Griffin Beacon review
Griffin's Beacon is a Bluetooth IR transmitter that can turn any Android 2.3 or later phone or tablet into a universal remote control via the Dijit remote control app. Once you've set it up, the Dijit app sends remote control commands to the Beacon, which sends them via infrared to home entertainment kit such as your TV, AV receiver, set-top box or DVD player.
The Beacon looks like a small ashtray with a pebble on top. The pebble is a button; to connect to your phone you hold it down until the light starts to flash, then search for the Beacon from your Android device's Bluetooth menu and pair with it.
After you've downloaded the Dijit app from the Android Market, you need to program it to send the right signals to your AV equipment via the Beacon. When you add a device, you enter the brand name and the app takes you through a wizard which, through trial and error, tries to work out the model.
We tested the Beacon with two TVs - the Toshiba Regza 46WL863B and the Sony KDL-46NX723. With a Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S running the Dijit app we managed to get the Toshiba working on a basic level, with support for changing channels and volume, turning the TV on and off and cutting the. sound. On the Sony TV we also had access to the menu and could change inputs. The software also allows you to define an Activity, which involves sending a signal to more than one device at the same time; you'll most likely use this to turn on your TV, Blu-ray player and AV amplifier with a single button press.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get our Onkyo TX-SR308 amplifier to work at all, and this is where we came up against the Beacon and Dijit combination's biggest flaw; we couldn’t get it to learn commands. When you first add a device to the app it gives you a selection of default commands on your phone or tablet's screen, and you can then add preset or custom buttons to the layout; for example, we wanted to add a button for our TV's EPG. Once you've added a button you then point the device's own remote at the back of the Beacon and press the button you want it to learn. However, we couldn’t get this to work; the app simply refused to acknowledge we were doing anything, no matter what remote function we tried to get it to learn.
As well as our test Sony Ericsson Xperia S we also tried the learning function on a Motorola Defy+ and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but still had no luck. This limitation means that, while initially promising, the product can only really be used for basic functions. We'd rather use a universal remote such as one from Logitech's Harmony range; the £45 Harmony 600 is the cheapest model that can control multiple AV devices at once, and is a better buy.