While the Sony PlayStation 3 is one of the best values for high-def movie buffs, it's always been somewhat of a pain to integrate in a standard home theater because it lacks an IR receptor. That means popular universal remotes, such a Logitech Harmony, can't control the PS3 and you're forced to break out either the PS3 controller or buy the Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray DVD Remote. For those who can't live without an activity-based remote, like us, it's a considerable drawback.
The only mainstream product to address this issue has been the Nyko Blu-Wave, which is a cheap fix, but can't turn the PS3 on or off, which means you'll need to power the PS3 on and off manually or use a controller. To address this problem, a small group of basically homemade products have popped up on independent Web sites, offering the ability to convert standard IR commands to Bluetooth and use some clever macros to get around the PS3's peculiarities. The ps3toothfairy ($100, only available on the ps3toothfairy Web site) is one of these devices, and it delivers on all the essential functionality you'd want on an IR-to-Bluetooth converter.
The design of IR-to-Bluetooth converters is pretty much uniform, as they all consist of a small black box about the size of an Altoids breath mints tin, with one side featuring IR receptors. The ps3toothfairy features a single red light in the middle of its IR receptors, and it blinks when it receives an IR signal or gives useful feedback during the setup process. Luckily for home theater fanatics trying to limit light sources, the light can be manually dimmed in configuration mode. The ability to choose the light level is preferable over the lightless PS3IR-PRO or the always-on IR2BTci.
Setting up the ps3toothfairy isn't that difficult, but we found it a little tougher than the other converters we tested. The main thing you need to do is "pair" the ps3toothfairy with your PS3, which lets your PS3 know that it will be controlled by a remote. To do this, you need to press the angle button, followed by select, then hold OK. You have to do this relatively quickly, and both the angle and select buttons can only be accessed via the LCD screen on the Harmony we used, so it can be a little tricky at first.
We did our setup using a Harmony 688 remote, and luckily the ps3toothfairy is available as a device (it's treated as a game console). We did run into a slight snag when we added the ps3toothfairy to a Harmony activity (Play PS3), as we had to manually associate all the ps3toothfairy functions with that activity. It's a tedious process and likely to confuse some Harmony novices, but it's worth noting that we had to do the same thing with all the IR-to-Bluetooth converters that we tested.
The main purpose of the ps3toothfairy is to offer a way to integrate all the functionality of Sony's Blu-ray remote to a standard universal remote. The ps3toothfairy has access to all 51 remote buttons, so you can easily watch Blu-ray movies and perform all the standard functions, such as access the pop-up menu or skip chapters. Of course, some functions are obviously handled better by an actual game controller, such as browsing the Web or (obviously) gaming.
Unlike the other converters we tested that use a standard USB port for power, the ps3toothfairy uses a more traditional power adapter. Unfortunately, the power adapter isn't included, although it is offered on the ps3toothfairy site. Another adapter is also offered that allows you to power the device over USB, which is convenient if your entertainment center has an always-on device such as TiVo or a cable box with a USB port. Note that you cannot use one of the PS3's USB ports for power, as they do not provide power when the PS3 is turned off. At this price, we feel like our choice of power adapter should be included for free. Further, we would have preferred if the ps3toothfairy had a standard USB port on the back, like the PS3IR-PRO or IR2BTci.
In addition to its standard functions, the ps3toothfairy does include a couple extra features. Power Track aims to remember whether your PS3 is on or off, so it only turns it on when you send the proper power on command. In our tests of all the converters, we never mistakenly turned the PS3 on even without this feature engaged, but it's possible it could be helpful in some scenarios. Another unique function is the ability to assign the ps3toothfairy a unique device ID, in the event that you use more than one in your house. That's a pretty niche application, but it's the only converter we've seen with that functionality.
While the ps3toothfairy is not firmware upgradeable, like the competing PS3IR-PRO, it does offer the ability for the user to make adjustments. By entering configuration mode, you can turn off features like Power Track, adjust the brightness of the light on the front, or change the power off macro. It's even possible to program your own macro, although the process is pretty tedious and you'll need to e-mail support for instructions. However, for those who like to tweak or don't like to rely on others for updates, this may be a significant advantage over the PS3IR-PRO.
Like with all the IR-to-Bluetooth converters we've tested, performance was impressive. We were expecting some kind of lag as the boxes converted the signal, but using our Harmony 688 felt just as natural as using the PS3 controller. We also didn't run into any problems powering off/on our PS3. To be clear, the PS3 lacks a discrete command for powering down, so turning the device off must be done using a macro programmed into the device--the same is true with all other IR-to-Bluetooth converters we've used. That means the ps3toothfairy sends a series of commands that eventually turn the device off. These commands are conveniently programmed into the ps3toothfairy, so you only have to send an IR signal to activate the macro, instead of having to keep the remote pointed at the ps3toothfairy while it sends a string of commands.
Overall, the functionality of the ps3toothfairy is impressive, although like most IR-to-Bluetooth converters, it's expensive. While we definitely like the ability to configure the device ourselves, we would have also liked upgradeable firmware, like the PS3IR-PRO offers. The IR2BTci offers more functionality, but most people don't need its extra bells and whistles. It's also worth mentioning that the $20 Nyko Blu-Wave offers much of the basic functionality except power/on, so you're essentially paying $70 for the ability to turn the PS3 on and off remotely. But if you're willing to pay to put your entire home theater back in control of your universal remote, the ps3toothfairy gets the job done.