Computers aren’t just for work or games anymore. No siree, the computer industry has its eyes fixed firmly on the home theater industry – just take a look at some of the non-computing products coming out from Gateway or even Dell. Eventually, they’d like the personal computer to become an essential part of any home media room. A merging of audio, video and processing power?
The transformation is already well underway. The latest generation of powerful, quiet and compact computers can be the centerpiece of a superior home theater, or even act as a complete audio/video system. Plug in the right hardware and you can watch cable or HDTV television, play DVD movies in 5.1 surround sound and timeshift network programming on a hard disk – never mind ordinary computing tasks like surfing the internet, playing an online game in high resolution or balancing the checkbook. “Convergence” is a popular buzzword these days, and computers exemplify the concept best.
But as anyone who has lugged a regular PC into the living room with visions of big-screen computing can attest to, a keyboard and mouse just weren’t designed with La-Z-Boy recliners in mind. Wireless versions will eliminate cords along with their inevitable tripping hazard, but when all you want to do is navigate DVD menus or flip through a few television channels, a quicker and more familiar control system will suffice. Even if it’s less capable than the items being replaced. So what would make the most sense?
It takes a remote to do a remote’s job.
SoundGraph Inc. thinks they have the perfect solution to the whole PC control issue with their $59 (USD MSRP) iMON “Universal IR Remote Control Device for Home Theater PC”. As a company, SoundGraph works primarily with computer-based DJ equipment, but has recently added two PC remote controls to their lineup: a basic and the “Plus” version we’re reviewing here. Don’t be confused by the use of the word “universal” in the official product description: the iMon is only capable of controlling a computer.
As recently as a few years ago you’d have been able to count the number of available PC remotes on a single hand, few of them capable of doing much more than adjusting the volume or navigating a DVD movie. Recently, with the popularity of true multimedia PCs growing larger and larger, a number of competitive models have come onto the market, either as accessories bundled with specific hardware or software, or do-it-yourself add-on kits. Even Microsoft has entered the game with their Windows XP Media Center Edition PC operating system – the first operating system to ship with a functional remote control.
A balance of control.
PC remote control designs have been in a constant state of flux regarding how much mouse and keyboard functionality to balance with direct application control. As previous designs have focused more on program-specific functions rather than generic mouse operations (some excluding the mouse completely), the iMON Plus is the first PC remote we’ve reviewed where application buttons clearly take a back seat to cursor movement and other operating system controls.