NEEO Remote Review

The NEEO remote boasts a sleek, minimalist design not previously seen in the category.

The NEEO remote boasts a sleek, minimalist design not previously seen in the category.

After a long wait, I finally got my hands on a NEEO remote. Having spent a few days "kicking the tires", I thought I would put together a review in case you're trying to decide if this is the right remote for you. 

he clean design and vivid touchscreen give the NEEO a modern, distinguished look not common to handheld remotes. Combine that with a sturdy, yet lightweight, handfeel, and you have a remote that is an absolute joy to use. The app-based setup is a breeze. Control of IR devices is snappy, even when issuing multiple commands in rapid succession, and the IR coverage from the "brain's" built-in blaster is very impressive. 

At $369 for the remote and brain, the NEEO has raised the bar significantly for this category. As a former professional integrator, I can say that a remote of this quality could have easily set you back $1,000 or more not long ago (and that may or may not have included paying a programmer to set it up for you). If you are in the market for a DIY programmable remote, the NEEO undoubtedly deserves a spot on your short list. 

As far as cons, I have found very few, and none that give me any pause about the remote's overall quality. Before itemizing them, it is important to note that, at the time of this writing, I am using a beta version of the software (v0.46.5).  Of the areas I would like to see improvement, the most notable is a very slight lag on the touchscreen when swiping sideways to go from one page to another. 

I have also found some inconsistencies in the implementation of the DirecTV IR commands I am using.  For instance, the "List" command is called "Recordings" on the touchscreen remote, but is a folder with the "Play" symbol on the app. The "Exit" command does not exist either as a hard button, or as a command on the default app and touchscreen pages for DirecTV. Instead, you have to use "Back" which often results in multiple button presses to clear menus off the screen versus a true "Exit" command, which would do it in one press. As a workaround for this, you can set up "Exit" as a shortcut, but more on that later. 

Lastly, when using DirecTV, the "Menu" hard button actually performs the "Guide" function. Incidentally, I actually prefer it this way and hope they don't change it as I like having hard button access to the guide. Perhaps, in time, NEEO will allow the user to do custom mapping of hard button commands, but for now I do not see this ability anywhere. In any event,  these are nothing more than minor housekeeping issues in the UI and I suspect will be cleaned up in short order.

*A Small Disclaimer*
At the time of this writing, I have only tested the remote on a very simple entertainment center, controlling a handful of IR devices. I have not had a chance to test the advanced features the remote offers such as Z-Wave integration and network control. We are hoping to post more information on these features soon. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our show on iTunes for more updates as they become available. 

Unboxing

For those who appreciate such things, NEEO very clearly cut no corners when it comes to presentation. The packaging is impressive, creating a great first impression. Won't belabor this, it's just packaging after all. But kudos are definitely in order. Check out the short unboxing video at the end of this post if you want to see more. 

Setting up the brain

A few screen shots from the NEEO Brain setup process. Simply install the app, plug the brain into the ethernet, and power it up. The Brain and the app pair easily. You then connect the Brain to your WiFi and create a NEEO account using the app. Once complete, you can remove the ethernet if you so choose and use the Brain on WiFi so you have more flexibility in its placement. 

Pairing the Remote

Pairing the NEEO remote with the base is a very simple process. Power up the remote and follow the prompts on the screen. 

Adding Devices

Adding devices is a snap. I have an old Panasonic plasma and was impressed to see the model number in the database. I know from conversations with the team that they put a lot of work into building a robust IR code base, and it shows. Once you select your model, the app prompts you place the Brain in an optimal position, then provides you with a page to test the codes. Every device I setup worked on the first attempt. 

Creating "Recipes"

Recipes are what NEEO calls macros (multiple commands that execute off a single button press). Here are a few screenshots from the recipe creation process. The app walks you through assigning inputs and volume control functions for each source. It also gives you the ability to easily make adjustments such as re-ordering the steps in your recipe, or editing the pause time between steps (important for input switching on power-up). Having a lot of experience programming remotes in the past, I was particularly impressed by how easy the NEEO app made this process. 

Channel Favorites

Adding channel favorites is done through the app. It is a straightforward process. It is worth noting that, while channel icons are pulled automatically, the NEEO remote does not pull channel numbers from a database based on your location and service provider. Instead, you are asked to manually enter the channel. 

