A cheap, reliable remote for Apple TV [Review]

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Function 101 Apple TV button remote
This Apple TV remote has what others lack -- buttons!
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

If, like me, you hate the fiddly Apple TV Siri Remote like the pox, Function 101’s Button Remote for Apple TV might be your perfect choice.

It’s a traditional infrared remote control with 18 buttons, hence the name.

Thanks to its familiar design, it’s perhaps the easiest way to use your Apple TV. It works with most TVs and home theater components out of the box, and it costs just $29.95.

Function 101 Button Remote review

Function 101 Apple TV button remote: Function 101's Button Remote is a solid, easy-to-use alternative to the much-hated Siri Remote
Function 101’s Button Remote is a solid, easy-to-use alternative to the much-hated Siri Remote.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The Button Remote is compatible with Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, and comes programmed to work with both devices. It exists only because of the weird shortcomings and design choices of Apple’s Siri Remote. With it’s glasslike touchpad and confusing symmetry, the Siri Remote is hard to use and easily lost. It’s too small and fiddly, and too symmetrical to operate in the dark by touch alone.

Of course, Apple is well aware of the shortcomings of the original Siri Remote, which is why the clicker was recently replaced with a new design. The new aluminum Siri Remote ditches the glass trackpad in favor of a familiar button wheel, and costs $59 — twice the price of Function 101’s Button Remote. In addition, it’s still small and fiddly. And it must be recharged via Lightning cable.

A better design

By contrast, Function 101’s Button Remote is about twice the size and double the thickness. It’s not a big remote by any means, but it’s a lot easier to hold and use than either of the Siri Remotes.

The problem may be that the Siri Remote was designed not just for video playback, but also gaming. It has accelerometers so it can be used as a Wii-style gaming controller. Its touchpad doubles as a joystick for games. The Siri Remote also packs a range of inscrutable (and hard to discover) gestures, taps and long press-and-hold clicks that invoke various commands.

Function 101 Button Remote review: Function 101's remote is bigger than the Siri Remote, making it easier to use and find among the cushions of the couch
Function 101’s remote is bigger than the Siri Remote, making it easier to use and find among the cushions of the couch.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The Button Remote’s 18 buttons are laid out in a familiar pattern that’ll be immediately recognized by anyone who’s operated a TV remote (i.e., the entire developed world aged 2 1/2 and up). The remote has a nice rubbery surface. And the buttons themselves feel pleasantly tactile and clicky.

Unlike the original Siri Remote, this one comes with dedicated buttons for fast-forwarding and rewinding, skipping forward and back, and stopping playback entirely, as well as mute and channel/page up and down buttons.

Siri’s swipe pad is replaced with a standard, four-direction carousel with an “OK” button in the middle. It’s dead-easy to use and a lot more precise than the Siri glasspad.

Infrared and AAA batteries

Because it’s an infrared (IR) remote, it’ll work with just about every TV and home theater system on the market. Out of the box, the Button Remote comes programmed to work with Samsung TVs. I own one of those, and was pleasantly surprised to find the Button Remote worked perfectly with my entire setup with no configuration at all. When does that ever happen?

You can easily program the Button Remote to control the volume and power on your TV or soundbar, which is nice. (Instructions can be found on the Function 101 FAQ page.)

Another big advantage: The Button Remote is powered by a pair of AAA batteries rather than recharged by Lightning cable. In my book, this is better. Whenever I need the Siri Remote, it’s always, always, always dead.

Missing features

Because it works via infrared, the Button Remote needs a clear line of sight to the Apple TV. If your streaming box is hidden in a cabinet or behind a big flatscreen, you might have trouble getting Function 101’s remote to work with it. The Siri Remote is Bluetooth-powered, so it doesn’t suffer from line-of-sight issues.

The Button Remote also lacks a microphone, so you can’t use it for Siri voice commands.

This is the biggest loss for me. The one thing I like about the Siri Remote is Siri. Voice recognition is great for entering long, complex passwords. Plus, it often proves good for searching for shows (though not always). Your experience with Siri may be different. I’ve heard lots of people complain that Siri is useless, so the absence of a microphone may not be a big loss.

There’s no dedicated TV button, either, which on the Siri Remote takes you to the Apple TV Home screen. However, you can simply long-press the Menu button on the Button Remote to bring up the Home Screen.

There are a couple of other hidden commands that are worth noting:

  • Long-press the P^ button to bring up Control Center.
  • Long-press the Pv button to bring up the App Switcher.
  • Double-tap the UP Arrow above the OK button to close an unresponsive app.

A cheap, reliable Apple TV remote

I’m kinda old-school and often too lazy to learn new ways of doing things, which is why I like the Button Remote. It’s all extremely familiar and easy to use, even in the dark. This alternative Apple TV remote is reliable, and it’s easy to find if it gets lost in the couch cushions.

I miss Siri commands, but that’s no big deal. The Button Remote gets the job done. It’s $30 well spent.

The Function 101 Button Remote for Apple TV is available from the Cult of Mac Store, priced at just $29.95.

Function 101 provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more stuff we recommend.