Gadgets 258

Published on December 8th, 2008 | by Greg


Monster’s Remote Makes a Smarter Home

Despite the progress of the last couple of decades, we are still a long way from helpful, easy-to-use, commonplace home automation. There is the Clapper, sure, but what about folks who want to simply come into their house or apartment and turn the lights on the way they like… or want to have the rest of the lights dim when they watch television with a press of the same remote.

OK, the uses are endless, and so are the issues. Monster’s fantastic AVL-300 remote tries and succeeds in many ways, and is one of the best all-around solutions on the market today. Not only is it light and well-lit, the included rechargeable battery lasts a long time, and the auto-on feature when you pick up the controller is quite something. It’s comfortable, sturdy, and offers a balance of control and clutter.

But that’s simply the remote itself- and if you just wanted a good remote, you could get better and cheaper. The real advantages of the Monster AVL are the Z-wave compatible lighting controls and the Omnilink system that translates RF signals into infrared. If that last sentence meant little to you, it’s ok! Z-wave is a system than allows you to control appliances and lights, and is similar to other control schemes on the market (X10, for example) but offers certain advantages. One of them is the easy-pairing of devices, and indeed, in our tests it took no more than a moment to pair up a light with the remote control. We tried out Monster’s custom Illuminessense Remote-Controlled Light Station switches, which are simple plug-and-connect devices that can pair with any Z-wave controller, and aren’t much different than other Z-wave lighting/appliance adapters.

As to the Omnilink portion of the package, it’s also pretty simple. Your television remote, like most, uses infrared signals- you have to point the controller at the TV, and can’t be in a different room (much less a different floor). The Omnilink is Monster’s way of getting around this difficulty by adding a small box that sits near your home theater system and translates RF signals from the Monster remote into the infrared signals for your TV and DVD player, Xbox 360, or other devices. Of course, some devices use proprietary signals, like the PS3 and the Wii, which cannot be controlled without yet more extra devices.

Ouch! All of this, and we still haven’t really reviewed the thing! Suffice to say, it’s complicated- we spent over a couple of hours charging, setting up and testing our system, and that was for a fairly basic 3-item and 2-light setup. We found the remote to be fairly handy but not without flaws, as you’ll need to use a computer to set everything up, swapping a USB cable between the remote and Omnilink unit, creating profiles… The included software is not difficult to follow, but doesn’t play too nicely with Vista (DreamScene wouldn’t work when it was running).

It’s a long way from optimal, but points the way towards the future. The best part of the system is the details- there are tons of features. The worst parts are the lack of manual or real documentation, and the expense- $300 is a lot for a remote control, and the additional lighting controllers are an extra $50-$100 each! For those who already have Z-wave devices, or are interested in them, Monster’s AVL-300 is the best remote on the market. Others may want to consider home automation just another item still a bit in the future.

About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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