Shortcuts

Shortcuts provide an easy way to access functions for other devices, or functions not listed on the default UI pages. In my case, I used them to place a few DirecTV functions that were not otherwise offered on the UI ("Exit" for example, as mentioned above). In time, I have to wonder if NEEO will allow for editing of the default UI pages. But for now, shortcuts provided me with an easy and useful workaround. As my setup grows, I suspect I will use shortcuts even more to quickly access commands for other systems like lighting and HVAC. 

Summary

The NEEO remote is a welcome entrant into the DIY handheld remote category. With sleek design, easy setup, reliable control, and a very reasonable price tag, it will be a welcome addition to any media room. If you are in the market for a new remote, the NEEO warrants serious consideration. 

Although I have not had a chance to test its fancier home automation features, I suspect they will be implemented with the same attention to detail I've seen from the remote thus far.  Be sure to stay tuned to the HomeTech Podcast as we plan to dive into the more advanced features in the future. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out via our feedback page.

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Images of ISE 2017 - Day 3

Day 3 is of ISE 2017 is complete. One more day to go. Still going strong but certainly starting to feel the burn in my feet. Highlights of yesterday's travels on the floor included conversations with Elan and Crestron, some very cool display technologies from Christie and Screen Innovations, a beautiful demo of Steinway Lyngdorf's new MP-50 surround processor, and more.

Plus I finally got a chance to meet Kris and Anna Gamble of #LiveInstall in person and join for the the legendary "Beer and Monkey Nuts" event. Also enjoyed a great dinner with my friends from Krika and Zappiti, complete with escargot (that's snails for the uninitiated). 

Images of ISE 2017 - Day 2

Cold, windy, rainy, and even a little snow in Amsterdam yesterday, but that didn't slow us down. It was another very busy day down at the RAI. Highlights of my travels included an appearance on AVNation's ResiWeek, visits with Control4, Lutron, Basalte, and much more...

Images of ISE 2017 - Day 1

Day 1 of ISE 2017 is officially in the books. My first impression is best captured in one word... immense! The show floor is admittedly overwhelming. I did cover a lot of ground however, and here are some pics of my day.

Highlights included some really cool glass touch keypads, including a unit purporting to do HomeKit from CONTEC (although I hope to stop back by and get a better understanding for how that works). I was also able to put eyes on Sony's new OLED, which was gorgeous (to no one's surprise).  And much, much more of course.

Check out some images below and be sure to tune into our "Live from ISE" Episode (tune in HERE) on Thursday around 10am EST. 

Images of ISE 2017 - Travel Day

I have safely made the journey to Amsterdam for ISE2017. It's my first time attending this show and the energy leading up to the event is amazing. We are excited to get the show started on Tuesday. In the meantime, here are a few photo highlights from my travel, and a few from my first afternoon in Amsterdam...

Fibaro starts shipping 'The Button' in the US

Say what you will about the $50 Zwave Fibaro Button, I think it's a fun product. We need more fun products like this in the smart home space to get more people involved. It comes in 8 colors and is available on Amazon and other Fibaro outlets.

The trick is you'll need more than $50 to get started unless you already have a Zwave system setup. Otherwise this looks like a great gift this year for the smart home enthusiast in your life.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M9JQJZZ/?th=1

Google's Renewed Home Efforts

Google's big announcement yesterday centered around their new Pixel phone but also contained a number of other devices designed for the IoT home. These devices are yet another attempt by Google to gain a foothold for it's own platform in the home by offering compelling devices with even more compelling software built in. 

Google Home

The Google Home device, which was previewed at Google IO in May, is Google's answer to Amazon's Echo which has been on the market for well over a year and received critical acclaim for its working voice recognition and integrations with other platforms. Google Home will feature many of the same components as the Echo for $40 less and builds in Google's Assistant which allows for even further integration into the Google Universe and voice control from the 40+ languages that Google currently supports. 

Even more exciting were the integrations announced. Google Home will work with Nest, SmartThings, Hue, and IFTTT right out of the box with further integrations down the road. For music services the Google Home devices will be integrated in with YouTube Music initially with Pandora, Spotify, Tunein, iHeart Radio, and Google Play coming soon. Multiple Google Home devices can been installed around the home and grouped together to play the same source house wide. 

