Sunday, February 19, 2006

Griffin AirClick RF iPod Remote: The 433.92MHz problem

The Griffin AirClick is supposed to control an iPod from up to 60 feet away (presumably that's with no intervening objects, no interfering signals, and a fresh battery). I'm getting a line of sight range of about 10 feet, and about 12 inches if a wooden door is in the way.

Oookaaay. Not great. Why? Griffin makes good stuff and the build quality of this device seems very good. On the other hand it's not just me. I knew from the Amazon reviews (far and away the best source of product information on the net) that other people are getting similarly awful results. The happiest users used it on a bicycle with a range of 3 feet (yes, that's a rude and dangerous way to ride). Of course I knew that beforehand, and since I paid $20 for this device (on sale since it's incompatible with newer iPods), I'm not all that annoyed.

Griffin's tech support article tells part of the story:
I am getting short range, what can I do? - Griffin Technology:

The most likely variable to cause this issue is RF interference. There are several things that can cause RF interference such as speaker systems, CRT monitors, wireless phones, or wireless networking devices [jf: anything that uses the ubiquitous 433.92MHz frequency]. If you suspect such a device is causing your issue, the following steps should help you isolate the source of the problem.

Move to another room, away from the source of the interference. Test the AirClick again by having another person hold the iPod with the AirClick connected. Slowly walk away from that person while pressing buttons on your AirClick remote. When the the iPod/AirClick stops receiving commands from the remote, have the other person signal you. Make note of the distance you have now covered. If that distance is greater than the distance you were getting with the iPod near the source of the interference, then most likely your AirClick is working correctly. If the two distances are the same, try replacing the battery inside the remote. You can open the Remote Control unit by removing the three small screws, and replace with a CR2032-type battery or equivalent.
I'll test outdoors to check the battery, but I suspect the key problem is use of the unregulated 433.92 FM range. This range is commonly used for home security systems, and we have a home security system. We also have an 802.11b LAN and a wireless phone, but I think they're well out of range. My money is on the home security system.

For now it works a bit less well than an IR remote, but it's not completely useless. Worth about what I paid.

This may explain why most vendors stick with IR remotes. We need a different RF technology for workable remote control devices. Bluetooth won't do, it's short range and penetrates poorly. Maybe ultra-wideband.

I would recommend against buying any device that relies on the 433.92 frequency -- alas, I suspect that's almost everything for now.

Update: See this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i WOULD recoment against buying this crap remote.

i bought it - and it worked for about 2 minutes - but then it seems to overload and fails to work. i have to unplug the receiver, reconnect it, and then it works again for another 2 minutes...

its ridiculous...

leave it for the stupid mac sure they will be amazed by it. get a proper remote...