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7 Amazing Kinds of HTPC & Media Center Remote Controls

Kannon Yamada 24-05-2013

htpc windows media center remoteGot a media center? Ever tire of fumbling around with a full sized keyboard and mouse while trying to watch Hulu or Netflix? Not only can some controls dispense with the nasty tangle of cables, they also transform the HTPC experience.


Available controls range from free software that converts gamepads and smartphones into mice to expensive, bulky, multifunction “super-controllers”. The seven controls presented in this article provide an alternative means of interacting with your home theater PC, but are by no means the only solutions. They are, however, totally awesome and you need to read about them. Right now.

What is an Air Mouse?

The Air Mouse introduces a very recent innovation in wireless mouse technology, based on the same accelerometers found in your smartphone. Simply put, it can receive input information from the motion of your hand. Controlling the cursor simply involves waving the air mouse through the air. For example, the Measy RC11 Air Mouse provides a perfect complementary device to a stick-PC media center.

About half a dozen models of Air Mouse populate the Amazon and eBay marketplace, starting at around $20, with some going for well over $300. The more expensive devices tend to offer the same features as the cheaper models though. I can personally attest to the awesomeness of the cheapest model, which offered plug-and-play compatibility with Android stick-PCs as well as Windows 7 (and probably a great deal of other models). Amazingly, the Air Mouse also incorporates a keyboard – and some models even include a touchpad, in addition to accelerometer based control.

In my opinion the biggest advantage of accelerometer operated devices is their reliability – trackballs tend to become fouled over time and laser mice require a flat surface for operation.

htpc windows media center remote


Heard of the Power Glove? Try the Air Glove!

For those of you who (as I did) got fooled into buying a Nintendo Power Glove in the 1980s, I’ve got great news for you: someone finally made a Power Glove that actually works: The ION Wireless Air Mouse Glove.

media center remote control

On the downside, the air mouse gloves lack a dedicated keyboard as well as an alternative means of control, such as a touchpad. They can also run on the pricey side, starting at $80.

Wireless Media Center Controller

For the technophobes among us keyboard-mice combinations do exist. While cheap, compact and highly useful, these do not feel as awesome as the Air Mouse variants. For example, the Rii Mini Keyboard comes in at the size of a small television remote control, in both Bluetooth and RF variants. It also includes a laser pointer.


There’s a huge number of these devices available from manufacturers such as the Lenovo N5901 and Logitech DiNovo Mini. These devices generally support all major operating systems and functional almost exactly like a desktop mouse-keyboard would.

media center remote control

Touchpad variants, with full keyboards, also show up in various marketplaces. Personally, I advise against anything with a trackball, as they quickly become fouled and tend to lack user serviceable access.

Use Your Gamepad as a Wireless or Wired Mouse

Did you know it’s possible to control your media center (or any PC) using only your gamepad as the controller? It’s simple to setup. Softpedia wrote about two applications that can turn your gamepad into a mouse: Jmouse and Joystick 2 Mouse. Jmouse requires very little effort to get working, just install and deploy. On the other hand, Joystick 2 Mouse requires a great deal more configuration on the user’s part, but includes a much more feature-rich experience.


Ultimately, though, both apps turn the motion of your gamepad’s D-pad, or analog sticks, into mouse movement. If you’re anything like me, and you love analog sticks, these apps were designed just for you.

Wireless Gamepad Media Center Air Controller

For gamers who love their keyboards and remotes, a small number of devices can satiate their desires. The Cideko Conqueror Wireless Air Keyboard combines a huge number of functions into one not-so-small device. The Conqueror can provide both Air Mouse functions combined with gamepad and HTPC controls. However, it costs a great deal of money ($150) and looks quite large. The Conqueror can be found on eBay for around $80.

Cheaper and smaller devices do populate Amazon. For example, the Cideko Air Keyboard provides similar function as the Conqueror, except without the gamepad support.

media center remote control


Universal PC-TV Wireless Remote Controls

A number of universal remote controls can also double as HTPC controllers for your media center. These types of remote controls have modes of operation – you simply set the mode, TV or PC.

