Griffin Beacon Universal Remote iPad hands-on

There are a few universal remote control doohickeys and applications coming for iOS devices over the next few months, but few are as intuitive and simple to hook-up and use as Griffin's Beacon Universal Remote.

Teaming up with software developer Dijit, Griffin has created a Bluetooth IR transmitter that can, effectively, be placed anywhere within a room, as long as the kit it's controlling is in line-of-sight. The device looks like a pebble and is relatively small, plus, as it is wireless, it doesn't need to be near a power-source. It runs up to 2 months on four AA batteries.

The application it pairs with will be a free download on the App Store, and works with iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. But it's the iPad version that Pocket-lint managed to check out at CES 2011.

Apart from the ease at which it found specific equipment to control, and the option to create macros for you to switch on several items at once (such as "Watch Blu-ray", which switches on the TV, amplifier, Blu-ray deck, puts everything on the right channel and then spins the disc) the most impressive part of Beacon - one that many other iOS-based remotes lack - is Dijit's intelligent programme guide and the fact that it can be linked to actions on the controller.

For example, once you have entered your location and service provider (such as "London" and "Virgin Media" or "Sky HD") it will download the very latest EPG. You can then scroll through it, look at metadata for each show/film, and change channel by clicking on them. Plus, you can search for your favourite show, actor, etc.

The app also allows you to click on an individual show and set your DVR to record it, all from the one hub. It's truly as "universal" a remote as we've come across.

Another cunning feature that we liked was the ability to grab the on-screen controls for any of the stored AV equipment, and drag and drop them onto a build-it-yourself graphical user interface. There's no programming or computer connection needed to create the ideal setup, just a simple swipe of the finger. It truly is an object lesson in keeping things intuitive and user-friendly.

The Beacon Universal Remote is coming in May 2011 in the US for $79.99, while the UK version will be £54.99 and hits the streets in mid-summer. That's for the Bluetooth pebble-like transmitter, naturally, the app, as previously stated, will be a free download.



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