Voice Casting, or asking Google Home to play music or video on other devices like Chromecast or Android TVs, was one of the more exciting features demoed yesterday. While the feature seems restricted to certain media providers at the moment a partnership with Netflix was announced allowing you to say phrases like "Okay Google, play Stranger Things on my TV," and have the Chromecast or Android TV take care of the video. This feature seemed ambitious at first but now looks like a simple compromise and a very simple solution. 

At $129 Google Home seems like a no-brainer for anyone who is interested in getting started with home automation. The device is available for order now and will be shipping November 4th. 

What remains to be seen is how or if Google will support the entire platform moving forward. Google has a serious problem with their track record of announcing and abandoning products in very short periods of time. It's interesting to note that this device was developed by the Chromecast team and not Google's Nest division which has done little to nothing to release new exciting products since their acquisition for $3 billion in 2014. Google is a big company with many large teams and divisions but one has to wonder what will happen to Google Home if some other team comes up with the next shiny toy for the home. If Google wants a home platform they need to start thinking long term and focus on delivering more permanent solutions to a wider market but for now we have an inexpensive start with Google Home.

Google WiFi

Google also announced a mesh network based WiFi system that looks extremely similar to others launched by Eero, Ubiquity, and Luma. We're all realizing that the new home needs a solid WiFi foundation and it seems these WiFi-mesh devices are wining the battle. Good news for any OnHub purchasers out there. The Google WiFi system will mesh and configure through the same app. Each single WiFi access point will cost $129 with a 3-pack costing $299 -- nearly $100 less than most competitors. 

Google seems to think we all live in "spaghetti sauce free" homes and the lifestyle images provided during the keynote were laughably absent of any real color. But really, if that's my only complaint, and it is, you can rest easy with this purchase. $129-299 seems like a great deal for a decent WiFi system.

Chromecast Ultra

Last but not least was a refresh to the Chromecast media player that Google currently offers. The Chromecast Ultra supports 4K HDR video and can be purchased for $69. One of the big improvements is the addition of ethernet which will keep high bandwidth 4K files from hitting and slowing down your wifi. Ethernet is so much faster and reliable especially for a device that is going to live behind TVs. 

One thing to think about here for the integrators out there. This is the beginning of the end for video distribution in most homes. If you can get most (and in some cases all) of your 4K content over a $69 device there's no reason at all to assume people will be willing to pay $20,000+ for video distribution systems and all of the associated control equipment that goes along with them. 

I'm sure video distribution will remain important in some residential and commercial installs but the industry is changing and its changing faster than integrators realize. I can't name one video distribution system sold through the integration channel that would be as reliable and dead simple as installing a this $69 on each TV. It's really hard to admit but the days are number for complex and pricey distribution systems as the cable companies are moving to develop app-based approaches rather than rent boxes. The world is moving toward streaming at full steam and expensive and complex systems are going to start being few and far between.

Summary

All in all Google has introduced great starting place for the smart home. While Google has a few challenges ahead of them creating an interesting and compelling product is no longer one of them. If I were starting today as DIY I'd most certainly start here. 

TheSpoon.Tech

Mike Wolf and Ashley Daigneault just launched TheSpoon.tech and cover everything related to the future of technology in the kitchen. An instant follow!

Its time to change the business model to follow the customer

An interesting article from Julie over at CEPro the that raises some interesting questions about what the market is shaping up to be and what customers will expect our business to look like. This particular insight rang so very, very true to me:

Too often, A/V dealers think they’re losing business because they can’t compete with cheap products and low online prices, or because customers are just cheap these days and “no one appreciates good service anymore.”

In fact, “good service” nowadays is often about no service at all – at least not personal service. We don’t want to talk to people. We don’t want to mess with scheduling contractors and being home (and dressed … and pleasant …) when they arrive. We just want to get it over with.

I'd argue that the vast majority of shoppers out there want this experience. I use Amazon almost daily and when I was an integrator we'd use it to buy products fast. I even remember being able to buy a TV and have overnight shipping for $25 and this was all below the cost for the same TV from my distributors.  

We're used too selling to the Baby Boomers generation who liked to have their hand held and walked through a process. New shoppers and the much larger Millennial generation want much less friction in the buying process. Home Tech Pros need to be the experts regardless of the buyer. 

Its getting to be time to change the business model to follow the customer and not the other way around.

Source: http://www.cepro.com/article/the_diy_trend...

