By JC Torres — Universal remote controls are a dime a plenty and even smartphones have apps that try to perform those tasks. And yet here comes Ray, a 'Super Remote' with a new look and a new promise. But why would you want to spend money on yet another remote to add to your growing (and eventually disappearing) collection? Well for one, it's quite pretty. But more than shininess, Ray actually has a user interface that makes sense in today's age of digital content and smart TVs.
Despite controlling smart TVs and appliances, the design of remote controls has changed very little. We're still overwhelmed by the number of buttons to press. Those buttons don't make much sense and can sometimes even be tedious to use with the growing number of channels and the increasingly digital nature of the content we consume. That is why Ray throws out all but 3 physical buttons to make way for a full touch screen. This makes it look more like a smartphone than a remote control. And indeed, the specs, which include a dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and 4.8-inch 1120x480 screen would make you think so.
That setup has some benefits over the tried and tested button-based interface of most remote controls. These days, we are used to navigating through media content on our smartphones with touch-based interfaces and gestures. As the worlds of TV and mobile start to collide, it feels more natural to swipe and search through our option rather than make our fingers numb from pressing buttons. That's the experience that Ray tries to deliver, relieving your fingers, and your brain, from having to do things the old fashioned way. Want to search for the show or channel that you want? Simply type it out instead of having to comb through channels one by one. Want to see what's playing on your favorite channels? That's easily done with a few taps as well. In short, Ray brings the smartness of smartphones into your remote control.
Ray is also a universal remote in every sense of the word. It can control not only It lists support for a wide range of devices from different manufacturers, from TVs to set-top boxes to DVD players and streaming devices. It can even hook up with your Xbox 360 or Xbox One. DVR support is currently limited only to Dish subscribers. WiFi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee connectivity are what makes the magic happen. Some of these devices do call for a traditional button layout, so Ray does have that on its screen as well. And before you fret, there are physical buttons for volume, mute, and power for quick, easy, and muscle memory access to the most important "no look" functions.
For all of these, Ray does carry quite a price tag. $199 to be exact. It does promise to replace all your other remote controls, though, which probably makes up for the costs. That said, you will probably treat Ray with a lot more care to make sure it doesn't disappear into the usual remote control black holes in the living room.