In Microsoft’s perfect world, the Xbox One Media Remote wouldn’t exist. Everyone will be happy controlling the Xbox One utilizing their voice or gestures, and remotes will be a relic of our TV-watching past.
The truth is, the Xbox One experience — beyond the gaming realm — can often be a frustrating one. You should give credit to Microsoft for recognizing that with the release of the Xbox One Media Remote (US$25/£20/AU$30). In reviewing the Xbox One’s living room functions soon after its launch, I wrote that it “cries out for a dedicated remote”, and that is accurately what the Media Remote delivers, permitting you to do simple tasks like modify the volume without needing your voice or breaking out the controller.
The tiny clicker is well-designed, with nice touches such as a velvety texture and backlighting that turns on once you pick it up. It can’t completely fix all of the Xbox One’s living room shortcomings — DVR control continues to be an issue — nonetheless it makes it a more tolerable conduit for your cable box.
The Xbox One Media Remote might not exactly be the remoteless future Microsoft envisioned, nonetheless it makes using the Xbox One match your living room a lot easier — and that is really worth your $25.
$25 may appear just like a lot for an add-on remote, however the Media Remote feels particularly well-made. It had enough weight to feel substantial, without having to be heavy, and it’s really covered in a soft, textured finish that’s pleasurable to hold. Grab the remote and its own backlighting immediately kicks in, rendering it simple to see its buttons even though your living room is dim.
The buttons on the Media Remote are unusually flat, raised ever-so-slightly above leading of the remote. Even the directional pad is merely slightly recessed, aside from the button in the guts. Typically, remotes with such a comparatively even surface is a bad sign, but there are enough subtle tactile cues that it is actually pretty simple to navigate without looking. The button rockers for volume and channel changing are large and located and even the completely flush mute button in the guts includes a texture that tells you it’s there.
As the remote’s layout helps it be simple to find buttons, knowing what the buttons do isn’t always clear. Of the four buttons surrounding the directional pad, the trunk button is straightforward, however the other three aren’t immediately obvious. Clockwise from the upper left, they’re for “view,” “menu,” and “OneGuide,” which is hard to tell from the abstract icons. Xbox gamers may have their functions memorized, but nongaming members of family members could have been better served through the use of using the words.
The Media Remote requires nearly no setup: slap in the included AAA batteries and it works right from the box, without additional pairing step required.
Found in conjunction with the Xbox One and the Kinect, the Media Remote also functions as a straightforward universal remote, permitting you to control other devices such as for example your TV, an AV receiver, or a sound bar. Provided that you’ve create your Xbox One effectively already, you don’t have to do any longer configuration for the Media Remote to regulate your other devices. Press a button on the remote, it sends commands to the Xbox One, and the Kinect fires out commands to regulate your other devices. Remember that the remote must send commands to the Xbox One, not the Kinect, so you will have to be sure to have line-of-sight to your console.
That require for line-of-sight highlights the actual fact that the Media Remote uses traditional IR-based remote commands — the same kind your TV remote uses. It feels just a little backwards when the trend has been leaving direct IR control. Services just like the Roku Streaming Stick, Amazon Fire TV, and Logitech Harmony Smart Control all use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which do not require line-of-sight to send commands. Used, the Media Remote’s reliance on IR didn’t make a lot of a difference in my own setup, apart from a few rare instances where my commands didn’t quite make it to the Xbox One.
Yet another item on my wish list was a mic included in the remote, ala the Fire TV. Of course the Xbox One already has voice recognition using the included Kinect, nonetheless it sometimes requires more shouting than most of the people are comfortable with within their living room. The Fire TV’s remote enables you to speak quietly directly into the remote; it could have been a good bonus feature for the Media Remote.
Coping with it: A kinder, simpler Xbox One
If you are firing up your Xbox Someone to watch TV or a Blu-ray, the Media Remote is a welcome addition to your coffee table. If you thought shouting commands like “Xbox, watch ESPN” in your living room feels weird, that’s nothing in comparison to “Xbox, volume up” whenever you wish to nudge the quantity. With the Media Remote, you can relax with the smallish remote at hand, reserve the bulky controller, watching TV just how you’re used to.
The Media Remote can’t fix each of the Xbox One’s shortcomings in the living room. The major pain point remains having less direct DVR control from the OneGuide interface, which continues to be frustrating; you should jump between your OneGuide interface as well as your cable box interface to take care of DVR recordings. On the upside, Microsoft recently announced that some improvements to DVR control are arriving at the Xbox One within an update, so it is possible that some this limitation could possibly be lessened soon.
The end result is the Xbox One Media Remote solves among the major problems I had with Microsoft’s living room experience: changing channels and adjusting the quantity is a pain using voice commands. It’s especially nice for households where every person isn’t a gamer, however the Xbox You have monopolized the key living room TV. Given the $100 premium over the PS4, it feels as though possibly the Media Remote ought to be incorporated with the Xbox One, but it’s still worth your $25 if you are sick and tired of using the controller or your voice while you’re watching TV.