Google TV is one of the most powerful TV platforms of our times. It has great capabilities and potential, but it seems remotes haven’t evolved to fully take advantage of Google TV’s power. How can a remote for a smart TV not have a screen of any sort? It’s like trying to use navigation without a map being displayed – it simply doesn’t work.
It turns out we have a very powerful screen with us at all times… our smartphones. This device can be turned into anything, even a remote for our internet-powered television, and that is exactly what Able Remote accomplishes. Yes, we do have the official Google TV Remote app, but it comes nowhere near Able Remote in terms of features and flexibility.
Right off the bat, Able Remote offers you much more options than the competition. One is able to control a DVR, change channels, adjust the volume, us a keyboard and do all of those basic features. In addition, the app has a D-Pad, a mouse pad, a number pad and a music control pad. This pretty much takes care of your basic navigation, so let’s jump into the exciting part.
When you press the star in the mid-bottom part of the UI, a screen pulls up. This is divided by a few tabs: Channels, Apps, Bookmarks and Netflix. These sections give you quick access to your favorite content. You can place your favorite channels, apps and bookmarks in their respective tabs. Then simply tap on those to see them in your TV. There is no need to even navigate through the Google TV UI anymore! Oh, and that Netflix tab? It allows you to access your Instant Queue and go directly to the movie you tap on.
The buttons on the main menu can also be edited. Let’s say you don’t have an actual DVR. If that’s the case, what good is it to have a button for it in your main screen? Simply hit the menu button, tap on Edit Buttons and change away. You can replace it with any app or function of your preference. By the way, this Button section has multiple pages, which can be accessed by swiping side to side.
If you thought the fun stopped there, you are very wrong. This app is much more complex than most of us really need it to be. You can set macros and program multiple commands with a single tap. There are voice commands, as well. These guys had them way before Google released Voice Search. You can press the voice commands button and say things like “app netflix”, “search for The Walking Dead” or “channel 15″.
Hell, you can even send all your notifications to your Google TV. So no need to pull out your phone or leave the Able Remote app to see who is calling you or sending you messages. And sharing images, websites and other contents with your TV is a breeze.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean the app is perfect. Like anything else, there are some issues. I am not able to use the cable box features sometimes, for example. I found this is because the VIZIO Co-Star doesn’t have an IR blaster to send signal to the other devices. This is a bit annoying, but it’s not Able Remote’s fault and there is a workaround.
The Vizio Co-Star Google TV device does not have a built-in IR blaster. This means that apps like Able Remote cannot control devices attached to your Google TV device unless you follow these instructions:
1. Disable power save mode on your Google TV for your physical remote (Settings -> Devices -> Bluetooth -> Vizio XRA700 Remote -> Remote power save -> Off)
2. Place the physical remote so that it is pointing at the devices you want to control. Your physical remote will act as a IR blaster for controlling all the devices connected to your Google TV.
Something else I might see as an issue is that the app is so full-featured it may seem a bit confusing at first. I can see many users spending a good few hours trying to fully learn the app, but once you have everything configured you can just run with it.
Yes, there is a small price, at least if you want all features. One must purchase the $0.99 Edit Feature. If you choose to live without this feature, the app is still great, but not that much better than the official Google TV remote app. You would miss out on the button editing capabilities, macros, backups and layout editing & sharing.
Even if you want to save yourself from paying the $0.99 premium, I would recommend this app. You won’t regret spending that buck, though. This remote app is by far the best we have seen for Google TV. It is flexible, powerful and customizable. What else can a Google TV and Android fan ask for? Its features are rich and innovative, even with voice commands in tow (a feature not even Google is ready to give us on the Google TV app yet). Go get it at the Play Store!