A few days ago I had the pleasure of getting my hands on a specialized Media Center remote by Gyration. If it sounds familiar, that’s because this is the same remote control that Alienware includes with their Hangar18 Media Center PC. So what makes this remote control so much better than any other?
It is designed with a computer in mind because of some special capabilities it includes which makes it act as a mouse as well. The built-in gyroscopic motion sensing capabilities allow you to wave the remote in the air to move the cursor on the screen. In some sense it is very similar to a Wii controller.
Note: There is a video at the end of this post where I demonstrate some of the capabilities of the remote.
The box was about the same size as what computer software normally comes in. Here are some photos I took of the box (click on any of them for the fullsize version):
This is a remote control so it doesn’t really have much that it needs to come with. Here are the things that you will get with it:
- The Gyration remote
- 2.4GHz USB receiver
- (2) AA batteries for the remote
- USB extender for the receiver which is handy if your computer if under a desk or tucked away.
- Manual & Quick Start guide
And here is a close-up of the remote/receiver as well as a profile view of the remote (click on them for the fullsize version):
Honestly, this is probably one of the easiest things that I’ve ever setup on a computer. I plugged the USB 2.4GHz receiver into the computer, inserted the AA batteries that were included for the remote, and then hit the connect buttons on both the device and the remote. After that everything just worked! No CD’s are needed, there are no drivers to install, just plug it in and go.
Like most universal remotes, you can program this one for up to four separate devices (PC, TV, Aux, and Cable/Satellite). Most of the instruction manual is used for device codes for things like your television, so that you enter in a code and it all just automagically works. I, however, had a speaker system that I wanted to control using it and so I needed to teach the remote the commands one-by-one.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I don’t like reading the instruction manuals. Well, that was where my problem was when I tried to teach the remote some new commands. I’ve programmed a lot of universal remotes in my day, and so I didn’t think this one would be any different. I picked up the manual, flipped to the page that told me how to get into the “learning” mode, and started to teach it some commands.
That didn’t work so well as I tried to point the remotes toward each other. Had I read the page previous to that one, this would have been a piece-of-cake. As it turns out, the infrared receiver on the Gyration remote is on the bottom instead of on the top where I naturally thought it would be. All I had to do was flip the Gyration remote around 180 degrees and I was back in business!
I guess manuals are there for a reason. :)
–Using it as a Mouse–
This is undoubtedly the shining point of the remote. Having a smooth motion mouse that you can wave around in the air is a superb feature. To activate the mouse you just have to press and hold the “Motion Gyration” button located near the center of the remote. You can also right-click or left-click using the respective buttons on each side of it.
If you plan on doing a lot of work with the mouse you can press the “Motion Gyration” button twice to have it keep the mouse capabilities on longer. This is useful for dragging-and-dropping files around the desktop, resizing windows, are playing those addictive arcade games online. When you get done using the mouse just press the “Motion Gyration” button again and it will turn that feature off.
What would have really made this feature rock even more was if they included some sort of pre-configured mouse gesture software. That way you could perform mouse gestures to do things like bring up the television guide or skip forward in a movie.
–Using it as a Remote–
As a remote it functions just as you would expect it to. One of the biggest benefits, however, is that it sends all commands to the PC using the 2.4GHz radio frequency. With that you could be a few dozen feet away from the receiver (even with some walls in the way) and you would still be able to do things like play or pause music. Now I have to “reprogram” myself (no pun intended) that I don’t need to be pointing the remote at the receiver in order for it to work. :)
Alright, I put together a quick demonstration that shows how the mouse on the remote works. If you’ve used a Wii before I’m sure this won’t be very earth shattering. :)
I’ve had more experience with the default Media Center remotes that I would care to admit, and they’ve always come up a little short from what I would like to have. The Gyration Media Center Remote is priced at $150, (you can find it cheaper if you shop around on eBay or other stores) and is well worth the investment in my opinion. And if you’re thinking about getting this or the Media Center keyboard…this is way more useful in my opinion. If you really need the keyboard they also offer a version of the mouse that comes with a more compact keyboard for $50 more.
To conclude the article I’ll go ahead and list some of the strengths and weaknesses:
- Very Good: The built-in gyroscope that is used for the mouse is exceptional. It handles itself very well without making the cursor jitter or jump around the screen. Also the fact that you can double-click or drag-and-drop items with the remote is a huge plus!
- Very Good: After getting it unboxed, I was using the remote in less than 30-seconds. There was no software to install and no drivers needed for it to work.
- Very Good: Uses a 2.4GHz signal to interact with the computer, so you don’t have to worry about pointing the remote at an infrared box. I was even able to use this in another room.
- Good: Volume and channel keys are distinct which makes them easy to find in the dark.
- Good: Works for both Vista Media Center and XP Media Center (and even Macs according to their site).
- Good: There are quite a few buttons on this remote, and from what I can tell most of them are programmable.
- Okay: Control up to 4 devices. I would have liked to see it control 6 or 8 devices, but 4 should satisfy most people.
- Okay: Each number has letters underneath it kind of like a telephone. This is useful in Media Center when doing a search for a show using the remote, but it is a little sluggish.
- Not Included: Mouse gesture software would have been cool, but I might be able to download some on my own and configure it to the Media Center’s commands.
- Not Included: I would have liked to see some of the keys on the remote light up in the dark.
- Not Good: The remote is both long and a little thick (as seen in the profile view above). It measures 9-inches high and is 1.25-inches thick at the biggest section. Anyone that has small hands may find this remote to be a bit bulky.
Homepage for the Media Center Remote by Gyration
Disclosure: This remote was provided to us for review purposes.