Review: Griffin AirClick
This review was originally written in May, but 7 months later we had to update some things to include the newest version of the AirClick, designed to be used with the Dock Connector on Fourth- or Fifth-Generation iPods. Below is the original review with the facts updated.
Griffin Technology has released yet another quality product for your iPod or computer — the AirClick. Taking a relatively old concept, the remote, and putting their own twist on it really makes the AirClick stand out.
AirClick (Remote Conenctor)
AirClick (Remote Conenctor) + iPod
AirClick (Dock Conenctor)
AirClick (Dock Conenctor) + iPod
The AirClick is available in four versions — one for Third- and Fourth-Generation iPods with a remote connector on top, one for the iPod mini, one for any iPods with a Dock Connector (except the Third Generation), and one for the USB port on any Mac or PC. All priced around $40, they’re quite competitive with many other remotes. What makes this family of remotes special is that they use radio signals instead of infrared for sending signals to the receiver. What this means is that, like cordless mice and keyboards, you don’t need to point it directly at the receiver for it to work.
The remote is the same for all three products and can be used interchangeably. The buttons on the remote are the same for most iPod remotes — play/pause, forward, backward, and volume. There’s also a hold switch to prevent accidental use. On the back of the remote is a quite competent belt clip.
AirClick for iPods
We tested the AirClick designed for full-sized iPods and the iPod photo, although we imagine that the version for the iPod mini would be similar. The remote and receiver match previous products, like DLO’s iDirect. Included in the package is a remote, a receiver that plugs in on the top of the iPod, and a multi-function holder.
Using the remote is fairly straightforward. You plug it in and it works. An LED on the receiver alerts you when buttons are pressed on the remote. The remote works when the iPod’s hold switch is on, just as others do.
The holder is an especially clever accessory. The remote’s belt clip securely locks in place, and the velcro strap can be used to attach it to your arm, a steering wheel, or a bike frame.
What makes an RF remote better than others is its flexibility. You can control your iPod from up to 60 feet away without having a direct line-of-sight. You can have your iPod stashed away in a bag and still control it. The possibilities are limitless.
What is limiting is the AirClick’s use with speaker systems, such as Altec Lansing’s inMotion, or anything that uses the iPod’s line-out signal. Since the line-out signal bypasses the iPod’s internal amplifier and volume controls, the AirClick’s volume controls also don’t work. This is the same situation with other remotes, too, as the line-out signal is intended to be free of adjustments. Of course, this is not a big deal if you are using the iPod with a stereo system that has its own remote.
Also to note is that the AirClick does not allow you to use any other top-mount accessories, as it ties up the remote and headphone connectors on the iPod.
A Word About the Newest AirClick
With the introduction of the iPod nano and the iPod with video, top-mounted accessories were no longer compatible. As a result, Griffin has introduced a new version of the AirClick that utilizes the Dock Connector on any iPod except the nano and Third-Generation models. Unfortunately, it does not allow use of the Dock Connector for anything else, such as a car charger, dockable speaker system, or FM transmitter. We tested one with a Fifth-Generation iPod and it worked flawlessly.
Just like the AirClick for iPods, the AirClick USB includes a receiver with an LED light and a remote with a belt clip. Also included are a USB extension cable and a driver CD. Since the receiver is slightly bigger than a USB flash drive, the USB cable allows you to use it with the most crowded of situations (such as on many laptops). The receiver also has a hinge to allow you to angle it to receive the best signal.
After installing the software, a small remote icon is placed in OS X’s menu bar. From there, you can pick what program you want the AirClick USB to control (this allows it to work even in the background, rather than detecting what program you’re in). Mac users can control the DVD Player, Keynote, iTunes, PowerPoint, QuickTime Player, radioSHARK, and VLC. Windows users get control over iTunes, Windows Media Player, PowerPoint, and QuickTime Player. Griffin promises support for other applications in future software releases.
No other options are available on the software, but none are really needed. When you press a button in iTunes or the various video programs, an on-screen bezel acknowledges the action. After a very brief time, it fades, just like the volume, eject, and Bluetooth notices in OS X.
Cleverly, the software adjusts the volume control in iTunes. If you exceed the upper or lower limits, the software adjusts the system volume control.
In our tests, everything worked fine, except when we tried to control Griffin’s own radioSHARK — nothing happened. Also the test Mac mini (with Tiger) and iBook G3 (with Panther) refused to stay asleep with the AirClick receiver plugged in. After contacting Griffin’s tech support staff, we were assured that this is only a problem with the firmware in early units.
On each receiver is a small hole, intended to be pushed with a paperclip or similar object. This allows you to tie a specific remote to a specific receiver, as out of the box, any AirClick remote will work with any AirClick receiver. We really wish Griffin would sell AirClick kits to include an extra receiver (imagine using your AirClick-equipped iPod in the car and then using the same remote with your AirClick-equipped computer at home). Of course, the current product lineup allows you to have a few extra remotes on hand if you choose to buy multiple AirClicks.
Overall, both products represent a tremendous value for anyone who wants to control their iPod or computer through walls or without having to point a remote directly at the receiver. We love Griffin’s peripherals, and the AirClick is no exception.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The AirClick is both an excellent iPod remote and a simple, effective remote for your computer.
Pros: Good price, excellent design, simple to use, included accessories handy
Cons: Some slight quirks with AirClick USB, limits use of other accessories on iPod versions