SAN FRANCISCO (01/24/2000) - You wouldn't think of surfing TV channels without your trusty remote control, and watching a video without the ability to pause or rewind would be unimaginable. So why not have a remote for running audio and video on your Mac? That's the idea behind Keyspan's Digital Media Remote, a $79 hardware device that uses infrared (IR) technology to control Mac-based media playback software, including AppleCD Audio Player, Apple DVD Player, QuickTime Player, Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP, Microsoft PowerPoint, and RealNetworks' RealPlayer.
We tested the Digital Media Remote with each of these applications and found that it worked as advertised. Standing as far away as 35 feet from an iMac, we could play, pause, rewind, and otherwise control audio and video as easily as if we'd been sitting at the keyboard. Of course, because it's an IR connection, you need a clear path between the remote and your Mac. Put anything in the way -- a chair, a monitor, even a person -- and you've effectively blocked the signal.
The package includes a small remote control and an IR receiver that plugs into a Mac's USB port. The remote provides typical controls -- including play, pause, reverse, fast-forward, volume up, and volume down -- as well as a button that lets you cycle through open applications.
Installing the remote is easy. Unfortunately, configuring the remote for use with other Mac programs -- those not specifically designed for playback -- is not, at least with the software that came with our review unit. The package includes a DMR Manager control panel that lets you map any button on the remote to any keyboard command in a Mac program. For example, you can program the remote to scroll pages up and down in Adobe Acrobat, a neat feature if you plan to use PDF files in an upcoming presentation. However, the mapping commands are confusing; the program won't recognize any changes you've made unless you click on an Accept Key Press button, but only the documentation explains this-the interface doesn't offer a clue. (An update of the software, available at Keyspan's Web site, fixes this problem with an easier-to-follow interface.) We also found that our iMac sometimes crashed when we tinkered with DMR Manager while an application was running.
Macworld's Buying Advice
The Digital Media Remote is a handy tool for making media presentations or watching a DVD movie without being tethered to your Mac. But at nearly $80, it's too expensive for most casual users. And prepare yourself for some trial and error if you want to customize the remote or configure it for a nonplayback application.
RATING: 3.5 mice
PROS: Powerful remote control; installs quickly.
CONS: High price for nonessential gadget; customizing it can be hard.
COMPANY: Keyspan (510/222-0131, http://www.keyspan.com).
COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $79.