Graphic AirClick USB Remote ControlAirClick

AirClick USB Remote Control
Manufacturer: Griffin Technology
Retail Price: $39.99

When Apple introduced the Airport Express, I was one of the first to make the purchase. I had a set of speakers that I wanted to put in my master bedroom so that I could listen to audio books and music while I was getting ready for work in the mornings.

It was great to be able to remote iTunes away from my iMac, but I soon found myself wanting to be able to control iTunes from the bedroom, and that would require some sort of radio frequency remote control. So, when Griffin Technology introduced the AirClick USB in 2005, I had to give it a whirl. AirClick USB is a two-part device. The AirClick part is a remote control that fits easily in the palm of your hand. It has a hold switch on the side and 5 buttons on the top. The buttons have icons that roughly correspond to the following functions: play / pause, next, previous, volume up, volume down. The USB part is a plug-in dongle that enables AirClick to communicate to your Mac’s USB port through radio frequency technology. An LED on the dongle lights whenever the dongle detects a button press from the AirClick remote.

AirClick USB also comes with a software application that installs itself in the menu bar on a Mac. Once installed, clicking on the AirClick icon in the menu bar brings up a list of supported applications. A check mark indicates the application AirClick is currently controlling. The mapping of AirClick keys to application functions is displayed for the highlighted application. Although I specifically wanted the product for its iTunes support, I have also found it useful when presenting iPhoto slide shows and Keynote presentations. The device is small and easily packed as a notebook accessory. The software continues to improve and additional applications are supported in the newer releases, so it is important to get the software updates from Griffin’s website and to check back with them periodically to ensure that you are running with the latest and greatest version.

Supported applications: As of March, 2006, version 1.0.6 of the AirClick USB supports the following applications on a Mac: Front Row, DVD Player, QuickTime Player, Preview, VLC, iPhoto, iTunes, Garage Band, iChat, Mail, Keynote, PowerPoint 2004, Safari, Acrobat Reader, radio SHARK, and the cursor keys. In addition, this version supports universal binaries and has a new feature that enables you to use the remote control to switch applications. Griffin Technology continues to improve the software features and add applications with each new release.

What AirClick USB does well: The remote itself is lightweight with easy-to-read and easy-to-feel buttons. It has a good feel in the hand and can easily be clipped to a garment or work folder. The remote supports most applications that one would want to access remotely, and the latest version even supports generic cursor keys within any application. The remote itself is compatible with other AirClick devices, and Griffin Technology has taken the extra step to allow remote pairing in cases where conflicts with other AirClick and AirClick USB remotes might arise.

Where AirClick USB falls short: As with any radio operated device, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes a keystroke isn’t recognized, and as the distance between the USB dongle and the remote increases, the remote becomes less responsive. By far the biggest shortcoming is the software application itself. The application’s inability to be relocated to a different spot in the menu bar means that the AirClick icon can be completely hidden by the application menu and therefore be unaccessible. The latest software version of AirClick has a workaround that enables the user to select the application by cycling through the list using the remote itself, but the application could be even better if it had a dock presence or if the icon in the menu bar could be moved using the standard Command-Click and drag method that most menu bar applications employ.

Overall Recommendation: Overall, I am satisfied with the product and recommend it for people that want to have remote control capability for the applications it supports. Even if you have a new Mac with Front Row, you may still want the ability to control other applications through a remote, or you may want the advantage provided by a radio device that does not require line of sight to operate the remote. And, of course, if you are looking for a solution that enables you to remotely control your iTunes application that is running wirelessly to speakers in another room, this product fits the bill perfectly.


Review by NCMUG member Karen Bell