A new set-top box aims to make it far easier to use multiple streaming video and gaming devices, combining both the cables and interfaces. But it costs an eye-watering $400.
Caavo aims to solve two different common problems in this age of trying to get streaming video on to a television set: dealing with a limited number of HDMI ports; and keeping track of multiple remotes, apps and interfaces.
The first problem is solved by the box not only having eight HDMI inputs (outputting through a single 4K-compatible cable), but by not relying solely on signals from devices triggering an automated switch – something that many of us have found is less reliable than we’d hope. Instead it uses what’s effectively a combination of “push” signals from the device and “pull” actions from Caavo itself to select the input.
That’s made possible by the solution to the second problem: a single interface that brings together the lists of available programming from both the devices you have connected and the streaming services they each access. There’s a universal search that covers streaming services, websites and the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) on your cable or satellite services. This tool also supports a watchlist and a “continue watching” feature that brings together everything you are watching or want to watch across different services.
It’s controlled by a universal remote with touchscreen, though you can continue to use the remotes for any of the devices if you want. You can also issue commands via Alexa, with support on the way for Siri and Google Assistant.
Anyone who’s bought a streaming device will know the most frustrating problem comes when the device supports almost every service you use but not quite everything. That’s going to be true of Caavo, which is effectively a device-of-devices. Right now it appears the most striking omission is support for some DVR timeshifting (Dish and DirecTV’s native services are supported.) It’s also not entirely clear if or how Caavo supports ripped or downloaded video files stored on a computer or media server.
The price is also the other big holdout. It may well be that the $400 includes an early-adopters ‘tax’ as the company says it will only ship 5,000 units in the first year after its release this fall, suggesting the initial release is something of a beta test. That could be a big hold-up because while the whole “it just works” concept is marvellous, anyone paying that much money is going to be mighty miffed if it falls even slightly short.