Archives For Remotes

Folks routinely ask for streaming box recommendations. And, for a few years, I took the position that Roku and Fire TV were largely equivalent and indicated the decision should come down to content and app preferences. Need Kodi? Amazon is the answer. YouTube? Roku. Etc. However, the math changed last fall when Roku refreshed its lineup with smartly integrated volume-control capabilities. For many with streamlined configurations, a Harmony is unnecessary or overly complex (with additional clutter) — whereas simply adding some CEC and IR control to an expensive streamer may be exactly what the doctor ordered for increased efficiency. Well, today, Amazon ups the ante with similar from the $50 4K Amazon Fire TV Stick… and then some.

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By way of the FCC, we gather the TiVo Vox Voice remote remains on track for a fall launch and that older Roamio hardware (running Hydra) will be supported via a USB Bluetooth dongle (vs Bolt’s native BLE capabilities). Details on voice interaction have also been prematurely provided, and behavior appears quite similar to Xfinity … which is a positive.

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As Roku typically does, they’ll introduce a variety of hardware updates later this fall. And, as ZNF typically does, we’ll break that news to you first.

A trusted source indicates several 2017 models will be bundled with a revised Roku remote that expands television control — including a new handy dandy power button and brining the volume rocker to more models, independent of remote listening. However, instead of going with IR like Sideclick, I wonder if this represents an expansion of the HDMI-CEC capabilities Roku introduced last year. Update: It’s IR. Can I get an amen?!

Beyond that bit of practical news, I can now confirm that a 4K HDR Roku Streaming Stick+ will join the lineup mid-range, with the universal remote, while maintaining an elongated stick presentation — versus taking on a more chunky dongle form like Google has and Amazon will, with an incoming Fire TV. On the lower-end, the 2017 Roku Express will see a significant performance bump … and may finally make my list of recommended streamers. At about 1/4th the cost of Apple TV, why not?

As to other Roku rumblings, looks like the company has taken a renewed interested in audio as they march towards an IPO.

Amazon Fire TV: Echo Edition

Dave Zatz —  September 13, 2017

As Apple continues to rest on its laurels, despite trailing the pack, Amazon is prepping an all-new Fire TV that mates their well-regarded video streamer to full-featured Alexa voice control. Like the Amazon Echo Dot, the incoming flagship Fire TV will incorporate a far-field microphone array, for always-listening capabilities, along with speaker output and the possibly iconic lightbar. Beyond the merged functionality you might expect, the new Fire TV seems likely to pick up a few Logitech Harmony Hub-esque remote control tricks given the included IR blasters… with hopefully a better reception than seen from the Xbox One. While timing and pricing remain uncertain, I’m willing to bet this tricked out 4K HDR 60fps digital media adapter will likely clock in lower than Apple’s $149 1080p aTV.

As revealed a few months back, TiVo is (finally) prepping native voice control. And the retail voice remote is nearing release, given this recent FCC filing and insider chatter. For me, acoustical capabilities cannot arrive soon enough. While I suspect I’ll rarely seek out content suggestions by voice, like “horror movies” or “soccer,” I will absolutely channel surf. For example, it took some time to track down Animal Planet for my daughter (which was a bust) as I have no idea where most channels live (being a long-term DVR owner) and textual search can be somewhat tedious (compared to Mom’s Xfinity remote).

Beyond the new big blue microphone button, it looks like Netflix has successfully strong-armed TiVo into their direct access button requirement (with Apple TV likely being the last and only hold out). Fortunately, that bit ‘o spam is nicely offset by a new, dedicated commercial skip button (that replaces the cable version’s On Demand).

As to timing, I believe we’re looking at a fall release and, supposedly, older TiVo units like Premiere will be able to purchase remotes with a USB dongle to enable the appropriate RF (BLE?) communication.

The fine folks at Sideclick have provided two Roku accessories to share with our audience.

As a refresher, Sideclick clips onto your streamer’s remote to provide additional control — think televisions, soundbars, and the like. Beyond Roku, they also offer interchangeable sleds for Fire TV, Apple TV, and the couple dozen Nexus Players out there. It may be a tough sell at its price point, in relation to a streamer’s cost, and it will obviously impact your ergonomics. However, bolting on a simple, effective learning remote, will absolutely be priceless for a significant percent of us … and I’ve been enjoying Sideclick’s capabilities in our bedroom the last few months (especially since Roku’s HDMI-CEC functionality doesn’t actually work in all cases).

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dish-voice-remote

DISH Hopper and Joey owners can now pick up a voice-controlled remote for $30. While we’ve yet to test its capabilities, voice interaction appears to be a highly successful initiative for Comcast and it’s certainly something I’ve periodically appreciated on Roku or Fire TV (and something we continue to wait on with TiVo).

Roughly half the size of a traditional remote control, Voice Remote fits in the palm of the user’s hand, much like a smartphone. DISH designed the remote to interpret natural language, populating search results based on program title, actor or genre, and building contextual searches to narrow options, as desired. It also utilizes voice commands to control basic functions of the receiver, including recording and changing channels.

Beyond the spoken word, DISH also appears to take the historically limited and fussy remote touchpad to the next level by hiding optionally illuminated numbers under its clickable surface. The backlit remote also conveniently includes IR to control your television and provides a remote finder feature.