Infra Red(IR) vs Bluetooth vs Wired Remotes Compared, Which One Should I Choose?
One of the most common things when purchasing and installing home AV and communications equipment is what type of remote does this come with? and which is best? The three most common types are Infra-red, Bluetooth(wireless) and wired remote controls. In this blog I discuss what the difference is between them together with the pro’s and con’s of each to hopefully help you come to an informed choice as to which is best for you. Without any further ado, let’s begin!
Infra-Red(IR) Remotes Explained
IR remotes traditionally are the most common type of remote control/ handset still used by most AV equipment like DVD players, satellite receivers, Sky/ Freesat boxes, AV receivers, Soundbars and amplifiers among others. I’m sure you have already concluded that IR(Infra-red) remotes work with the sending and receiving of commands over infra-red light, and you would be correct! The remotes work with each button on your handset representing a certain amount of pulses of infra-red light which is picked up by your infra-red receiver which completes the command. As it’s infra-red light, it’s just below the frequency range that is detectable by the human eye meaning that you can’t see it, which is nice as you would otherwise have regular flashes of light around your living room each time you press a button.
PRO- It’s Wireless
The reason why infra-red remote gained in popularity is that they were wireless, meaning that you do things like turn your TV over without having to get up and physically turn your TV over or trail a lead across your lounge to save you the effort of having to do this. Depending on the type of remote you have this may come with a charger and cable, but this is not very common as most are powered with AA or AAA batteries.
PRO- Easily Expandable Across Multiple TV Positions
If you ever had something like a Sky RF2 playback system you will already know that the system could be set up so you could view and control your Sky box all around your house. This was done with the installation of remote eyes by your additional TV positions that would receive the infra-red commands and send these back to the Sky box via the same coax cable. This could be done with any piece of AV equipment theoretically but instead of a direct connection to an RF2-like output, the cable would connect to an infra-red emitter that would be carefully placed in front of the IR sensor on the device you wished to control. This is also very common with HDMI equipment where you send the signals over Cat5/6 data cabling where the infra red commands can also be sent over the same cabling and equipment.
PRO- Can Be Used To Hide AV Equipment
I have already written a blog on ‘How To Hide AV Equipment & Control It’ which I recommend that you read when you’re done here, but with the installation or IR wands/ emitters and infra-red eyes you can use this to hide the AV equipment away out of site within a cupboard/ something similar or away in a discreet location like under the stairs. The IR emitters and eyes act as like an IR transmitter and receiver picking up IR commands from your handset and relaying back to control the AV equipment.
Con – Needs Line of Sight (Usually)
A downside of Infra-red remotes is that they need line of sight to be able to control the equipment, usually. What is meant by usually is that you can often tuck equipment behind things like wall mounted TV’s and the remotes can often still work as the infra-red light pulses can bounce off nearby walls allowing the commands to receive the AV equipment. It helps if you have light coloured or white walls where the light will bounce around more easily than with darker coloured walls. This type of set up can be common where something like a Sky Q mini-box has been installed behind a wall-mounted TV. If you’re doing something like this it is recommended that install your Sky box or similar so that the infra-red sensor faces outwards.
Obviously, this is a con, but this can easily be over-come with the installation or infra red distribution equipment which you would obviously need to purchase and may require the help of a professional TV aerial installer in setting up.
Con- Can Interfere With Other AV Equipment
If you have multiple pieces of AV equipment and if you’re very unlucky, you may find that one button and command on one of your IR handsets also performs another function on another piece of your equipment, meaning that for example when you press ‘1’ on one handset it might perform something like ‘play’ on your DVD player. This is quite uncommon but the reason for this is that as infra-red commands work with pulses of infra-red light and two of your devices just happen to share a number of pulses for one of the commands. Like I said, this isn’t very common but you do encounter this, obviously manufactures to avoid this will use a different number of pulses on their products but it’s inevitable that there will be cross-overs between manufacturers with some numbers of pulses. There is no real solution for this problem other than to replace one of the pieces of equipment that is being interfered with or to disconnect one from the power supply when it is not in use as it can become very frustrating this happens, especially with SCART devices as they have a source-switching pin in them that tells the TV to swicth over when it powers on!
Bluetooth Remotes Explained
Bluetooth remotes are becoming increasingly popular as time goes on. Bluetooth works over Radio Frequency (RF) at 2.45Ghz which is similar to your WIFI signal from your broadband router. Nearly all games consoles like Playstations, Xbox’s and Nintendo Wii all use Bluetooth remotes, aswell as Sky Q boxes, many Smart TV sticks, sound bars/ sound systems and lots of TV’s themselves also come with a Bluetooth handset.
PRO- No Wires
Again, and I hate to state the obvious but with Bluetooth no wires are required to for Bluetooth Remotes as they work over Radio frequency. That’s all I will say here.
