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USB IR dongles almost cure PS3's universal-remote woes

One of our original and most persistent gripes about the PS3 has been the lack of any sort of IR support that would allow you to program your universal remote to command the system. Now, a handful of less-than-perfect solutions are hitting the market.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
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David Carnoy
3 min read

The USBIRXR3: One man's quest for IR support on the PS3. Mike Muecke

One of our original and most persistent gripes about the PS3 has been the lack of any sort of IR support that would allow you to program your universal remote to command the system. As you're probably aware, the PlayStation 3 uses Bluetooth technology for its wireless controllers, as well as an optional Bluetooth remote that's designed for movie watching. While home-theater buffs may love their PS3's AV capabilities, they tend to find the lack of IR really irritating. It means that every time you want to watch a movie (or play a game) on the PS3, you have to switch to a second controller. Not so with the Xbox 360, which has an IR port on its face.

One would think that Sony would put out some sort of IR dongle that would solve the universal-remote compatibility issue (or hopefully integrate IR into the next version of the PS3), but thus far, no such Sony dongle has emerged. However, a handful of other USB dongles are trickling their way onto the market.

Nyko, an established gaming accessory manufacturer, makes something called the Playstation 3 Blu Wave Remote, which is listed at Amazon (but had no pricing when we last looked). Apparently, Logic 3 also has some sort of USB IR dongle for the PS3, but it's currently only being marketed in Europe. The upside to the Nyko Blu Wave is that it only costs $14.95, but the downside is that it uses proprietary IR codes, which means you have to teach your universal remote the codes and it's gotten mixed review from the folks on AVS Forum.

Nyko's Blu Wave remote Amazon

A third alternative is Mike Muecke's USBIRXR3. Mike, who's based in Austin, Texas, was your average pissed-off PS3 owner looking for an IR workaround. He found one by using a special USB adapter with the original PS2's IR accessory. But it was a pretty kludge solution, so he set out to design and produce his own USB IR dongle. The result is the USBIRXR3, which uses the PS2's IR codes and works right out of the box with a variety of universal remotes, include Logitech's popular Harmony remotes (you just tell the Harmony to use the PS2 codes).

Alas, the USBIRX3 is about as good a solution you can find at this point--but it isn't the perfect. First, the thing costs $30 (at Schmartz.com). Muecke notes that there's no way he can compete with Nyko on price since their remote/dongle combo "is made in China for almost nothing." He also says the "'Subtitle' and 'Audio' type of buttons do not seem to be supported through USB." And most importantly, any USB-style IR has its limitations with the PS3. None of these solutions allows you to turn your PS3 on or off because Sony's firmware currently doesn't allow power to transmit to the USB ports when the console is turned off. That means you're still going to have to use a second, Bluetooth controller in the beginning and the end of your PS3 session.

Muecke recognizes the drawbacks to his solution but continues to forge ahead. "Thirty dollars is the cheapest I can sell it [the USBIRX3] and stay in such a small niche market. I'm not convinced the other stuff at $20 is staying around. Personally, I have tried to purchase both the Logic3 and the Nyko devices and have not had any luck. On the other hand, my unit is available and will remain available as long as there is interest in it. It's been fun developing it anyway, and that is what I'm all about."

We appreciate the effort, Mike. We just wish Sony would give us some damn IR. Anybody else feel the same way?