Griffin Beacon iOS Remote Makes Flipping Channels Fun [Review]

Griffin Beacon iOS Remote Makes Flipping Channels Fun [Review]

One of the absolute worst aspects of my television-watching endeavors has been the confusing use of multiple remotes. I’ve tried universal remotes but there’s always some function I need from DVD remote or DVR that is missing on the universal remote. Stepping up to the plate, the Griffin Beacon ($80) erases the need for five different remotes by providing users with one of the best universal remotes on the market, and interfaces it though iOS.

The Griffin Beacon is a small black box — comparable in size to the Apple TV — with a small black pebble on top that communicates with all your multimedia device which is in-turn is operated via an iOS device. Powered by four AA batteries, the Griffin Beacon can sync to your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch via Bluetooth and control over 200,000 entertainment devices via Griffin’s free Dijit app.

The Good:

Setup of the device is very straightforward and easy. After getting the Beacon powered on and your iOS device connected, there’s a short walkthrough to chooses which devices you want to control and finds the proper remote for each device. Finding the right remote takes just a few seconds and you’re ready to go.

Dijit is the keystone to the entire experience, as it bridges your iOS device to the Beacon. The interface for Dijit is great. The ability to switch between different remotes quickly is very nice. You can also create “Activities,” which is Dijit’s way of providing one touch access to a preconfigured action. Let’s say you want to set up a “Watch a Movie” Activity. Within Dijit you can press one button and it will turn the TV to the right input, turn on the DVD player, and increase the volume on your stereo. It’s pretty rad, and makes one feel like they have a fancy high-end automation system, except it’s only $80.

The Griffin Beacon doesn’t need to be handled and can be hidden in a discreet location.

Netflix Instant Queue support is great for those who, like me, have a hard time deciding which movie they want to stream, leaving others in the room bored while trying to make up your mind.

The Bad:

Disposable batteries are so 1999. It’d be nice if the Griffin Beacon could be plugged into a wall outlet that’s within sight of the TV. Because it’s running via Bluetooth the Beacon uses a considerable amount of juice compared to a regular TV remote (Griffin says its batteries should last two months). Throwing in a rechargeable battery pack would have been nice.

The Griffin Beacon can pair up with eight different devices, but it will only switch between two devices. It’d be nice if two devices could be connected to the Beacon at the same time. It’d make for some interesting remote battles that’s for sure.

Verdict:

The Griffin Beacon is the first universal remote for the iPhone that is actually really good. Even though you’ll need to keep a cache of AA batteries in the house, the opportunity to get rid of all your annoying remotes makes this little gadget something every avid TV watcher should consider if they own an iOS device.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Griffin Beacon iOS Remote Makes Flipping Channels Fun [Review]

  • Ciclismo

    You might want to add to “The Bad” that apparently this doesn’t play nice here in Europe. All of the reviews on Amazon Germany conclude that the device has trouble or is plain unable to work with Euro-specced devices.

  • Ron Pieket

    So, all you have to do to adjust the volume of your TV is find your cell phone, slide to unlock, enter your passcode, navigate to the app, start the app, wait for it to boot up, select the device, and tap on the on-screen volume button. Is that really more convenient than using a regular universal remote?

  • Buster

    if you’re already watching TV you probably have the app up, if not you just triple click to switch over to it. Not a big deal.

  • breck

    i have tried lots of different universal remotes throughout the years – the beacon is my favorite at this point. the best part is that it can learn (import) any button and it’s functionality – once it has been added to the app, that button can be renamed to something more user friendly – example > the button named “video 2″ on my AV receiver remote is actually used for for the HDMI connection to my apple TV. when adding this button to my AV receiver device in the digit app, the new buton was easily renamed with the more appropriate description: Apple TV. the beacon has eliminated 4 remotes for me. Looking forward to the iPad specific version of the digit app.

  • Jeremy Toeman

    Just wanted to let everyone know we have a Dijit update now live in the App store.  The new version includes a lot of social features, including YouTube clips + sharing.  Hope you like!

    Link to our blog post about it: http://blog.dijit.com/2011/08/

  • Jeremy Toeman

    Sorry for the problems you’ve had – we’re working hard to improve this and I think you should see some updates in the next 30 days!

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  • CadJockey

    Having slung through many different universal remotes, I had been using one of many different Logitech Harmony units. They work kind of ok, but have this annoying habit of changing things for no apparent reason, which usually requires a complete re-setup. I also never liked the USB connect with the inconsistent web based software. Battery life usually blew as well.

    I bought the Beacon a few months ago and am quite pleased with it. It is nothing but predictable, easy and intuitive. I have also gotten past the AA battery issue by using Sanyo ENELOOP rechargeable batteries. With everyday usage the 4 AA’s will last a 3 to 4 weeks, then it’s off to a recharge where their replacements last for 3 to 4 weeks.

    I look forward to more support for home lighting and automation like Lutron.

    If you like the iPhone, give the Beacon a try and slowly ween yourself off the old remote.

    Haven’t touched the Harmony in over a month.

  • Gues

    Good try but serious limitations. It will NOT switch between two devices and that is confirmed by Tech support. one has to turn the beacon on manually via quick push every time one starts a viewing session. It turns off around30 min to save batteries so there is no auto wake obviously. if u have to switch Iphones u have to fiddle with it and “re-pair” pretty much. actually more off a push on it and re launch Dijit app..  so great interfact but good only for single guys. or u buy one for each iPhone. still cheaper than a harmony – but then u have thave your kid do a manual push on it every time u start a new view session :)

  • JimRPh62

    I wonder how rechargeable batteries would work with an induction charging pad? I’m considering one, but the manual push to turn it on turns me off, plus my iPod Touch has a battery drain problem itself. The Beacon has increased in price almost ten dollars on Amazon.com this past week, so it’s apparently popular.

  • ptobe

    Nonsense. Once it’s disconnected from one device, it will automatically pair with another device, so when I’m out of the house with my iPhone, it’ll very easily pair with my wife’s iPhone or the iPad when the app is launched. No fiddling necessary.

    As for the quick tap to turn it on after sleep; I’d rather that than killing batteries by the dozen. Really, if you’re too effin’ lazy to reach across the coffee table once at the start of your viewing session (and at most, once an hour afterwards) then you need some help.

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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