Ahanix iMON Review

Highs

  • Compatible with almost every Windows program
  • functional mouse feature
  • easy to setup.

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 4

Lows

  • No record
  • page up
  • page down or enter buttons
  • mouse takes time to get used to.
The Ahanix iMON infrared remote control and included software make a powerful multimedia combination.

Summary

The Ahanix iMON infrared remote control and included software make a powerful multimedia combination. Users of Media Center PCs and home-built HTPCs alike will appreciate its usefulness, relatively easy configuration and customizable features.

Lacking only a few key buttons useful in PVR functions, which the company includes in another version of the remote, there isn’t much more that we could ask for with the iMON remote. The remote does what the company says it can do and it does it well.

At under $70, this is one piece of hardware that really does help to bridge the gap between computing and home entertainment.

Introduction

With Media Center PCs and custom built home theater PCs (HTPCs) bridging the gap between computing and home entertainment, one key issue remains: controlling the device. The problem lies in trying to manage a computer that up until now has been controlled by a mouse and a keyboard, from the comfort of your couch. Optical or roller-ball mice generally won’t cut it because they require a flat surface, which is often hard to find when lounging back in your couch to enjoy your digital entertainment.

Gyration has come up with some innovative designs, creating a mouse-like remote that utilizes internal gyroscopes so mouse movements can be accomplished with the flick of your wrist. And ATI includes a radio-frequency remote control with a thumb-pad mouse control with their All-In-Wonder line of multimedia video cards. But there was something lacking in each of those designs.

Enter the Wireless Freedom iMON remote control by Ahanix. The iMON is an average-sized infrared remote control that includes all of the number and application keys common to home theater PC functions. Supplied to us by online retailer Sharka, at under $70, the iMON just might be the device to finish off your home-built HTPC or store-bought Media Center PC.


Included with the iMON is the remote, infrared reciever, two batteries and software.

Design and Features

The iMON looks and feels like any regular multi-purpose remote control and could easily get lost among the sea of remotes in your living room or home theater. It is a black plastic control that runs on two AAA batteries. While the Gyration and ATI solutions are radio-frequency based, the iMON operates via infrared. The IR sensor is a small transparent and black plastic sphere that almost looks like an oversized eyeball. It sits on a small base that comes with a sticky backing so it doesn’t move around on you. The device hooks up to any Windows PC (98 and up) via USB and features a 3 ½-foot cord allowing you to position the “eye” where you want. Ahanix lists minimum system requirements as a 500MHz Pentium III, which is just about the minimum required for a basic HTPC anyway.

With 43 keys, the iMON can control almost anything on your HTPC that you would want, and it also features programmable actions and macros to add even more functionality. What sets the iMON apart from other PC-based remote controls is the joystick mouse. The mouse is a joystick located in the center of the remote and is easily operated with a thumb. It takes some getting used to as we found it hard to stop our cursor on the icon we wanted at first, but eventually we were able to get the hang of it. The remote/mouse includes all of the regular buttons associated with a mouse and mouse-based navigation such as left-click, right-click, forward and back. Pushing the joystick down works like a double-click on a standard mouse and there is even a ‘drag and drop’ button that proved to be very useful to us.

The iMON’s USB receiver can also be programmed to work with any other remote control you may have, making it useful for a host of other applications.

Our review unit included a software version that was out of date but we were able to download the latest drivers and software from the iMON website. One great feature of the latest software is a home theater PC front end, called Multi-Median, which provides access to photos, music, videos and even live TV if you have a TV tuner. Multi-Median can also record and pause live TV, like a PVR application would.

The iMON software has presets to control a number of media applications such as Winamp, Windows Media Player, Power DVD and many others. These files allow you to load presets that have defined actions tied to certain keys on the remote. If the application you want to control is not available as a preset, the software allows you to easily add supported programs and settings, so virtually any program you can load on your computer can be controlled by the iMON.

