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Blumoo review: Control all your home entertainment gear from one app

Susie Ochs | May 28, 2014
With a few app updates and a syncing feature, Blumoo will be indispensible.

I can't juggle, unless you count juggling a separate remote control for every piece of gear in my entertainment center. A task like watching a movie means changing an input with one remote, grabbing a second remote to push the play button, and controlling the volume with a third. Blumoo is designed to replace all your remotes--and it lets you customize the perfect virtual remote with only the controls you want, exactly where you want them. Oh, and there's also the extra bonus of adding Bluetooth streaming to your older audio gear.

Blumoo works like the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Hub, receiving signals from a smartphone app and then blasting out the approrpriate IR signals to control your TV, stereo receiver, DVD and Blu-ray players, CD player, cable box, whatever. While the Ultimate Hub connects to your smartphone over Wi-Fi, Blumoo uses Bluetooth 4.0, so it works even if your Wi-Fi is down. It's easy to set up, and while the app badly needs a makeover, it's a convenient way to make all your entertainment gear work together smoothly, regardless of brand or vintage.

Set up Blumoo to replace your remotes
The Blumoo device, called the HomeBase, is about 2 by 3 inches, looking like a small futuristic coffee mug. One wire trails from the back, leading to a connector with ports for the AC power brick, the included 3.5mm-to-RCA audio cable, and an optional infrared extension, which isn't included. All you have to do is plug it in and set it near your home theater gear.

The audio cable only needs to be connected if you're intereseted in streaming audio from your phone (or tablet, or computer) to a stereo receiver or set of powered speakers using the Blumoo's Bluetooth. I connected the included cable to an unused RCA input on my receiver, but you can sub in a 3.5mm-to--3.5mm audio cable if your system has that kind of input.

You also need to install the app on a smartphone or tablet running Android 4.0 or iOS 6.0, and your iOS device has to support Bluetooth 4.0, so that's iPhone 4S, iPad 3, and iPad mini and newer. There's no native iPad app, which is a shame, but the iPhone app's overly small buttons actually benefit from being blown up to 2x on an iPad screen.

Blumoo supports 200,000 devices, and the app makes adding new ones easy. I had to scroll through a huge list of brands to find Toshiba (my 7-year-old, non-smart HDTV) and Sony (my 15-year-old stereo receiver), but after that it's a simple matter of letting the app test various power codes to turn your particular model of device on or off, while you report whether each one worked. If the app says it doesn't have a power code, that means it can't turn that device on or off to confirm for you that it's working--that's the case with the Apple TV and some other gear that doesn't get power-cycled enough to have a button on the remote for it. If you see that message, just add the device anyway and use its remote screen to test whether it's working.

 

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