Caavo knits together TV devices, streaming and voice control for $400

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Imagine saying, "Alexa, ask Caavo to show 'The Young Pope.'"

Your TV turns on and after a few moments, the show picks up where you left off. TV is much easier to use in the future.

That (very near) future is promised by a device called a Caavo, available this fall for $400, with preorders starting in May. It's basically a smart universal remote/HDMI switch, powered by software with deep hooks into devices you already own and streaming services to which you subscribe.

The problem Caavo aims to solve -- how to easily watch the stuff you want with minimal fuss -- is becoming more common. With seemingly endless new TV shows and movies to watch, spread across multiple services (Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go, iTunes and others) and living-room gadgets (cable boxes, media streamers, game consoles), just watching the next episode of a show you want can be an exercise in frustration. Caavo's product is expensive, but the way it simplifies the process can seem almost magical, even to jaded reviewers like me.

The team behind the product, including Andrew Einaudi (formerly of Jawbone, Sling Media, Dish and Xbox) and Ashish Aggarwal (of Harman and Violet3D), walked us through a demo last week. The box itself is as sleek as any AV device around, with a bunch of HDMI ports as well as other connections like USB and Ethernet, housed in a low-profile wood case (other finishes are available). The other part of the package is a universal remote with a select few keys on the face (no numeric keypad here) and a matching wood back.

The magic in the demo occurred when a voice command from Andrew caused the TV to turn on, switch to the correct input and begin playing the show without any button presses or other input from the user. Those commands can be spoken either into the remote or, if you have an Amazon Alexa speaker like the Echo or Dot, into thin air.

It works because the Caavo software tracks all of your the watch lists ("continue watching" lists or DVR lists) across different services, all of the devices in your system and all your preferred apps on each device. The watchlist integration and voice search and control help separate it from standard universal remote controllers like Harmony's (which lacks native voice control, although there is an Alexa skill). Unlike those devices, a Caavo also allows you to use any of the standard remotes or game controllers that came with your gear.

Device support is solid, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, PlayStation and Chromecast ($59.99 at eBay), but not yet universal. The system can surface your DVR recordings or show pay-per-view from a DirecTV or Dish Network satellite box, for example, but control is more basic for Time Warner/Spectrum or Comcast boxes at the moment. Google Home integration similar to the Alexa integration is still in the works. Caavo currently supports 4K resolution, but the company's still working on HDR support (which may be available by launch). And not every app has the kind of deep links demonstrated on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go and Showtime Anytime.

If it works as promised, the Caavo provides the easiest way I've seen to watch TV shows and movies across all the devices and services in your living room. The price is steep, but for well-heeled households that prize simplicity, it could be worth it.

We'll have a full review as soon as possible.

Caavo vital stats

  • Smart switch with 8 HDMI inputs
  • IR blaster, 2 USB ports (for power), Ethernet and Wi-Fi
  • Included universal remote (Bluetooth) with voice control
  • Alexa skill enabling full control, Google Home coming soon
  • Deep links into watch lists and DVR lists
  • Automatically recognizes connected devices
  • Available in a choice of woodgrain finishes
  • $400, ships in fall 2017 with preorders starting in May
 

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Where to Buy

Caavo

Part Number: CNETCaavo

MSRP: $399.00

Visit manufacturer site for details.