Controlling your home theatre system used to be easy — you simply told your kid to turn the knob. But today's home theatre packed with feature-rich TVs, cable boxes, AV receivers and streaming boxes — and all demanding their own remotes — there's no way the little guy can keep up. It's time to replace your pile of remotes with an app that does everything they can do and more.
Djiti is a personal media assistant app that allows you to build a custom electronic program guide for your favourite channels, create personalised menu layouts, discover new shows or get series recommendations from Facebook friends. And with the help of the Griffin Beacon, which pairs with the iPhone via a Bluetooth connection and translates the iPhone's command into IR signals, it can be used as a universal remote. The Beacon is able to control not just the TV but also the AV receiver, Blu-ray players, and even Xboxes all from your iPhone. The Djiti app itself is free, though it is an iOS exclusive. The Griffin Beacon sells for about $95 in Australia. According to our own Casey Chan, it's well worth it.
iRule also uses a combination of software and hardware to control your home devices. However, unlike the Beacon, iRule leverages your home's existing Wi-Fi network to send commands, allowing it to communicate with just about any Wi-Fi-enabled device — A/V equipment to lights to thermostats.
The system, as the name implies, is an iOS exclusive. Users first create customised menus, commands and key layouts using the iRule Builder web app, then sync them to the iRule app. The app then communicates with a separately sold gateway that in turn sends commands to the IR-based devices. iRule can also communicate with TCP/IP-based devices directly.
The software comes as either a $52 Basic in-app package that supports up to three separate controllers and a $110 Pro in-app package that allows up to five unique remotes, allowing remote monitoring of supported devices and other features. The hardware isn't cheap either, running between $US95 and $US300 on the iRule site for IR gateways.
The RedEye app works much like the Djiti-Beacon — your phone communicates via Wi-Fi with the base station, which translates the command into IR for the devices. However, the RedEye is far more platform-tolerant and can be used with the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Android and PCs. An online database of more than 85,000 control codes covers the major brands and models of devices. The app also allows you to define profiles — custom menus, button layouts, etc — for each room in your house, then share that profile with your roommates and plan your collective viewing schedule on the integrated programming guide. The RedEye base station retails for $300 in Australia, and the feature-limited, iOS-exclusive RedEye Mini retails for $70.
The Re remote control app from NewKinetix essentially cuts out the Wi-Fi-to-IR middleman by using an IR dongle that plugs directly into your iOS device (sorry Android and WP users). When used in conjunction with the free Re app, this system will allow you to control (literally) any IR device. In addition to the Re's large and regularly updated database of control codes, it can also learn the controls of a device from the device itself. What's more, you can create a custom menu for controlling, say, your PS3, then use the integrated BUMP app to painlessly transfer it to another iOS device. The plug-in hardware will set you back $US60.
The Zmart system also leverages a 140g dongle that plugs directly into your phone. But since it plugs in to the device's audio jack rather than a 30-pin connector, it can run on both iOS and Android. Like the others, the Zmart hosts a massive collection of 200,000-plus control codes that support virtually every major AV manufacturer and can easily learn the ones it doesn't. The Zmart remote retails for $US20 on the Vivatek website.
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