As promised, Caavo on Wednesday (February 14) opened up sales of a new TV-connected device equipped with a voice remote and software and a UI that can command and control a wide variety of other devices, including streaming players, set-top boxes, MVPD-supplied set-tops and gaming consoles.
Caavo has limited the initial run to 5,000 units, selling them for $399 each. That “Deluxe Set” includes a customizable top-case (offered in three wood-grain finishes), lifetime service, as well as cloth-covered HDMI and Ethernet cables, HDMI extender and IR accessories.
The Caavo device is equipped with eight HDMI ports that can connect to other TV-connected devices, and uses a lightweight client to detect them and then tie them together with a unified interface.
Instead of requiring the user to toggle manually between separate devices to hunt down what they are looking for, Caavo strives to be smart enough to bring them all together on a single platform and experience, allowing a user, for example, to search for and access a show or movie from individual apps or from a recording made to a local DVR from any of the various devices that are connected to Caavo.
Caavo, a CE company that includes the late Blake Krikorian among its co-founders, has raised about $32.5 million.
Initial product reviews of Caavo are a bit mixed, as most pointed to the device’s current lack of support for high dynamic range. Here’s a snapshot from three of them:
-Caavo “is like a little TV butler,”The Verge’s Nilay Patel explained, noting that Caavo can help build watchlists based on what services they subscribe to (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, etc.). Though he sees Caavo as a great idea, it’s also a product “that needs a little more polish.”
“After using a review unit for several days, it’s clear that Caavo has the most interesting idea about the future of remote controls anyone’s had in years. It’s also clear that it’s a very complicated, expensive idea that isn’t quite ready yet.”
Patel set up Caavo with a TiVo Roamio Pro, an Xbox One, a Chromecast and Apple TV, and said it took him about 20 minutes to get it all connected and running.
He said the biggest limitation was no support for HDR Caavo does support 4K today, but told Patel that there isn’t a chipset it can use to support both in an eight-port HDMI setup.
-CNET’s David Katzmaier gave Caavo an overall score of 6.9. While giving Caavo high marks for its unique universal remote control and HDMI switching system, he said the product’s lack of support for HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos “is unforgivable for a product this expensive.”
It also took him a couple of hours to get the system up and running with source devices that included a Verizon Fios HD DVR, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, Apple TV 4K, Oppo Blu-ray player, an Onkyo receiver.
“The Caavo's setup is as easy as it can be for a complex home-theater system, but that doesn't mean it's fast,” he noted.
He also noted that cheaper options such as the Logitech Harmony hubs and hub/remote combos also do a good job for consumers who find themselves “juggling multiple remotes.” He was likewise hopeful that a next version from Caavo would be less expensive “perhaps less visual flair” and support for HDR. “If that happens, Harmony will have a problem on its hands.”
-Wired’s Jeffrey Van Camp gave Caavo a rating of 7 out of 10, calling it the “ultimate universal TV remote,” but lamented that setup “can be laborious and frustrating, depending on your devcies.”
Though Caavo’s price isn't right for everyone, Camp said he’s the “ideal customer for Caavo,” given that he has at least a half dozen remotes and game controllers strewn about.
Some things were hit and miss. His Roku set up fine, but the Fire TV did not. He also ran into some trouble integrating his Sonus sound bar.
“For all its proposed convenience, it’s clear that Caavo is still a very new, beta product that looks more elegant than it works (at least, for now),” he wrote, later bringing up its lack of support for HDR and Dolby Atmos as a significant shortcoming, as well as its inability to deeplink into apps on a game console.
But had liked Caavo’s voice recognition system and said the product “switches between devices better than anything I’ve ever used.”
“Setting up the Caavo could be a lot easier, to put it mildly, but for me the juice was worth the squeeze,” Van Camp noted in the review wrap up.