In a lot of ways, I love the Caavo universal remote. I have five different devices plugged into it at the moment, and it moves between them with utter ease. It’s informative, beautiful, and far easier to set up than any Logitech Harmony remote I’ve used. Yet for the life of me, I don’t know who the heck would actually want to own this $400 device.

The Caavo is ostensibly the answer to the frustrations of people with a ton of different stuff plugged into their TV and no desire to deal with fussy products like the $350 Logitech Harmony Elite, which also controls all your smart home devices and requires frequent charging, or the $70 Logitech Harmony 650 which is—ugly. The Caavo is gorgeous, and it can go without a charge for over a year. Once you get through setup via the app on your iOS or Android device, you do all the fussy stuff, like customize inputs using both your TV and the remote.

It feels like magic when it’s working properly. I have two set-top boxes and three gaming systems plugged in, and it moves between them neatly. I told the system that I prefer to watch Amazon Prime on the Nvidia Shield and Netflix on the Apple TV, and when I go to the Caavo menu (accessible by pressing a big silver Caavo button on the remote) and choose those apps, it switches over to the right device and opens the app for me. It’s not super fast—there’s a big popup that announces it’s switching to my desired input—but it’s fast enough. And it feels handy.

In fact, a lot of what Caavo does feels handy. If you give Caavo your login info for products like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, it will create a list of what you are watching and let you know when new stuff from your selected shows is available. If you connect it to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, you can ask the Caavo to switch inputs. If instead you’d prefer to use Caavo’s built-in voice navigation, you can hold the remote up and speak into it. I don’t do any of that junk. I’m a creature of habit, and when I sit down to watch TV, I don’t want to shout into a remote or at my Echo. I know exactly what I want to watch, and I navigate with the Caavo remote, which is light, responsive, and hasn’t needed charging in the weeks I’ve used it.

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When I navigate around the UIs of the Shield, Apple TV, and PS4, I get the appeal of Caavo. The Caavo just works, and I don’t have to look at the remote and wonder which button should map to which unique button found on the remotes of those devices. It’s intuitive in the best possible way. But if things break, it’s a little less intuitive. When my soundbar powers off due to inactivity, I have to go hunting for the soundbar remote, or turn off the entire Caavo setup. With my five-year-old $70 Logitech Harmony remote, on the other hand, I can hit the help button, which guides me through turning the soundbar back on without needing to hunt for a separate remote.

This is a limitation of the Caavo that people who like tweak settings often will find frustrating. But the bigger frustration, which is a dealbreaker for me, is that it doesn’t support HDR. If I’m spending $400 on a remote that can control every single device plugged into my TV, then I am probably a person who has a very nice TV with HDR. So why on earth would I want to take a step back on picture quality?

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You charge the remote via micro-USB, but I used it for over a week and a half and was still at 100-percent battery.

I tried to suck it up this week, watching a few episodes of the very stupid but very pretty Altered Carbon on Netflix. The intro for that show is absolutely perfect for testing the quality of a TV. The way the light shines on the chrome snakes (it’s a whole thing) looks very different when you’re watching in HDR or not, and I could definitely see the difference. It didn’t make sense to me in the least.

The reason there’s no HDR is that the Caavo requires that you plug on the inputs you want to control into an 8x1 HDMI switch, which is why you have eight different devices plugged into the Caavo and just one HDMI cord into the back of your TV. This is a useful feature because these days there are frequently as few as three HDMI ports on the back of TVs. If you own all three major game consoles, a set-top box, and a cable box, then the extra ports afforded by the Caavo, plus the fact that it’s a handy universal remote, almost make its price tag worth it. A quality HDMI splitter that can handle 4K and the HDCP 2.2 copyright protection found on nearly all your content-providing boxes these days is a pricey thing. In fact, the closest thing I can find to the Caavo’s 8x1 HDMI switch is a 6x2 HDMI switch by Blackbird (6x2 means six inputs and two outputs) and it retails for ~$110.

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But I still can’t get over the lack of HDR. Given the upmarket audience for the Caavo, the missing HDR is a deal breaker.

README

  • It’s a universal remote that requires you to plug all your inputs into an 8x1 HDMI switch.
  • There’s no HDR, which is a complete dealbreaker.
  • It’s $400 and can’t easily control advanced settings on your TV or things not connected to the HDMI switch.
  • But for stuff plugged into the Caavo it works and works well.
  • You can control the Caavo using your voice and the remote or Alexa.
  • It’s really pretty.

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