On the downside, these tend to be extremely expensive – especially relative to the competition. However, you get the added benefit of being able to control your television and HTPC with a single remote control.

htpc windows media center remote

Use Your Phone as a Controller

Did you know your phone can function as a remote control device? A variety of apps turn a smartphone’s capacitive screen into a touchpad remote. It simply requires installing an app on your phone in addition to your computer. The desktop software exists on all major operating systems, including Linux:

Simply install the app on both your smartphone and PC.


For those of us seeking more intuitive controls for media centers, having a dedicated remote control is awesome. Out of the available products, the Air Mouse technology represents a quantum leap toward this end. However, if new technologies aren’t your thing, a variety of traditional alternatives exist, as well as some oddball devices – if you’re into the weird stuff, that is.

One of the best media center software that I strongly recommend booting directly into is XBMC, available for all major operating systems. Justin wrote a great manual How to Set Up Your XBMC Media Center XBMC may have evolved into Kodi, but if you have an old version installed this guide will help you set it up and get started. Read More  and Christian also wrote a great article How To Build a Media Center That Will Play Anything I've been building a media centre recently. Actually, scratch that – I’ve been building two. One is a compact device (my Raspberry Pi) running the RaspBMC distribution of XBMC, while the other is a traditional... Read More about some of the possibilities that XBMC offers users – if you haven’t heard of it, give it a try. XBMC can work on any number of platforms, from Windows to the Raspberry Pi.

Does anyone else love specialized HTPC controllers? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Remote Control (Shutterstock)

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  1. Joe
    December 30, 2014 at 1:46 am

    I found the best HTPC keyboard to be the BTC 91019URF. Sadly, I don't think it's available any longer. I find them on ebay occasionally. The almost full size keyboard, the handles, button placement and the (best feature) joystick. Ergonomics are great and mouse button clicks and scrolling are a breeze. The range is quite good as well - I had to switch keyboards in a different room because 2 over lapped coverage and control both pcs. My sister has K400 and I found it to be too small and track pad annoying to use. No scroll buttons either. I think BTC nailed it and for some reason quit making them.

  2. Abdullah alzarah
    June 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    by far the best remote for htpc is boxee box usb remote, but since its has been discontinued, the second best is mele f10, I am using this remote for a while now with xbmc and plex, its really good.

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Wow, thew Mele F10 looks like the same design as the Boxee remote.

      I didn't even know that Boxee made an airmouse/flymouse. I always thought it was a regular 'mote.

      Thanks for sharing Abdullah!

  3. drainplugofideas
    May 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I've spent a lot of time thinking about ways to control my htpc. By FAR the best method ive found is the Logitech keyboard track pad. Cheap and it just works. In the future id like to get one of the new kinect cameras to control it. Also the Logitech smart media hub which allows you to control your media center with a smart phone looks awesome and hassle free.

    I don't like the little keyboards because ive found them to be inconvenient to type on for anything more than a word.

    • Kannon Yamada
      May 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm

      I agree with you about the tiny HTPC keyboards - they're really hard to use. It's a lot like smartphone texting. And using that keyboard to search on Netflix or Hulu isn't particularly easy to do, either. :-(

      I wish that I had made mention of the Smarthub, though. I've heard a little bit about similar devices, but haven't had the time to experiment with one.

      Once we get the voice recognition of our smartphones fully integrated into our television sets, though, we'll probably be able to do away with the keyboards entirely. Hopefully.

  4. Vociferous Carmichael
    May 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I use the Logitech K400 (pictured above) because I'm not doing a lot of gaming anyway, and I haven't yet built my media center (waiting on a couple of paychecks!) It works great. It's a pretty standard, fairly inexpensive keyboard, and I haven't had any issues with range so far. It's almost full-sized. There's a little cramping, but it's okay. But I might upgrade to something else when the media center's actually built.

  5. mguerra79
    May 25, 2013 at 12:21 am

    Back in the old days we had to have infra red in Symbian, for example, to make things like this to work... But they did! Back in the days!

    Nice article! Congrats!

    Márcio Guerra

  6. likefunbutnot
    May 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    One of the biggest problems with most of the above is very limited range. I have a Rii. I have a Lenovo N59. I have an Air Mouse. I have a few more things this review didn't even mention. For reliable real-world use you'll find that range for all of the above is limited to something between 4 and 5 meters rather than the 10m range that almost all of them quote as standard.