What if you could replace all of the remote controls in your house, for $49.99? That’s just what Waltham, MA based company ThinkFlood, Inc. proposes you do with their latest creation, the RedEye mini. Known to geeks as an “infrared dongle,” the mini is a small device that plugs into the headphone jack of your iOS device, granting it the power to control almost any device with a remote. Will the RedEye mini free you from the burden of countless remote controls? Read on to find out.
It is clear that ThinkFlood took some time when designing the packaging for their little RedEye (they actually have a big model). It’s clean, compact and has a cool magnetic latch. Open it up and you will find the RedEye mini and a small carry case fitted with a key ring. I thought it a bit odd at first, but for those wishing to easily travel with the device the case is a necessary piece of gear. The actual device is small, about half the size of a ‘AA’ battery but with a headphone jack protruding from one side. It’s very lightweight and made of high quality black plastic.
The first part of the setup process is to download the RedEye app from iTunes. The app is free and at the time of this review, up to version 2.0. In a few minutes time I had installed the app, paired the mini with my iPhone and found my way to the setup screen.
The setup process isn’t difficult, but navigation within the app is far from intuitive. Finding the IR codes is a guessing game. You scroll down to your device manufacturer (there is no search function) and test out various code configurations. Seeing as the iPhone is an Internet connected device, one should be able to simply input the model number of the TV or DVR and download the appropriate IR profile – maybe in the next release. After a few minutes spent testing codes I had my TV, DVR and home theater receiver set up.
The next step was to set up what ThinkFlood calls “activities.” Programming activities enables the RedEye to power on a few different components and switch them to the correct inputs, making the management of large home theater systems a less daunting task. For example, in my home theater setup watching TV means powering on the TV, DVR and receiver. The TV needs to be set to the HDMI 2 input, the receiver needs to be set to D-TV and the DVR needs to be powered on. Normally, these actions would all need to be done manually. Using the RedEye you are able to automate these multiple button presses into one. In my testing I was able to get everything to power on as it should, though switching to the correct input was hit or miss.
Pressing buttons on the screen of my iPhone was novel albeit not very practical. Unlike a normal remote, you cannot “feel” the buttons. You must look down at the screen to ensure you are pressing the correct one. This is fine if you are just pressing channel up or down, but navigating through menus was not as easy. This isn’t to say it was inconvenient – just different. The signal strength from the mini was acceptable, but it was not powerful enough to bounce a signal off the ceiling. There was an option to look at the TV program guide within the app, but even after specifying my cable provider, it was unable to download any content. While this wasn’t really an issue (this data is already displayed on your TV screen via the cable box) it was a bit odd.
Overall, the RedEye mini brought mixed feelings. It is certainly a “cool” device, one that is sure to start a conversation or two – and at just under $50 the price is right. However, navigating the app takes some time and setup isn’t as clear as it could be. On the bright side, all it takes is an update to the app to turn most of the RedEye mini’s shortcomings into a moot point.