Review: This Ultimate Universal TV Remote Is Unlike Anything Else
When Caavo ($399) was first announced in early 2017, it was quickly prophesized to be the ultimate universal remote to for your TV. The elegant set-top box has eight HDMI ports, designed to fit all the devices you normally plug into your TV, such as gaming consoles, streaming sticks, Blu-Ray or DVD players, a cable box. Using the Caavo remote you’re able to control all those devices. No more having to grab the TV’s remote to switch inputs; no more having to juggle between all your different wireless remotes. (Nor do you have to worry about charging them or replacing batteries.) The Caavo remote also has “voice search,” similar to an Apple TV remote, so you can quickly find TV shows and movies across all your apps. It has the promise of smart speaker support, too. Right now it works with Alexa, with Google Assistant and Siri support expected sometime in the near future. The device is available now for $399.
The Good: The Caavo remote is pretty wonderful. It’s elegant, sharing a similar wooden finish as the Caavo, and it’s very easy to use — a large silver button brings you back to the Caavo home screen, allowing you to select the device you want to use — and it can control any of your devices’ menu screens, including an Apple TV, Xbox One and cable box. Also, the remote’s battery life lasts months, instead of a few days like most of my other wireless remotes. The Caavo itself can connect a great number of devices. It works with 4K TVs. It’s a great cord management solution, too.
Who They’re For: The Caavo is designed for a particular type of person. They should have a number of devices connected to their TV and want one remote to control them all. They also probably need to have a pretty nice TV and entertainment system, as the Caavo is an elegant-but-expensive set-top box.
Watch Out For: The setup process can be tedious. It requires you to unplug everything from your TV, plug them all into the Caavo, and then you have to go through individual processes so that the Caavo actually recognizes each device for what it is. If the Caavo doesn’t recognize the device, it can’t control it. This was the case with my retro gaming console, the Analogue Super Nt. Caavo is designed to control your external devices, not your smart TV’s operating system; if you have a Roku smart TV, Caavo won’t be able to control that or its integrated apps. The biggest strike against Caavo is that it doesn’t support HDR, nor does it support audio technologies like or Dolby Atmos or DTS:X; this means that it won’t be able to get the most out of most new TVs. Lastly, $399 is expensive.
Alternatives: Caavo is a pretty unique product, offering complete control of your TV. The alternatives would be Logitech’s Harmony Elite ($350) universal remote, but that’s a device more designed to control your home entertainment system and smart home devices; it’s also not nearly as elegant as the Caavo.
Review: For the better part of the last month, a Caavo review unit has been integrated into my home entertainment system. Located below my TV, a 55-inch Vizio M-Series (2017), I had several devices plugged into it, including an Apple TV (4th gen), Xbox One, Verizon Fios cable box, Roku streaming stick and Analogue Super Nt. As mentioned above, the Analogue Super Nt was the only device that the Caavo wasn’t able to control at all.
Aside from an hour-long setup process, and one slight problem syncing with my Xbox One (I ended up having to tweak the resolution in my Xbox’s “Settings”), the Caavo was remarkably easy to use. Voice search worked well, too; holding down the mic button on the remote I would say “Watch Troy: Fall of a City” and it would direct me right to Netflix on my Apple TV, which is where I had been watching the show. If you watch Netflix primarily on your Xbox One or PS4, however, Caavo is unable to go too deep into the menus of those systems, so it wouldn’t be able to go directly to a show or TV show, through voice search, if you use a game console as your primary streaming device.
The remote is really the star of Caavo’s show. It’s effortless in operation. You simply press a button to turn the Caavo on, select the device you want to use in the menus screen, and that device turns on. If you want to switch to another device, like go from an Xbox One to an Apple TV, you just hit the main Caavo button again, select the Apple TV and it switches to it, same as you would when switching inputs on the TV remote. The old device remains on. Then you can easily shut off every device that you’re using simultaneously, by hitting the remote’s power button.
Verdict: Caavo is an elegant product that attempts to solve a simple problem: with so many devices connected to a modern TV, there are way too many remotes to control all of them. Caavo, effectively, is a sophisticated HDMI switch that allows one remote controls all your TV’s devices. And it does a really great job, for the most part, but it comes with a lot of little problems that end up adding to a lot. Even though it supports 4K, it doesn’t support any HDR technology, which most new 4K TVs and other premium streaming devices are likely to have. This means you’re paying a premium for a device that doesn’t support all your TV’s premium features, and that won’t make a lot of sense for most people. It also can’t really control your smart TV’s built-in apps, so if that’s how you mainly stream shows and apps, Caavo isn’t for you. Lastly, it’s not great with retro gaming consoles. That said if you have a 4K TV, or even a regular 1080p TV, and a lot of devices connected to it, Caavo can help simplify your “many remote” problem in a way that no other universal remote can. It’s cool, for sure, just not perfect yet. And for that price, you kind of expect perfect.
What Others Are Saying:
• “Once you’re up and running, you can just use the Caavo remote to control all your devices like normal, you can issue voice commands, and you can install a Caavo Alexa skill to control things that way. You can also use your original remotes at will; because the Caavo knows what’s going on on-screen, it never gets confused.” — Nilay Patel, The Verge
• “Caavo’s real game-changing asset is its remote. Using only a directional pad and a few other buttons, like Home and Back, I was able to navigate the menus of all six of my different streaming devices and game consoles, opening apps and browsing as I pleased. It’s remarkable how well it maps control and buttons for each device, even working with my old plasma TV flawlessly. Occasionally there was a bit of lag or something went wrong, but showstopping crashes were rare.” — Jeffery Van Camp, Wired
• “This first generation of Caavo amply demonstrates what the platform can do, and I’d love to see the next version: hopefully cheaper, with perhaps less visual flair, and actual support for HDR. If that happens, Harmony will have a problem on its hands.” — David Katzmaier, CNET
Size: 410 x 232 x 31 mm
HDMI: eight inputs, one output; HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2. 4K 60Hz
USB: two outputs for power only; 1A per port
IR: 3.5mm IR out
Audio formats: PCM, either Channels, 24 bits, 192kHz, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus up to eight channels and up to 192kHz, DTS up to eight channels and up to 192kHz
Video formats: max YUV420 4K (3840×2160) 8-bit at 60Hz and RGB/YUV444/YUV422 4K (3840×2160) 8-bit at 30Hz
Hot takes and in-depth reviews on noteworthy, relevant and interesting products. Read the Story