PRO- Doesn’t Require Line of Sight
This can be a huge advantage when you want to hide your AV equipment away, as you can put in inside a cupboard/ cabinet or behind the TV itself and providing that you’re within the range of the wireless Bluetooth signal it will work as if you're right in front of it. At a set up at my previous house we lived in, we had a games console in the lounge feeding a lounge TV and a bedroom TV with HDMI distribution equipment (HDMI over CAT5/6), as the bedroom was just above the lounge the Bluetooth remote would work fine in the bedroom to control the games console in the lounge. This meant we only had a TV on the wall in the bedroom which made things much neater. This isn’t always possible and you may need to find someway of extending your Bluetooth signal to do this over longer distances. Also, not requiring line of sight also means that you do not need to point the remote directly at the TV or AV equipment to be able to control it.
PRO- Doesn’t Interfere With Other Devices
As previously mentioned within the Infra-red remote section, it is possible, if you’re unlucky that your remote may accidentally control another piece of your AV equipment. This doesn’t happen with the Bluetooth Remotes as part of the set up process involve pairing your remote with the equipment that you wish to control. This is usually quite simple as touching buttons on each of the devices at the same time or something similar.
PRO- Easily Integrates Across Manufacturers and Equipment
As Bluetooth is now a standard that the majority of manufacturers will built to, it makes it easy to interconnect devices to perform a multitude of different functions. This may include, but not limited to wireless connections to TV’s, with technologies such as Screen Mirroring you can view your mobile devices such as Smart phones and tablets on your TV screen, wireless connections to Sound systems and soundbars and other ways and means of exchanging communications between devices. Not only is Bluetooth wireless, but it can also help some of the other interconnecting wires in your Home Entertainment set-up.
CON- Typically The Most Expensive
If you’re purchasing control equipment that is Bluetooth compatible you should expect you pay more than if it is a wired or IR remote. This is because there is a lot more to it than the other types. An example of this after a quick Google Search, a standard Xbox wireless controller is £54.99($77 US approx.) and a wired version can be purchased for £20 ($28 US approx.).This is true across devices and some Bluetooth Handsets can be surprisingly expensive.
CON – Not Always Compatible
If you have some older type equipment, there is a chance that these never had built-in Bluetooth so your Bluetooth handset may not work with it, whereas nearly all equipment will have a wired or Infra-red option. This is changing over time however with some new equipment that only works over Bluetooth. You may find however with a small USB wireless adapter, like is the case with Bluetooth Keyboards that you still connect wireless to older types of equipment.
CON- Requires Batteries or Charging
If you have young children who play lots of computer games I'm sure you already aware as to how quick they can go through the batteries, especially the cheap ones you find within the pound shops. Although Infra-red remotes usually also need batteries the battery life tends to last much longer. A couple of suggestions to minimise the amount of battery changes required would be to get a chargable remote or re-chargable batteries where you can.
CON- More EMF’s
This is included as I do have customers and clients that have such concerns. If you’re concerned out the build-up of wireless EMF’s in our your home and environment, then you may want to consider ditching the Bluetooth devices and choosing infra-red or wired remote controls instead.
Wired Remotes Explained
Wired remotes are perhaps the easiest to understand of them all, a wired inter-connects between your equipment and remote control and it uses this to control the equipment. This was never common with TV’s, but was common with early games consoles and is still pretty common with PC’s with wired keyboards and computer mouses (I believe that to be the correct plural?). Most modern wired controllers typically use a USB type connection nowadays.
PRO- Cheapest To Buy
Of the three, the wired option will nearly always be the cheapest. I have already given an example of this with the Xbox controllers but another would be a wired keyboard for a PC, a quick Google Search for a wired USB keyboard comes back with a £5.98 option ($8.40 US approx.), whereas a similar Bluetooth wireless keyboard would cost £20 approx. (about $28 US).
PRO- Very Easy Set Up
It’s usually very easy to set up and you usually just plug it in and go, on some occasions like on PC’s you may need to install Drivers but most of the time you don’t.
PRO - No Batteries or Charging Required
Usually on most wired devices, the device itself is powered via the cable from the device that you wish to control. This means that you do not have to worry about the batteries running out and having to but new batteries or re-charge the thing!
CON- Very Restrictive
The biggest con of using wired controllers over wireless versions is that you’re restricted to the length of the cable as to where you can use it. If you're connecting between fixed equipment like between PC's, printers, keyboards and mouse(s) this most likely won’t be a problem \,but it can be for things like games consoles where you would have to have the leads trailing across your room or maybe you would need to sit very close to your TV. Longer leads and extension leads can often be purchased but you can still have the same problems.
One thing that wireless devices achieve is that they an tidy things up considerably. Imagine having wired controls for every device that you have. You would need to do some significant cable management to hide the wires.
IR/ Bluetooth Remote Questions – In Blog Comments Section Below Please
I hope you enjoyed my latest offering, if you did please do check out some of our other blogs. I hoped this helped you find the best remote option for you. I'm sure you can see that differs between what you're requirements are. Please note that all prices quoted within the article are true at the time of writing and will be subject to charge. If you have any comments and/or questions as a result of this article please POST THEM IN THE BLOG COMMENTS SECTION BELOW ONLY PLEASE and I will endeavour to answer ASAP. I answer these myself but please be patient as I am a very busy man with lots of children.
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Until next time,
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