This $400 smart-TV box lets you control your Apple TV, cable box, and everything else with your voice
- Caavo is a new smart-TV device from a startup of the same name.
- Caavo manages all the stuff you plug into your TV like Apple TV, cable boxes, DVD players, and video game consoles.
- It's a great device if you're tired of managing multiple remotes and inputs, but the $400 price tag might turn a lot of people away.
Here's my living room TV setup:
I have a 65-inch Samsung smart TV. Plus a Verizon Fios cable box. Plus an Apple TV. Plus a PlayStation 4. Plus a Nintendo Switch. All of those devices have their own remotes, and switching between them means juggling a variety of different controllers cluttering my coffee table.
This is an all-to-familiar situation for many. As more people turn to streaming services pumped through boxes like Roku or Apple TV, there's still no easy or coherent way to manage all the stuff you subscribe to and just get what you want to watch when you want to watch it. And most cable-box interfaces are still stuck in the early 2000s. Good luck finding that show you DVR'd.
A startup called Caavo thinks it solved this problem with a new $400 box that promises to create one unified hub for all the stuff you plug into your TV. I've been testing a Caavo with my complicated setup for the last week or so, and it works as advertised for the most part. But it's really only ideal for people with three or more things plugged into their TV. The convenience might not be worth the heavy price tag for the rest of you.
How it works
Caavo is a long, thin box that lets you plug in up to eight different devices through HDMI. That's about twice as many ports as most high-end TVs have. You then plug the Caavo into your TV and use it for everything you want to watch or play from - cable boxes, DVRs, video game consoles, Rokus, Apple TVs, Amazon Fire TVs, Chromecasts, DVD players, and so on.
Caavo's software is based on Android, and it can automatically detect what your devices are. Caavo also comes with a universal remote that controls your TV, the Caavo box, and all your other devices.
If you want something even easier, you can use the remote's built-in microphone to tell Caavo what you want to watch and let the machine do all the switching and searching for you. (Caavo also works with Amazon Alexa, so you can use voice commands on your Echo instead of the remote. But that feature just launched in beta, so I haven't had a chance to thoroughly test it.)
That's the real benefit to Caavo. This isn't just an HDMI hub paired with a universal remote; it's a streamlined interface for almost everything you want to watch.
Caavo's software keeps track of everything you have plugged into your TV and does the heavy lifting for you. For example, telling Caavo to "watch 'Stranger Things'" will automatically switch inputs to your your Apple TV (or Roku or whatever), launch Netflix, and play the latest episode.
It also works for cable boxes. Saying, "watch ESPN" will automatically tune to ESPN, for example. Caavo can also access content recorded on some DVR models, but it didn't work with the one I use through Verizon Fios.
One interface for everything
Caavo's software was compatible with almost everything I use, and it covers all the basics like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and iTunes. If you ask for a show that's available on multiple services, Caavo gives you the option to select the one you want.
But there are some missing pieces. For example, when I asked Caavo for "The Good Place," it brought up an option to watch the first season on Netflix, but not the NBC app, which I had been using to watch season two. A Caavo representative told me the device doesn't index all streaming services yet, so there are likely a bunch of other holes like this I haven't run into yet.
Besides the voice control, my favorite aspect of Caavo was using just one remote for everything. I locked all my remotes away in my entertainment center cupboard and used the Caavo remote for everything without too many problems. That alone almost made it worth it. Caavo takes away the stress of managing multiple devices and remotes.
The software is clean too. Setup can be a bit tedious depending on how many devices you have. (It took me about 15 minutes to get my system going.) But everything just works once you're finished. There's a big "Caavo" button in the center of the remote that you can use to switch between devices, and you select the device you want to switch to, instead of having to remember which HDMI port number you plugged it into. The other menus are clean and easy to navigate, but you don't even need to look at them if you use voice controls for everything.
Still, Caavo feels more like a hack for today's fragmented internet TV ecosystem rather than a realization of the dream that all your TV stuff can live on the same platform. When you ask Caavo to watch something on a streaming service, you can see it working in the background, adjusting the input and navigating where it needs to go. It can take up to a minute for what you want to actually appear on your screen. So while it's a great first start, it's not as ideal as having this intelligent software built into a TV.
Not for everyone
Overall, Caavo pulled off an impressive feat on its first try. There are a lot of great connected TV boxes out there, but none of them provide a singular solution for everything you want to watch. Caavo fills in a lot of the gaps, and it's the best answer I've seen so far if you find yourself routinely juggling between multiple TV inputs.
Still, the price can be hard to swallow. You can buy several Apple TVs or Rokus for the price of one $400 Caavo. I also wouldn't recommend getting a Caavo if you only have one or two devices plugged into your TV.
But if you're like me and subscribe to multiple streaming services across multiple different devices, Caavo will be a great fit in your living room.