As the media gadgets in our living rooms multiply, the number of remote controls we need has also increased. Just sitting down to watch a Blu-ray through your surround-sound setup can involve a hunt for three separate remote controls.

Griffin has released a nifty little gadget, called the Griffin Beacon, that turns your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet into a universal remote control. We tested the Android version.

It comes with a plastic unit that looks a bit like a big black pebble balanced on a square. This unit connects with the smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and turn the signals into infrared to control your devices.

Meanwhile, the Dijit Universal Remote app, available from the Android Market, takes care of things on the tablet or smartphone.

The unit takes four AA batteries (supplied), which isn't exactly ideal, but does mean that you don't need to plug it in at the wall.

Pairing the unit with our test tablet was pretty straightforward, and once the Dijit app installed we were taken through a walkthrough that helped us set up and control our various devices.

For our Samsung TV we searched for 'Samsung', then the app asked us to press the power icon on the screen of the tablet. If the TV turned itself on, the app was configured. Because it didn't, all we had to do was press a button and it tried again. This time it worked, and we were taken to a screen that replicated the interface of a traditional control, with a few extras.

We could quickly switch between devices with ease. We could also drag our fingers across part of the screen to control the audio volume.

Verdict

After a bit of fine tuning, the Griffin Beacon for Android worked brilliantly. It's an interesting-looking gadget with a lot of uses.