If you're a home theater geek, chances are your days are spent juggling several different remotes and TV inputs. Caavo, a startup from the folks behind the original Sling box, hopes to make your life a bit easier with its set-top box, which can control up to eight different devices at once. Think of it like a super-powered universal remote: It not only lets you easily swap between all the gadgets under your TV, but you can also use it to search for stuff to watch across them. And yes, that includes streaming offerings on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as live TV.
At $399, though, Caavo is clearly aiming for a very niche audience. And since it's another box you have to hook up and configure in your home theater, it doesn't really do much to simplify clutter. Sure, it means you'll only have a single cable connected to your TV or receiver, but all of your other devices and cables will still be nearby.
Caavo sure is attractive, though, with a removable wood top that sets it apart from most other home theater boxes. It's also fairly wide, so you'll likely need to make room on your TV stand. Luckily, since it doesn't really emit much heat, the company says you can easily place other devices right on top of it.
The most intriguing aspect of Caavo is its universal switching and searching capabilities. After logging into your streaming services, you can use its remote to search for movies and TV shows with your voice. Ask it to play Bob's Burgers, for example, and it will immediately start playing the show on Netflix via one of your streaming devices. You can also specify which device specific services launch on (for example, Amazon Video shows can be configured only to launch through your Fire TV). Since it's keeping track of all of your streaming habits, it also lets you quickly pick up where you left off.
Caavo automatically handles all of the input switching as you're hopping between devices, so there's no need to juggle remotes. And if you just wanted to start playing a game on your PlayStation 4, you just need to turn on your game controller and Caavo will automatically switch over. The developers also showed off Amazon Alexa integration, which works just like the voice commands with its remote.
While it can handle 4K content, Caavo doesn't yet support any HDR standards. The company says it's working on building in HDR10 support, which can be added in a software update down the line. Unfortunately, there are no plans to include Dolby Vision support, since that would require additional hardware. That's a shame, since there are already plenty films and TV shows relying on Dolby's standard. Of course, you could always connect a Dolby Vision-capable device to your TV separately, but that instantly defeats the point of Caavo.
Aside from its price, the biggest issue with Caavo is that it seems to be solving a problem that's already fixing itself. It's built for a world where you might have an Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast hooked up to your TV, alongside game consoles and cable boxes. But there simply isn't much reason to be juggling multiple streaming devices these days, especially when many consumers can just use the apps built into their TVs or game consoles. And if you're just hopping between a few devices, I'd wager most people would rather save the $399 and live with a bit of inconvenience.
Caavo CEO Andrew Einaudi and co-founder Ashish Aggarwal recognize that their box isn't exactly for everyone, yet. The company is currently aiming for home theater enthusiasts who wouldn't mind paying a bit for seamless TV watching (though I wonder how those folks would stomach limited HDR capabilities). Pre-orders will kick off in May, and it plans to ship the device later in 2017. Next year, it's considering a smaller and cheaper model that could appeal to more mainstream buyers.
Caavo is certainly a noble attempt at simplifying our home theaters, but I can't help but think it'd be more useful as something that's integrated in an A/V receiver, rather than a standalone box.