Sometimes you have to wonder whether adding another gadget to one's ever-expanding digital toolbox is necessary. That occurred to me as...
Sometimes you have to wonder whether adding another gadget to one’s ever-expanding digital toolbox is necessary. That occurred to me as I updated my Facebook “status” with a new remote control for my TV.
Yet, if there ever was a product that understands what American men want, it was in my hand: the ESPN Ultimate Remote, an all-in-one gadget that channel surfs while surfing the Web.
Do I really need this? Of course not, but having a device as close as your remote to get online via Wi-Fi sure is handy. And having a universal remote — one control to rule them all — is better than looking for one of the four I have scattered about the living room.
A 2-inch screen for viewing Web content is on the top of the remote, while the bottom houses keys to control your home-entertainment gear.
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The remote is made by Chicago startup tvCompass. It is the company’s first with a Web browser.
This remote is more about technology than the ESPN logo. The ESPN deal is significant, of course, since that brand carries weight for this product’s targeted buyer: tech-savvy guys with a lot of home-entertainment gear. But that same market was expected to gobble up an ESPN-branded mobile phone and didn’t.
Also, at $299, it is priced at the high-end for a universal remote. But keep in mind other universal remotes don’t have a built-in Web browser.
The device isn’t overly complicated, but it does take time to master its subtleties.
Accessing the Internet was fast once my network was recognized, but the surfing experience is not state-of-the art. It’s akin to surfing with a mobile phone, not intended to be your primary avenue for going online but a nice supplement.
During setup, the device prompted me to select the service I use to access TV. I have Comcast, so the remote grabbed channel information and programming content to populate the interactive TV guide.
The remote easily recognized my TV, cable box, DVD player and stereo receiver, so I had no setup issues turning four remotes into one. The codes for accessing electronic gear are built into the tvCompass remote. Many universal remotes come with a USB port to connect to your computer to fetch device codes or to populate an interactive program guide. That’s not the case here.
There are direct links to content providers on the Web browser, but you also can navigate to any site you want.
Obviously, there is an ESPN.com link for sports news and scores, but there are also feeds for Associated Press stories, business news from The Wall Street Journal and E! for celebrity gossip. There’s a shopping link via Amazon, a Yahoo search function and a link to Facebook.
The search function enhances the interactive programming guide, as well.
I was watching “Shrek the Third” on a movie channel. The remote’s content guide provided a more detailed synopsis of the movie than what the on-screen cable guide offered, plus it gave a lengthier list of the film’s actors.
As long as you are using the remote, the Wi-Fi works. You can’t turn it on or off, but a built-in motion sensor activates the Wi-Fi when you get near the unit.
When not in use, it goes to sleep. This is a power-saving feature, as Wi-Fi can quickly drain a battery. Likewise, if your Internet connection goes down, the remote will work fine.
It comes with a charging dock to plug into a wall outlet.