I have too many remotes, I’ve got seven of them for my home theater system, that’s just too many and it can get confusing at times. I need a universal remote, but I’ve yet to find one that works with everything I own. Today for review I have a product from Griffin called the Beacon and it’s basically a universal remote, but it works with Android devices. Yes you can control your TV, Cable or Blu-ray player with your phone or tablet. It sounds like a great idea in theory, but is it a great product? I have to say I’m leaning towards yes, but it’s not quite perfect yet…
The box for the Beacon opens up to show you the actual product, and one the back are specs and features listed for you.
Inside the box you’ll find a plastic tray that hold the Beacon, four AA batteries and then the user manual floating around.
Yes it uses four batteries and they supply them for you, even though they’re not exactly name brand…
The Beacon is plastic and it looks like a pebble or a rock on a square base. it’s hard to get a picture of it, but it’s very dark red in color and translucent. Overall it seems well made, but it is just plastic, I think f you stepped on it it would break. Without he batteries in it it’s very lightweight, add four batteries and it gets a little heavier but not too bad. The pebble part is actually a button to turn it on and to put it in pairing mode.
On the bottom you’ll see four feet, a battery cover and little pictures or diagrams to let you know which way the Beacon should be pointed for proper use.
I used it a few times and noticed a few odd little quirks that I was going to report on, but then I went and turned it on and up popped a firmware update and app update. After spending several minutes updating I got back to it.
The first thing you’ll need to do really is find your devices in the app and program then in so they work. It’s a fairly simple process that you just repeat over and over for each device you own. Here’s my HDTV for example, it’s a Vizio and you just have to find Vizio in the list of devices to get started.
Once you find it you’re then asked if you want to use the Remote Wizard or Choose from a list.
The Remote Wizard is just a power button that you push and press yes or no if it turned your device on. If it didn’t it will move to another exact same screen and you repeat the process until the device comes on.
The other option is to choose from a list of remotes, you just push the power buttons until one works and select that one.
Then you’re done and ready to go on to the next device.
I did have a slight issue with my Sony home theater receiver using the Remote Wizard, I hit No that it didn’t work and then said it found a remote for my device. I got it to work though using the choose a remote option. That little bugs is still there even after the update sadly.
Overall I found the programming steps to be easy and I got done quickly with three devices. It’s great because there’s no codes to hunt for and enter and no combination of buttons to press like on some universal remotes.
The last step before you can start using the Beacon is to let it know where you are and then pick your cable provider, I’m in Pittsburgh and on Verizon FIOS so that’s my choice obviously.
Once it loads the TV guide you can get started. The main panel is what’s on right now, above that you can change the time and date to see what’s on then.
The guide is useful and it’s connected to the web at all times basically. If you pick a show it will take you to the show page with a summary and then tabs for upcoming time and a listing of Cast and Crew if there is one. The cast and crew page even has web links on it so you can go and learn more about the actors in the show.
There’s also a search function so you can find things more quickly, which comes in handy when you’ve got a couple hundred channels to scroll through.
At the top is a button or slider that switches between the guide and your remotes. Push the button and up pops a menu so you can make a choice. I only programmed in three devices right now but it shows four remotes, the Watch TV one is a combination remote.
Here’s the remotes so you can see what they look like. They’re fairly basic really, you won’t find all of the functions like on your real world remote but they work.
The app will also let you program rooms so you can take the Beacon with you and just pick the room and it’s ready to control those devices in that room. Cool little feature and that’s the main reason I think the Beacon is battery powered.
If you press the menu button on your phone or tablet up will pop a little menu to let you Add Rooms or Delete Rooms from the Guide menu but if you’re on the Remote menu it changes to adding or deleting devices. There ins’t much really in the settings, just channel editor, setup, reset and enable or disable sounds.
I found the range on both the Bluetooth and the infrared to be more than adequate for my needs. I’ve got the Beacon all the way across the room and it works fine for me. It is infrared so it has to be line of site just like your remotes and you’ve got to place it farther back so it can hit every device you need it to.
Battery life seems ok, I’ve used it for a week or so and battery is still fine. The Beacon isn’t something that would most likely be on 24 hours a day and seven days per week so I would think the batteries should last a while. There are four of them after all and replacing them often could get expensive.
Through all of this one thing has really bothered me, Bluetooth devices are pretty much universal, at least that’s what I always thought, so why is there one for Android and one for iOS devices?! It’s just Bluetooth and an app that sends signals to the Beacon right? So how come two versions? if you have both Android and iOS devices then you’ll need to spend more money or decide what you really want or need.
The Griffin Beacon for Android is a fairly decent little gadget that can take your multimedia entertainment to a new level. We’ve all got our phones with us so with the Beacon you’ll never lose the remote again and you’ll always have it handy. The Beacon is very easy to get setup and use, it’s by far the easiest universal remote I’ve ever used in regards to programming my devices into it.
Price is actually fairly low depending where you look. Griffin sells it for $69.95 but I found it on Amazon for basically half that.
Sure it’s not perfect, and you won’t find all of the same functions as you will on your real remotes but it does work. Sadly it only works with Android 2.3.3 and above, so you’d better have your devices updated.
It seems Griffin is good at keeping the Beacon and app updated for bug fixes and functionality, which of course is a very good thing.
+Fairly simple to use
+Programming is quick and easy
+Works with multiple devices
+Good range on Bluetooth and infrared
+Can be relatively inexpensive depending where you purchase
-Only works with Android 2.3.3 and above
-Only works with Android devices
-Ran across a bug or two
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