Peel Universal Controller review: Peel Universal Controller

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.7
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 4.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Peel Universal Remote Control is an iOS remote app that interacts with an included Wi-Fi IR blaster. Part channel guide, part Tivo-esque personalized recommendations, and part remote, it's relatively easy to set up, and is multiroom capable.

The Bad The components--the Peel Cable and Peel Fruit--have to be placed within 25 feet of each other. Remote functionality doesn't measure up to that of the Harmony and other universal remotes. The user interface has some shortcomings, and it needs more DVR integration to be truly useful. There is currently no native iPad app, either.

The Bottom Line The Peel is an affordable iPhone/iPod universal remote that helps you filter your TV viewing options, but its current shortcomings--inability to bookmark future shows for recording and the dearth of a native iPad app--make the $99 hardware component tough to recommend.

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Peel's $99 universal remote isn't exactly a universal remote in the traditional sense of the word. It's more like an accessory--yes, it's pear-shaped--that taps into your home Wi-Fi network and interfaces with the free Peel iPhone app to turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a universal TV remote with some program recommendation features.

When you open the cylindrical packing container you'll find that pear-shaped device (the Peel Fruit) along with an Ethernet dongle (the Peel Cable) that plugs into your router--or somewhere into your home network. Once plugged in (to Ethernet and AC power), the Peel Cable communicates wirelessly with the Fruit via a wireless Zigbee connection. (Zigbee is a wireless home automation standard.)


The Peel Fruit (top left) and Peel Cable (center) comprise the two hardware portions of the product.

You're supposed to set the Fruit on a coffee table (or some other flat surface) within about 15 feet of your TV (line of sight) and no more than 25 feet from the dongle for optimal performance. That pear-shaped accessory is powered by a single C battery and has an IR (infrared) blaster. Input a command on your iPhone or iPod Touch, and it's transmitted over your home Wi-Fi network to the Peel Cable, which in turn transmits it to the Peel Fruit (via Zigbee), which in turn converts it to an IR command that get blasted at your components. Got that?

Aside from the fact that we had to replace the dead battery that came with the Fruit to get the unit to work, we had little trouble setting everything up. That said, not everybody has their router located fairly close to their TV, so some setups will be more problematic than others. Also, not everybody has a good spot to leave the Fruit and if you have small children, and you leave your Fruit out, the odds of them damaging the Fruit are high. To them, it looks like something to play with and chuck around.

Once you have the Peel Cable plugged into your network and the Fruit in a spot that's within striking distance of your components (e.g., TV, Blu-ray player, cable or satellite box), you then fire up the app and it will attempt to find the pear.

Once it does find it, you then go ahead and set up your iPhone or iPod Touch (via the app) to control the various components in your system much like you would with a Harmony remote. The onscreen wizard asks you the brands of your components and after answering, you test whether the component correctly accepts your commands. You then need to select your cable or satellite program guide for your area. It's also worth noting that if you purchase multiple Fruits, you can create different remotes for different rooms all within the same app (Note: Peel has had some issues with multiroom setups, but a recent update appears to have fixed the problem. However, with only one review unit supplied, we did not test the multiroom option, so we have no way to confirm this).

In all, things worked pretty well for us, though the wizard couldn't match the exact model number of the FiOS DVR we had, so we had to with one of the generic choices (it worked). We ended up setting up the Peel to control a Panasonic plasma, the aforementioned cable box, an Xbox 360, and an Onkyo AV receiver.


The Peel app doubles as a remote control.

The nicest feature the Peel offers is the ability to make programming recommendations to you; it basically acts as a filter for all the programming that's on. Peel's marketing pitch states:

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Where to Buy See all prices

Peel Universal Controller

Part Number: H4714LL/A
MSRP: $99.95 Low Price: $99.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Supported Devices TV
    DVD player
    Blu-ray player
    DVR
    AV receiver
    Satellite TV system
    Cable box
  • Features One-touch activity controls
  • Type Universal remote control