Useful keys on the remote include:

  • Application Launcher – this key allows you to select and run a program from a pre-defined list. Any program can be added to this list with ease.
  • Task Switcher – this key acts as alt-tab does in Windows, allowing you to easily switch between running applications.
  • Application Exit – this button will close any active window, like the alt-F4 does in Windows.
  • Power Off – holding this button down for more than two seconds will power down your computer.
  • Screen Saver – hitting this button will automatically launch the screensaver.
  • Desktop – this key works the same as the “Show Desktop” key in the Windows toolbar.
  • Max/Res – allows you to maximize or minimize windows and can be set up to adjust monitor resolution.
  • Windows Start – there is a Windows Start button that acts just like the same button on your keyboard.
  • Tab and Shift Tab – these two buttons act just like their keyboard counterparts do.
  • Escape – functions like the Escape key in Windows.
  • Space and Backspace – these buttons act like their keyboard counterparts do.

In addition, the iMON has an almost full set of media controls including, play, pause, open, previous, next, stop, rewind, fast-forward and full-screen. Unfortunately the remote control included with the iMON is missing a few key buttons. There is no ‘record’, ‘enter’, ‘channel up’ or ‘channel down’ button, which would be useful for PVR features. These buttons are included, however, on another Ahanix product, the iMON MM version remote.

Another feature of the remote and the iMON software is a sleep timer. The timer can be set to shutdown your computer at a specific time or sound an audible alarm after a certain amount of time.

And finally, the software allows you to set up a number of macros – key combinations assigned to specific functions on the remote control. For instance, you can use a macro to sign you on to your e-mail account or to log into a particular Website or application.

Setup and Configuration

Installing the iMON hardware and software is as easy as any other USB device. Simply run the install application, plug the USB receiver into an available USB port, locate the drivers for the hardware and you are ready to go.

The iMON comes pre-configured to control Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Windows Media Player and any other media applications you may have installed. As part of the setup routine, the software scans your hardware for media applications. For instance, on our test machine we already had Winamp and WinDVD installed, so the iMON software automatically added those two programs and specific keys to its list of applications.

Adding other applications is as easy as going into the setup feature, giving it a name, locating the executable, and then manually setting up remote’s keys. Setting up the keys can be tedious, but you only have to do it once. Ahanix provides a list of preset files for 32 different applications. They also have a Web forum where users can trade presets that they created for different programs, but unfortunately that forum is only in Korean.


It is very easy to configure the iMON to work with any application.

While Ahanix says the remote control should only be used at up to a 45-degree angle from the receiver eye, we found that with a fresh pair of batteries we could basically point the remote anywhere and the eye would register the command.

Setting up other household remotes to work with the iMON is incredibly easy as well. So while the iMON doesn’t have a record button like we would have wanted for our PVR, we were able to use an old Mitsubishi VCR remote and configure it for that purpose. What’s one more remote on your coffee table, right?

Accessing Your Media and Applications

Accessing your files and applications is effortless with the iMON. Once you get used to the key layout, you can control everything on your home theater computer with relative ease. If you don’t have a specific key set configured for the remote, you can always use the mouse buttons just like you normally would on a PC.

Whether you access your media with the separate media programs such as Winamp and Windows Media Player, or you use the downloadable Multi-Median software, controlling them couldn’t be easier.


The Multi-Median software plays your media files in an easy to read and configure format.

The Multi-Median software is quite a powerful application, especially for something that is available as a free download. It doesn’t have an advanced TV scheduling application, but besides that, it can handle most PVR and multimedia functions with ease. We also tested the iMON with Snapstream’s Beyond TV 3 HTPC front end and we had no problem configuring the hardware to work with it. The only problem we encountered with both HTPC front end programs was the lack of a record button.

Multi-Median provides a slick interface for viewing pictures and videos and listening to music. With it you can put music to slideshows, select custom backgrounds and do just about anything Microsoft’s Media Center front end can do.

Conclusion

The Ahanix iMON infrared remote control and included software make a powerful multimedia combination. Users of Media Center PCs and home-built HTPCs alike will appreciate its usefulness, relatively easy configuration and customizable features.

Lacking only a few key buttons useful in PVR functions, which the company includes in another version of the remote, there isn’t much more that we could ask for with the iMON remote. The remote does what the company says it can do and it does it well.

At under $70, this is one piece of hardware that really does help to bridge the gap between computing and home entertainment.