Apple Stepping Up Plans for Amazon Echo-Style Smart-Home Device

I think Siri In A Can will eventually come to market but I wonder what the bullet points will be to sell one. Siri already integrates into HomeKit and supports many more languages than the Alexa platform but that only makes two and both of them can easily be dismissed with Amazon's recent push into the home automation space and a simple (or complex) update for more language support.

Apple has a huge advantage here to see how and what the market is reacting to. They can take their time, see what the market really wants, and make adjustments to their product. People tend forget that Apple wasn't the first company to bring a smartphone or tablet to the market -- they were pretty late in retrospect -- but the products they did introduce were refined to solve the problems people needed solved the most. You certainly don't have to be first to market to win the technology game.

Artist interpretation of Apple's Echo-Style device

Artist interpretation of Apple's Echo-Style device

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/201...

Canary Introduces Indoor/Outdoor HD Security Camera

Canary is jumping into the wireless HD camera business with their new $199 Canary Flex security camera. Unlike the Nest outdoor camera which features a full 25 feet of cabling this one is fully wireless (with the ability to be wired) and has the potential to not even need WiFi by using an optional Verizon 4G LTE mount. This is GREAT for remote access on construction sites or further away from the home (such as a gate camera) where hard-wiring and WiFi is not an option. 

Canary still doesn't offer an API to developers so this one is going to remain in the DIY camp but I've been really happy using my Canary in my garage for simple security and monitoring. 

Source: https://blog.canary.is/introducing-canary-...

Control4: Amazon Alexa, Sonos, Z-Wave, Motorized Shades

CEPro has a great writeup on the new announcements Control4 made yesterday but two bullet points are much larger than the others.

First up is voice control via Amazon Alexa which should be interesting to see how works. This is the first product or feature that Control4 allows the end user to completely install themselves -- no dealer truck roll, no dealer installation. And it's pretty easy to see why. After you link your Amazon and 4sight account Control4 'publishes' everything to Alexa making every device in your home 'discoverable.' 

The bigger story is Zwave. Control4 embraced Zigbee out of the gate with their own equipment. Zwave has steadily increased in market share is very popular in the DIY and security communities. This initial rollout is very small (only 13 devices supported) but  they'll soon be supporting many more.

Monoprice Debuts Monolith Home Theater Products at CEDIA

Here's an interesting one. Monoprice is debuting a home theater and whole house audio line at CEDIA this year. I've seen Monoprice at the show but they are usually showing off accessories and cables. This time it looks like they are breaking out the big guns and the prices look very nice. 

Monoprice does have a dealer program available for those who are interested.

Source: Blucora, Inc.
September 13, 2016 08:00 ET

Monoprice® Debuts Monolith Series at CEDIA™ 2016

New collection includes high performance bookshelf speakers, cinema speakers, multi-channel amplifiers and planar headphones for professional and commercial applications

DALLAS, Sept. 13, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Monoprice, an online retailer offering high-quality and affordably priced consumer electronics and accessories, unveils today the Monolith Series, a new line of home theater and personal audio products, at its booth—#8030—at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association Expo (CEDIA). Through this launch, the company continues this year’s mission to deliver great-sounding audio at fair prices for audiophiles, musicians, and music lovers. Developed to deliver a premium sound experience, the Monolith Series line expands to include high performance bookshelf speakers, cinema speakers, multi-channel amplifiers and planar headphones. Monoprice will also showcase new stereo tube amps, HDMI® cables and many more A/V, personal audio and commercial audio offerings.

“We always look forward to CEDIA as it gives us the opportunity to formally introduce what we’ve been working on, and show the audio community we’re committed to bringing excellent sounding audio solutions to consumers and businesses at accessible and affordable prices,” said Bernard Luthi, president of Monoprice. “This year, we’ve focused on stepping up our game to revamp existing, best-selling lines and offer more products across categories. Professional and commercial audio were two areas we felt needed a refresh to prove to our customers that our products can hold their own against offerings from brand names that cost four-to-five times as much.”

From headphones to Bluetooth® speakers, bookshelf speakers to cinema speakers as well as powerful amps, Monoprice has been working tirelessly this year to develop products that don’t cut corners on quality and deliver dynamic sound. The Monolith Series represents a carefully crafted suite of state-of-the-art, high-performance speakers, amplifiers and headphones that are capable of reproducing the most dynamic soundtracks, while also articulating all the subtle sonic details found in music.

All products on the CEDIA show floor will start shipping in the fall.

