Part of the appeal of the Square Connect control solution going into this review was its SQ Remote iOS app. A whopping $29.99 if purchased as a standalone remote control for the Mi Casa Verde Vera home automation server or free with the purchase of the SQ Blaster. And if you're a multiple iOS device family then you can copy your final SQ Remote configuration -- including all the automated macros and meticulously crafted button and panel layouts -- to each and every idevice in the house. An ideal solution for us since we have an iPhone 4 in the pocket and a previously unused iPhone 3G in a drawer.
Although we tried to avoid it, the SQ Remote manual is required reading. A humbling act for gadget nerds but a requirement in this case. Fortunately, once indoctrinated into the Square Connect ways you'll quickly toss it aside, never to be referenced again.
Adding devices is standard fare for anyone who's ever setup a programmable remote. First you search a database for preconfigured IR codes for the components you own. We instantly found three of our five test devices: an exact match for a one-year old WD TV Live streamer and two matches for the device families that cover a two-year old Epson projector and a ten-year old JVC receiver. We had to teach the SQ Blaster about a Samsung DVT set-top box and Iyama TV by pointing each device's remote control at the SQ Blaster's IR Learning port, then cycling through every button we wanted to map onto the SQ Remote's button layout. A tedious process, to be sure. The Z-Wave home automation devices were added automatically just as soon as we entered the Vera home automation gateway's login credentials into SQ Blaster's configuration panel.
With the devices added, you're now ready to create the carousel "control pads" and populate each with the device you want to control. For our setup, we created just three control pads: "Home," is our Z-Wave command console for lights, socket adapters, and sensors; "Movie," includes all the controls for managing the projector, video streamer, lighting, and surround sound; and "TV" is used to primarily control the television and set-top box. Each pad can be further augmented with up to six slide-out panels arranged along the side for more logical control of your devices. In other words, you place the buttons you use most frequently on the main control pad with any extended functionality you might occasionally require placed within the side panels. At least that was the solution that worked best for us. Fortunately, Square Connect provides several preconfigured button layouts -- both generic and specific to the devices found in its database -- which can be automatically assigned to each device you own. You can also assign button controls one at a time and reassign and reposition the controls anytime you wish. When we say the software is flexible, we mean flexible
We do miss the ability to copy and paste assigned control sets across different panels and pads. For example, we wish we could copy and paste the audio controls from the Movie pad to the TV pad instead of recreating these from scratch each time. This became especially tiresome while optimizing our SQ Remote button layouts as we had to repeat the changes on every panel using the same controls. A snap-to grid feature to help keep the buttons allignd was also sorely missed.
The biggest issue we have (which isn't big at all in the grand scheme of things) with this kind of solution is the lack of a known device state -- an issue that affects all programmable remotes
. Our JVC receiver lacks discrete IR codes for power on / off or for switching device outputs. As such, SQ Remote isn't actually telling it to turn on, it's just telling it to toggle its state. Occasionally, this created issues with macros like "Movie On" (created to switch on all the devices required to watch a film on the home theater projector) by inadvertently shutting off the receiver that had been turned on earlier in the day as the macro blindly cycled through its list of commands. Some IR Blaster solutions provide add-ons that will measure the voltage of attached devices to determine its state -- Square Connect doesn't. In our usage, this wasn't really an issue but could be in households where many people have control over the remotes.