Your Universal Remote Control Center
Snapstream Firefly PC Remote Control Review
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SnapStream Firefly PC Remote Control
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A wide variety of HTPC enclosures intended for the media center market are available, designed to make computers blend in better with other A/V equipment, with standard rack-mount size housings in black and silver metal, front panel displays and concealed ports. However, these are essentially cosmetic enhancements that improve the looks and potentially even the acoustics of media center systems, but aren’t necessary if you don’t mind the looks of a regular PC case.

It is also widely believed that media centers must also have some sort of television tuner to rate the moniker, but surprisingly that isn’t the case. Even off-the-shelf systems sold as media centers routinely lack tuners as standard hardware. True, media centers can make excellent digital video recorders and HDTV tuners, but if your only goals are to watch upscaled DVD movies, view downloaded videos, listen to your music collection, play games, browse libraries of photos or surf the web, then a TV tuner could be a luxury that you can do without.

The missing keystone.
There is, however, one device that’s absolutely required to turn an ordinary computer system into a true media center worthy of couch potatoes everywhere: a remote control! As far as PC remote controls go, there’s no shortage of contenders. Pre-built media center systems running Windows XP Media Center Edition, Vista Home Premium, or Vista Ultimate will typically include an integrated IR receiver and standardized Media Center Edition (MCE) remote control. For those building their own HTPC systems, it’s possible to buy video cards, television tuners and audio cards that also include a PC remote, but those units are typically designed to work best (or even only) with the multimedia software bundled alongside that hardware. If you want a more universal solution that supports a wider range of applications you’ll likely need to purchase an off-the-shelf model.

SnapStream Firefly PC Remote Control
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In this review we’ll be taking a look at SnapStream Media’s Firefly PC Remote Control, which retails for $49.95 USD. The Firefly is an RF-based remote, so it doesn’t need line-of-sight to operate as all infrared models do, and can consequently work seamlessly through walls and other obstructions such as opaque cabinet doors and curious pets. However this also means that its operation cannot be integrated with any other universal remote control, since all universal remotes – even those with RF extenders – are designed to only work with infrared equipment.

The look and feel.
The Firefly is an average sized remote control, measuring 7.94” long, 2.07” wide and 1.40” thick (20.2cm by 5.3cm by 3.6cm). Its shape is smooth and sculpted and narrows to just 1.78” wide (4.5cm) and 1.10” thick (2.8cm) in the middle. The remote weighs a lithe 3.9 ounces (108 grams), or 4.7 ounces (132 grams) with the two bundled AAA batteries. The small battery compartment on the back is of an unusual design, with a cover that latches securely but is a little awkward to get open and closed smoothly.

Overall the Firefly’s appearance is mostly traditional, sporting a two-tone painted metallic silver motif for its housing with a mass of mostly grey rubber buttons sprouting from the surface. Those grey buttons do have a rather distinctive visual appearance, thanks to chunky square shapes and clusters of keys printed with reverse white labels.

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