Video Accessories Misc

iRule Home Automation System Review - Controller Application

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iRule Home Automation System Review - Controller Application In Use

Using an iPad to control your AV system, definitely takes the luxury factor up a few notches. As cool as a universal wand like the Harmony is (when it's working), the touchscreen is far cooler. If you look at photos of high-end theaters and media rooms, you almost always see a touchpad sitting on the arm of a chair. And most of the time, it's some expensive pad controlling a system that costs more than a good projector. Thanks to iRule, I had that same user experience for about 200 bucks. As I got used to the system, I found myself tweaking the screen layouts to make things easier. For instance, when I watch cable, I always use the DVR so I can skip commercials. You can see in my layout, I made the play and pause buttons extra-large so I could look at the TV while fast-forwarding. These little changes are easy to make in Builder in a few minutes. You can even do it on the fly. Just re-sync in the iRule app when you're done and pick up watching right where you left off. Try that with any other control system! I also found it extremely reliable. The system never missed commands, either singly or in macros. It was also nice to have more buttons available thanks to the large amount of screen real estate on the iPad. I always felt limited by hard-button remotes as to what functions I could assign. With a touchscreen, you can have everything from the OEM remote.

Another cool feature, recently added to iRule, is drawers. This is a way to pull out less-often-used buttons from the sides or bottom of the screen. For my cable TV activity, I put favorite channels in a bottom drawer which I could pull up when I wanted to surf, very slick! In my Theater control panel, I used the feature to control my Darblet video processor. It's a cool way to add extra buttons to a screen without creating clutter. It's also a great way to access controls from multiple activities without adding the extra buttons over again.

The iTunes module was one of my favorite things of all. I had created an activity that turned on my Apple TV and Denon receiver. Then all my iTunes content was available in a large center-screen window on the iPad. It looks just like an iPod only larger. The best part is it never drops the network connection like the Apple Remote app. I've always wanted something like the Sonos or Squeezebox Touch to easily access my iTunes library. Apple's Remote app works OK but it drops the network connection every time your i-device goes to sleep, which is a major pain. Plus you need a separate remote to control your audio system. With iRule, I have one screen that does everything. You can also stream video using the module if your display is turned on. For $25 it's more than worth it.

iRule offers control of far more than just AV components. Pretty much anything that can be accessed via IR, IP, contact closure (relay) or RS-232 can be connected to a gateway. iRule's component database includes HVAC systems, security systems, lighting, shades and many other categories. If a device offers two-way communication, iRule can handle that too. And the interface for programming those features is right in Builder. I never had to write code or decipher complex commands. The visual approach to setting up your handsets is very intuitive. In fact, once I got the hang of it, it was downright addictive!