, as Vudu once attempted, should they find any takers. (Thanks Brad!)

Logitech announced that it plans to retain ownership of its Harmony remote product line. The company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. #

Logitech's Xbox 180?

x1voice

Following in the footsteps of DirecTV, Comcast is the latest provider to bring voice navigation to the television:

The X1 Remote app first launched in mid-2012, giving X1 customers the ability to control the TV, navigate Xfinity On Demand choices, search for programs and tune to TV shows and movies directly from their iPhones. In addition to uniting the TV screen with customers’ mobile devices, the latest version adds the ability to issue voice commands for guide navigation and content discovery. For example, users can say “When is the next Phillies game?” or “Show me all action movies on HBO.”

Continue Reading…