Hands On: K4D Multi-Device Remote for iPad

It’s well documented that I think DIRECTV’s Application for iPad is the best remote app I’ve found. It’s the first app that does more than a real, wired remote. DAFI, as it is affectionately known, is super-powerful but it’s designed for home use. What if you have dozens of receivers and no DVRs? The iPad app isn’t going to be very helpful.

Enter K4D. K4D was developed through a partnership between Konex AV, a west coast custom integrator, and RMR Labz, developers of the DIRECTVR Touch remote for iPod and iPhone. RMR Labz builds really solid apps, and when I don’t have my iPad nearby, I use their iPhone app. It’s a near-clone of the white DIRECTV remote.

A lot of people don’t like smartphone remotes. I understand their point of view, because they’re not always “on” and you don’t get the real button pushing experience. But let me tell you a story.

About a week ago I was programming a remote for an older DVR. The remote programming didn’t go well, and what I would normally do is use the front panel to reset the remote programming. That’s when I found out the front panel buttons didn’t work. Who knew? Who uses the front panel anymore?

I pulled out a remote app and had everything back up and running in 2 minutes. If I hadn’t, that HR34 would be headed to the scrap heap. It’s nice to have choices.

If you own a bar, you might have a dozen receivers and no DVRs. Since you can only control 4 devices max with a white DIRECTV remote, you’d have three remotes, probably with masking tape on them to let your staff know which switch to use, and which remote to use. Honestly, that’s a pain. You might have invested in a universal remote that can control eight devices, but… that’s still not enough. You need a professional solution. You need K4D.

Using K4D has zero learning curve. If your people know the DIRECTV remote, they know K4D. As you can see, the entire DIRECTV remote is duplicated. If you turn the iPad sideways, you get an optimized remote that makes better use of the screen. You also get a gesture view that puts the most important buttons front and center. While the buttons look huge, this is a great help to those in a dark bar or restaurant because with quick taps and swipes you can get where you need.

K4D is also pre-populated with a set of favorite channels designed to appeal to the commercial customer. Sports programming and music programming is already there. Customizing the list is as easy as pressing the + button at the top right, and deleting an item is done by pressing the Delete button at top and choosing an item to delete.

Before I go further, I should point out that this app is $299 at the app store. As they say in the sports bar business, that’s a lot of curly fries.

Now that you’ve had a moment to breathe, let’s talk this through. Sure, most apps are $10 at most, and there are a lot of free choices. That’s great if you have one or two receivers. This is a professional quality app and it’s priced where it should be. Not long ago you would be looking at Crestron, URC or Logitech to provide a hardware solution for this sort of thing and you’d pay more than $299. When you think of it that way, it makes more sense.

I thought about why Konex AV doesn’t provide a free version of the app so you can see how good it is. It seems to me that commercial accounts are usually set up by custom integrators like Konex AV and Signal Connect and the app is probably part of the installation package. If you’re interested in it, you probably got a live demo at the showroom or from the integrator when he visited.

Setup of K4D is best left to professionals. Unlike DIRECTV’s app, K4D doesn’t know what receivers you have just by searching for them. I think that’s done on purpose, because a lot of commercial installations are done in ways that would confuse DIRECTV’s app.

You will need to know the IP addresses of all your connected receivers, and it’s best if each receiver has a static IP address. Only networked receivers can be controlled by K4D. A good integrator will know how to do this, and how to pull all this information together.

Once you have your list of receivers, entering them in is easy. Every receiver can have a “friendly” name. Even if you’ve named the receiver in its own setup screen, you must re-enter the name here. You must also assign every receiver to a group.

Groups are created automatically by typing a name into the blank field for Groups, or can be chosen from a dropdown list once created. Once receivers are added, they show up on a list along with what’s playing on them.

That’s one of the nice functions here. The favorites list and the receiver list are constantly updated with what’s playing now. This makes it easier for someone to go to the channel they want. Personally I laugh when I see the guide up on a TV in a bar, especially if it’s obvious that someone doesn’t know what they’re looking for. With K4D, you don’t have to do that.

The other killer feature, the one that makes this worth the price in my opinion, is that you can control as many receivers as you want at the same time, from anywhere in the room. This is really important.

In older installations, there would be a few receivers at a central location and a set of switches so you could send those receivers to multiple TVs. Now, it’s common to see a DIRECTV H25 receiver placed behind every TV. Without K4D you would need an RF Antenna Kit for each H25, or you’d need to stand right under it to control it. With K4D, select one receiver and control it from anywhere in the bar. More important, check as many receivers as you want from the devices menu and control them all at once. No more running from TV to TV to make sure they’re all on “the big game.”

I do have a few pet peeves about this app. As I’ve said, the price is going to keep it out of a lot of people’s hands. But, I think people who have a genuine need for it won’t care. I also think the setup is a little harder than it needs to be but the app’s help screens suggest using a trained integrator. If you’ve set up this app a few times I’m sure it’s a breeze.

Overall, I rate this app very high on function and very high on ease of use once it’s set up. Combine it with a waterproof iPad case and keep it close, and you’ve just added a level of professionalism to your bar or restaurant.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.