The key to an enjoyable, user-friendly media experience is to choose the right remote control.
But how you can find the ideal remote?
In this post, I will show you the perfect way to control your entertainment center using a Logitech Harmony Smart remote control and Flirc adapter.
Over the years, I have tried many remote controls and IR receivers, but nothing has ever worked perfectly until I found this combo: Flirc USB adapter and Logitech Harmony Smart remote control.
If you prefer not to use the Logitech Harmony, I will also show you how to use Flirc to control your HTPC, Raspberry Pi or Amazon Fire TV running Kodi (was XBMC) media center using any remote.
In order to complete this guide, you will need:
Why you should choose Flirc over HDMI CEC
The Flirc is a little USB infrared receiver that outputs presses on a remote control button as keyboard input to any app such as Kodi.
HDMI CEC is a technology that allows your TV and HTPC to talk with each other over the HDMI cable. In other words, you can use your TV’s remote control to send key presses to the Kodi or any other application that supports libCEC on your HTPC.
If your TV is not HDMI CEC capable, then the only practical way to control HTPC with your TV remote (or with Logitech Harmony) is with the Flirc USB IR receiver.
However, if you have a modern TV with HDMI CEC capability, you might wonder what is the point of having a Flirc device if you can use, for example, Raspberry Pi with the built-in HDMI CEC adapter.
The reason why I favor Flirc over HDMI CEC is the flexibility.
I have been testing Raspberry Pi and HTPC with the HDMI CEC adapter to control the Kodi with my TV remote.
While the HDMI CEC adapter works fine for the predefined keys, I needed more flexibility to map custom shortcuts and buttons (e.g., full screen mode) with my remote control.
Furthermore, if you want to use other applications on a Windows-based HTPC, such as Steam Big Picture then, unlike the HDMI CEC adapter, the Flirc allows you to control any application that supports keyboard commands.
Next, I will show you two optional ways to use Flirc:
- Option 1 involves using Flirc with a Harmony Smart Control.
- Option 2 explains how to use Flirc with any remote control.
Option 1: Setting up Flirc with Logitech Harmony remote control
If you are not planning to use the Logitech Harmony remote control, you can skip this step.
While you can use any remote with Flirc, according to my extensive tests, you can achieve the best user experience with Logitech Harmony Smart Control.
These are the main benefits of using Logitech Harmony Smart Control and Flirc:
- Use one remote to control all devices including Amazon Fire TV
- Control your devices through cabinets and walls
- Remote control doesn’t need line-of-sight for it to work
- Easy setup with your smartphone (no pairing is needed)
- Find content faster via custom activities
The awesome Flirc team has added a default Kodi profile to the Logitech Harmony database, so your Flirc will work with the Harmony without any additional pairing.
Setup the Harmony Hub
|The Harmony Smart remote control can control up to 6 activities. I would recommend using this remote instead of your smartphone to control your entertainment center.|
|Place the Harmony Hub next to your media device and TV. Then, plug the hub into a power supply.|
|You can use the IR mini blaster to reach devices such as the Flirc adapter that are out of view of the Harmony Hub.|
Install and configure Harmony App
Now, let’s install the Harmony App to configure the Harmony Smart Remote Control.
|Install the Harmony App on your smartphone and then launch the app. Select “Set Up New Hub” on the “Welcome” screen. Press “Pair” button on your Hub.|
|After the app has connected to your Hub, you can see devices found on your WiFi network. Press “Next” button and select “Add Device” in the “Devices” screen.|
|Select “Entertainment Device” in the “Add Device” screen.|
|Enter “Flirc” to the “Manufacturer name” and “Kodi” to the “Model number” in the “Entertainment Device” screen. Press “Add” to complete the configuration. Now, you can see “Flirc Media Player” in the “Devices” list.|
Next, let’s proceed with an activity to control your home theater devices.
|In the “Activities” screen, press “Add Activity” button.|
|Next, type a name for the activity and choose an icon for this activity.|
|Then, select the devices you want to include in this activity. In the following screen, choose which device you use to control volume. Finally, select the input devices in this activity.|
|Now, you should be able to see and hear the content coming from your media device.|
That’s it! You are ready to control your entertainment system.
Option 2: Setting up Flirc with any remote control
If you don’t want to use Logitech Harmony universal remote, you can also use Flirc with any other remote control.
First get your own Flirc device (get it here), and then follow these instructions to set it up properly.
Setting up Flirc is easy and straightforward:
- Download the Flirc GUI software
- Install GUI software on your Windows/Mac OSX/Linux computer
- Plugin the Flirc device to your computer
- Select a suitable controller configuration from the “Controllers” menu
- Map the keys with your remote
After the key-mapping is completed, you are ready to use the USB IR receiver and your remote control with any computer, since the key mapping is saved directly to the device.
Let’s have a look at the different controller scenarios.
The simplest configuration is suitable for minimalist remote controls such as the Apple Remote. I use this with the Raspberry Pi 2 in my kids’ room.
- In the GUI app, go to the “Controllers” tab and select “Minimalist”
- Press the “go!” button to start the automated process
- Press the remote control’s buttons to pair them with the keys
Amazon Fire TV controller
Flirc is one of the best-selling accessories for Amazon Fire TV.
And no wonder.
Many users have been frustrated with Amazon Fire TV’s Bluetooth remote control, because you cannot control it with a traditional universal remote control.
Using Flirc, you can control all of your home theater devices including Fire TV with one remote control.
Simply select “Controllers” > “Fire TV” in the Flirc application and repeat the pairing process for each key separately.
Kodi (XBMC) controller
The Kodi controller configuration is suitable for TV remotes or simple universal remotes.
- In the GUI application, go to the “Controllers” tab and select “Kodi”.
- Press a key to start recording and then press a button to pair it.
- Repeat the pairing process separately for each key.
The full keyboard controller is suitable for more advanced users who want to personalize their remote control down to the smallest detail. Use this controller along with custom Kodi keymaps to achieve a truly personalized media experience.
The pairing process is exactly the same as with the Kodi controller.
Here are some common keys for Kodi (XBMC) use:
- Context menu (C)
- Fullscreen mode (TAB)
- Previous menu on the Homescreen (ESC)
- Fast forward (F)
- Rewind (R)
- Play (P)
- Stop (X)
- Pause/Play (SPACE)
- Skip forward (. period)
- Skip backward (, comma)
- Info (I)
- Jump to the top of the menu (Home)
- Volume down (- minus)
- Volume up (+ plus)
Live TV keys:
- Go between the two last channels (0 zero)
- Schedule recording timers (B)
- EPG/TV guide (E)
- Channels window (H)
- Radio channels window (J)
- Recordings window (K)
- Teletext (V)
Logitech Harmony Smart Control accompanied with the Flirc adapter is the best way to achieve an enjoyable user experience.
I have used MCE remotes, iOS applications, HDMI CEC adapters, keyboards, air mouses and more, but nothing beats the Flirc and Logitech Harmony Smart Control combination for both flexibility and reliability.
The only downside I can think of with Flirc is that, as with any infrared receiver, it will need a direct line of sight. In order to improve usability, I’d recommend using the Logitech Harmony Smart Control to reach your devices through cabinets and walls.