Monolith K-BᾹSTM Series Bookshelf Speakers
Delivering powerful bass, an impressive soundstage, and pristine detail and articulation in a bookshelf design, the Monolith Reference Series Bookshelf Speaker ($249.99) utilizes K-BAS (Kinetic Bass Amplification System) technology to provide listeners with low end bass extension unmatched by any other competitive product at this size or price.
Monolith Air Motion Speaker Series
Comprised of two-way compact bookshelf speakers ($199.99) and a three-way center channel speaker ($299.99), this series touts air motion transformer drivers for accurate and full high-frequency extension, low distortion, and a precise imaging of sounds. Each speaker comes fitted with magnetic grilles and rigid cabinetry internally braced for minimum cabinet vibration and acoustic coloring.
Monolith Multi-Channel Amplifier Series
In May 2016, Monoprice launched the Monolith 7 Multi-Channel Home Theater Power Amplifier. Building off the 7 channel platform, Monoprice unveils three new offerings: the Monolith 2, 3, and 5 200 watt multi-channel amplifiers ($999.99 - $1,299.00). Dynamic, clean audiophile grade power for the best in home theater.
Monolith M560 Planar Headphones
Monolith M560 is the only $199.99 planar headphone on the market, sure to deliver clear, balanced sound for critical listening. Providing comfort and long-wear by way of its well-built and durable design, listeners can tailor sound to specific tastes by switching between an open or closed back configuration.
Monolith M1060 Planar Headphones
The Monolith M1060 Planar headphones ($299.99) offer listeners a premium, rich, high-quality listening experience. Powerful bass, rich midrange, and delicate top end coupled with an open back design delivers an engaging, true audiophile experience.
Monoprice will also have on display various commercial audio, home audio, and A/V offerings including, but not limited to, the following products:

Stereo Tube Amp Series: The perfect trifectas of great-sounding, great-looking and convenient, these Stereo Tube Amps are designed to add warmth and richness to digital music that other amps can’t compare to. Shipping with a Bluetooth 4.0 receiver, listeners’ music libraries will sound better than ever.
Stereo Hybrid 50W Tube Amp with Bluetooth and Preamp Out ($199.99)
Compact Stereo Hybrid 15W Tube Amp with Bluetooth ($99.99)
Stereo Tube Headphone Amp with 24bit/96kHz USB DAC, Bluetooth, and Preamp out ($139.99)

HDMI® Cables, Blackbird™ Matrix, and HDBaseT™: For AV aficionados, Monoprice releases a new selection of reliable, premium AV products.
HMDI:
Certified Premium High Speed HDMI Cables ($3.99 - $14.99)
Luxe Series CL3 Active High Speed HDMI Cables ($34.99 - $104.99)
SlimRun™ AV Cables for HDMI Enabled Devices ($129.99 - $269.99)
Blackbird:
Blackbird 4k 8x8 Matrix, with EDID, RS232, IR, Coaxial, and Audio Out ($1,099.99)
Blackbird 4x4 HDMI Seamless Switching Matrix ($599.99)
Blackbird 4k 6x2 HDMI Matrix with Audio, HDCP 2.2 ($119.99)
HDBaseT:
Blackbird 4k HDBaseT 4x4 Matrix with PoC, 4K@60Hz ($999.99)
Blackbird All to HDMI Converter with HDBaseT Extender ($599.99)
100m, Blackbird 4K HDBaseT 1x2 Splitter, 100m ($329.99)
If interested in scheduling a meeting or demo, please contact Monoprice@HavasFormula.com or call 619.234.0345. For more information about Monoprice and its category offerings, please visit www.Monoprice.com.

About Monoprice, Inc. (DBA Monoprice.com)
Located in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Monoprice, Inc. is an e-commerce leader specializing in providing more than 6,500 high-quality yet affordable electronics and tech products. As an industry innovator, Monoprice fills a void in the consumer technology market by delivering exceptional products that are on par with the best known national brands at prices far below the retail average with incomparable speed and service. Maintaining a business philosophy that focuses on the needs of its customers, the company strives to bring simplicity, fairness and confidence to consumers and businesses shopping for big-ticket electronics and tech accessories. For more information about Monoprice, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Monoprice is a subsidiary of Blucora, Inc. (NASDAQ:BCOR).

Media Contact:
Havas Formula
619-234-0345 / Monoprice@HavasFormula.com
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