Windows Media Center can be an elegant solution for managing music, movies, TV, photos and other content—all from a decent on-screen interface. But do you really want to turn on the TV just to play a song?
The Air Music universal remote from Gyration solves this problem—as well as many others associated with operating a Media Center. The unit features a 1.75-inch backlit LCD that makes it easy to navigate through your music library, without having to turn on the television or disrupt the on-screen action if the television is in use.
For this two-way capability, you’ll need a wireless USB receiver and software (included) that couldn’t be easier to install. I’m no techie, and I had it up and running in no time. Just plug in the USB stick, install the software from the disc, and blammo!
Press the music icon on the remote, and your songs magically appear on the screen.
The remote talks to the Media Center via wireless RF (radio frequency) technology that operates through walls and other obstructions. Gyration claims it can communicate over distances of up to 30 meters (98 feet), but that’s just for one-way control of the RF remote, not for two-way interaction with your music collection. I got about 30 to 40 feet with the music browser, which is decent enough.
In addition, the Air Music is an IR learning remote that can control up to three audio/video devices, in addition to the Media Center.
A number of shortcut buttons takes you directly to photos, recorded TV, the web, email, favorites and other popular destinations.
Gyration’s claim to fame is its gyroscopic motion-sensing technology for “in-air” cursor control on a television screen or monitor. You just press the Gyration button on the remote to use the device like an air mouse. It’s awkward at first, just like it was when we first learned to use a real mouse, but after a few uses you get the hang of it.
We’ve preached in the past that you should stay in the Media Center environment if you’re using the PC as your entertainment hub. Stay away from the desktop, in other words. But the desktop has been increasingly tempting with all of the new streaming TV services like Hulu coming on line. Without a solution such as Gyration’s, it can be pretty challenging to switch between Media Center and Hulu.
In the case of the Air Remote, pressing the iconic GREEN BUTTON on the remote toggles back and forth between Media Center and the desktop. From there, you can navigate through the offerings via the Gyration button; no keyboard or wireless mouse is necessary. Of course, it’s nice to have a keyboard if you want to search the Internet. For that, Gyration makes a companion wireless keyboard.
In all, the Gyration Air Remote is a great deal for all of its features, and it can add immense value to the Media Center experience at a fairly low cost.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.