Gyration Media Center PC Universal Remote Control and Compact Keyboard Suite review: Gyration Media Center PC Universal Remote Control and Compact Keyboard Suite
The Gyration Media Center PC Universal Remote Control and Compact Keyboard Suite is a mouthful of a product name. Fortunately, nearly everything else about it is easy. We're still not in love with the idea of bringing a keyboard into the living room, but until we find a better alternative, this $200 combination set of a motion-sensitive remote control and a compact keyboard is the best we've seen for taking full control of your home theater PC.
The highlight of Gyration's new set is the Media Center Remote Control. At 8.75 inches long, it's roughly as long as a typical remote control, although it's thicker toward the bottom to accommodate its built-in gyroscope. That gyroscope drives the motion sensitivity, the key feature that makes it easy to forgive the remote's extra thickness.
Installing the Gyration remote control is as easy as plugging the radio frequency USB receiver dongle into your PC and pressing each connect button, one on the dongle and one on the remote itself. You don't need to install any software, which makes it simple to swap the remote between different PCs. You can also remove the dongle and plug it back in later, and it will remember the components you've matched it with.
In addition to the standard remote-control functions such as changing channels, controlling tracks, and adjusting the volume, the Gyration remote also lets you drive the mouse cursor around the screen through motion tracking. If you've tried the Nintendo Wii's controller, the effect is very similar.
We tried moving the cursor with the remote with multiple screen resolutions and we found that up to and including 1080p (1,920x1,080), the mapping worked just fine. We were able to move the cursor diagonally across the whole screen with one mild arm motion. And because the cursor ties into Windows default mouse control software, it's easy to increase or decrease the responsiveness, depending on your preferences.
The remote has two modes for cursor control: one requires you to hold down a button while you move the device, the other lets you double-click the same button, which puts the cursor into free-motion mode. This second mode gives you the freedom to click and drag in combination with a pair of other buttons on the remote that function as left and right mouse buttons. We found that we liked moving the cursor around in the latter, free-swinging mode, but that the first mode makes it easier to click small icons on the screen, because when you let go of the movement button, the cursor doesn't jump around.
In addition to the cursor control, the Gyration remote control includes all of the typical functions you'd expect from a multipurpose digital media remote. The play control, volume, and channel buttons are all for the most part easy to reach without too many hand gymnastics. The remote also has universal IR features, which lets you program it to drive other components in your home theater. We tried matching it to a few televisions through various means with an acceptable degree of success. The manual explains how to get the remote to autorecognize other components, and it has a list of IR codes from common vendors. Of our three test TVs, it recognized a Vizio automatically and a Pioneer once we entered a code in manually. It failed to adjust to a Sharp TV, but thanks to the Gyration remote's learning function, we were able to use the Sharp's own remote to program the buttons on the Gyration.
While the remote control is the technological highlight of Gyration's living-room input package, we also like the keyboard (you can buy each individually). At 12.75 inches wide and 6 inches deep, it has half the footprint of either the similarly media-friendly and expensive Logitech diNovo Edge or the Microsoft Digital Entertainment Desktop 7000. The Gyration keyboard has an advantage in that it's a living-room model first, and because it's paired with a remote control, it doesn't have to cram as many extra media control buttons on it. The other models cling to a desktop mindset that makes them large, but the Logitech model especially is better to type on than the smallish Gyration keyboard.
For Gyration's part, it envisions this package more for those who are committed to a PC in the living room mostly for the purposes of passive entertainment, not for typing e-mail. The keyboard recognizes that because you have a PC, for Web navigation, instant messaging, and perhaps some other tasks you might need to punch in some words or commands. For those basic tasks it does its job well. We also like that Gyration included a plastic cover for the keyboard (that also pops onto the keyboard's underside to keep it out of the way) to protect it from kids, pets, and accidental key presses.