The Griffin Beacon universal remote control is an interesting device. It’s a little bit larger than an Apple TV2 (or a hockey puck if that’s closer to your frame of reference) but it’s got an odd, Zen-like IR ‘stone’ on the top that’s where the control signals come from. Not your everyday IR blaster.
Using Bluetooth to talk to your mobile device (iOS or Android) it uses the smarts of your device to manage your home entertainment systems. All well and good, but wait, there’s more! It’s not just the Beacon alone doing the work…
Well, actually a very cool app called dijit does the heavy lifting. The dijit – Beacon pair is quite powerful, with dijit not only bringing listings and management to your mobile device, it also brings social to your TV viewing with content discovery and social sharing. The duo:
- Transforms iPhones and other iOS devices into an easy-to-use, never-lost remote for home entertainment systems
- Converts Bluetooth signals from iOS device into infrared signals required to control AV components
- Beacon connects compatible iOS device via Bluetooth with Dijit’s free Universal Remote App
- iOS device’s MultiTouch screen display becomes the remote with Dijit’s Intuitive Program Guide, allowing users to change channels, volume, input, program DVR and much more
- Dijit App uses a constantly updated device code library to make setting up controls for TV, set-top box, sound system, media player and more, simple and intuitive
- For components not yet included in Dijit’s library, the App also includes an integrated learning feature
- Beacon’s low-profile design blends unobtrusively with any coffee table decor
- Powered by 4 AA batteries, eliminating messy wires and power cables
Getting the Beacon setup and running is a pretty simple job of installing the included 4 AA batteries, paring the Beacon with the Bluetooth on your mobile device, and installing and running the dijit control software.
Then it’s a simple matter of letting the dijit software know which components you want to control, and binding those components to activities.
For example, to watch TV, I need to turn on my receiver, my set top box, and my TV. I had to configure those devices in dijit, then bind them to an activity (Watch TV). You also can configure the layout of your ‘custom’ mobile remote control in your mobile device — reducing the number of buttons to just the critical ones needed for any specific activity.
A similar process is used to define other activity and device combinations. Pretty simple once you get the hang of it, and I like the ability to customize the layout of the remote control buttons.
I had the iOS unit to review, and it easily hooked up to my first-gen iPad as well as my iPhone 4s. On the iPad, I really appreciated the extra screen space to display TV programming information and social media content.
Since the Beacon runs on AA batteries, it’s portable, which means you can move to various rooms if you have more than one entertainment centre.
The unfortunate downside is that the Beacon doesn’t have an AC adapter, which means that every so often, about as often as a handheld remote, you’ll be replacing 4 AA batteries when the Beacon fails to respond. Which may or may not be a big thing for you.
In the end, this is a pretty cool unit. I must admit, it took a bit of retraining for me to start looking at my iPhone or iPad for TV programming information, rather than using the device as a remote to control the set-top box’s menu system. But once I got over that niggle, using the Beacon and dijit software is actually quite natural.
So if you’re looking for an inexpensive master / universal remote control unit for your home entertainment system, you may just want to check out the Griffin Beacon and dijit combination.
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