A rectangular black box that sits in your entertainment center: It sure does look like another streaming box competitor, but it’s important to understand that the Caavo Control Center isn’t that at all. It’s a universal remote control that takes a wholly different approach than those used by Logitech.

This is actually Caavo’s second run at this concept. The first was a wildly innovative (and pricy) crowd-funded system designed to be NORAD for your entertainment system; you plugged everything into the Caavo, then controlled it all with its custom remote. With eight HDMI ports, two USB ports, and more, the $400 device was clad in steel and decked out in fancy wood, built to be an eye-catching showstopper.

The system, which launched in very limited quantities in early 2018, met mostly with resistance and confusion, which sent Caavo back to the drawing board to come up with a more approachable and affordable concept.

caavo user interface 1Caavo

Caavo’s search interface includes interesting extras, such as these shared content recommendations.

Enter Caavo 2.0, the Caavo Control Center, a simpler yet equally capable product that’s more back office than bling, and which is on sale now for just $100.

Conceptually, the Control Center revolves around the same ideas as the original Caavo. Connect up to four HDMI devices to the ports on the Control Center, then connect your TV to the dedicated output port. You can daisy-chain audio gear into the mix, too, if your system is suitably complex.

Once connected, Control Center gets to work figuring out how what’s what and how to control it all. For many devices, Caavo can figure out what they are simply through the HDMI connection. Others (especially older products) might have Caavo asking you what type of device it is, then it figures out the rest from there via electronic voodoo. Very old gear may have to be programmed manually, button by button, but this isn’t too taxing through Caavo’s walkthrough.

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You can connect a maximum of four devices, plus your TV or A/V receiver, to this black box.

When Caavo figures out something correctly, it’s a dream. After some scanning, Caavo asks whether a windowed representation of the device’s menu is the correct device, and it asks you to test the controls on its universal remote. When this works, it’s as close to magic as I’ve come across in a home electronics device, requiring virtually no programming at all. This auto-configuration doesn’t always work, of course, but it’s impressive when it does.

With all your gear connected, it’s time to start using the product. Caavo’s big selling point is not just that it can control all the hardware you have connected, but that it can run all the apps on those devices—and search across all of them, too. If you’ve ever wasted time scouring various services one at a time to see whether something is on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, or available on demand, Caavo’s one-stop-shop is the perfect fix.

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