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Remote controls for XBMC on Linux / Raspberry Pi (Raspbmc)

I have tried three different remote controls on my Linux XBMC and Raspberry Pi RaspBMC / OpenElec media centres. All of these worked well, but each have their own pros and cons.

Linux media centre PC remote control inc Raspberry Pi Raspbmc Openelec

These are all three generic remote controls and are available from different suppliers with different names, I have used the manufacturer names under which I purchased them from Amazon.co.uk, but these may be listed from other suppliers as Vista MCE Remote, or Windows XP / Windows 7 media centre remote controls.

These all include a USB infra-red (IR) sensor.

Another remote that I haven't tried is an X-Box remote control. One thing to be aware of is that xbox remote controls are supplied without IR sensors, which will need to be purchased separately.

I tested these using the mouse control and the cursor / back buttons with XBMC on both the Raspberry Pi and a Linux based media centre. I was looking for ease of use with the remote control as well as it's effective range. I only used the primary controls and some of the function keys may need to be mapped within XBMC.

PC remote - Cheapest and smallest media centre remote control

This remote control is the cheapest I have seen. It is considerably smaller and cheaper than the other remote controls. It is a little larger than a credit card and about as thick as most smartphones, a similar size to remote controls used for in-car DVD players etc. It uses a button style battery.

The USB IR sensor is provided with an extending (rewind) cable, which would be convenient if used for travelling or for use in a car entertainment system, but which is bulky and difficult to position / hide for in-home entertainment systems. The remote control has to be fairly accurately lined up with the sensor for it to work correctly. There is also a more limited range on the remote than the others tested.

The mouse control is a track pad to one side of the remote and is reasonably easy to use. The cursor keys are around a square area. These are fairly easy to see in good light, but not obvious in a dimly lit room. The volume control is clearly marked in blue and the backspace button is directly above which makes it fairly easy to find.

This would be a good remote for use in an in-car entertainment system or for travelling. It is also considerably cheaper than the others, but I think it's worth spending the extra if looking for a remote for a lounge or bedroom media centre.

Trixes - Alternative media remote control

The second remote fits in at the middle of the price range of these tried (although all three could still be considered at the budget price). It is the size of a standard remote control, but has a budget look and feel to it.

The mouse control is well placed and easy to use. The cursor keys are within a cross shape towards the button of the remote, but with some more buttons above and below and so are not as obvious as the other remote controls tested. The backspace button is not an obvious location (although similar position in relation to the cursor keys as the PC remote it is much easier to find on the PC remote due to the position and colour of the volume keys). The button positioning is something that you can get used to over time, but is not the easiest to navigate around the buttons.

The IR sensor supplied is the best of the three remote controls. Although the sensor itself is bigger than the GMYLE infra-red sensor it is black and so looks better stuck to the side of most TVs than the smaller one.

The remote works well and doesn't need to be pointed as accurately as the PC remote.

GMYLE - Preferred media remote control

The final remote control is the most expensive of those tested, although still only about £4 more than the Trixes remote control. It is the size of a standard remote with a curved side that makes it feel comfortable in the hand. The buttons are all well positioned and intuitive to find. There is a 4-way cursor button above the soft touch mouse. The mouse buttons are above the mouse pad, which is the opposite to most laptop trackpads but which comes quite naturally.

The IR sensor is the smallest of those tested, but is all coloured red which makes it stand out against a black TV outline and does not look as professional as the others. The remote does not need to be pointed at the sensor too accurately and works from a good distance away.

Whilst this remote is still a budget remote and feels like one it is the best feel and looks of all these remote controls.

Summary

My favourite remote is the GMYLE remote. It works well, looks good and makes it easier to find all the buttons.

The PC remote has it's own advantages due to it's small size which makes it good for travelling or in car entertainment, but is not recommended for use in the home.

The Trixes remote control fits well price wise and is the best price for a full-size remote control. I would however recommend spending that little bit extra for the GYME remote control.


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