Inteset PC-IRS5-01 HTPC Infrared Solution

May 19 2015

Inteset PC-IRS5-01 HTPC Infrared Solution

Control is a critical aspect of managing a home theater PC (HTPC). Without a solid solution, there is no way to confidently hand it to the rest of the family and expect it to work. For many the solution is simple; even as Windows Media Center has declined the ecosystem it created for external RC-6 infrared (IR) receivers continues to flourish. But as good as that is, there are some drawbacks including the bulky external receiver and the general inability to deal with all of a PC’s potential power states. The Inteset PC-IRS5-01 addresses both of these concerns by providing a flexible RC-6 IR compatible receiver that can be mounted inside the chassis, has a discrete external receiver option , and can wake the PC from off (S5), hibernate (S4), or standby (S3). Starting at $37, the PC-IRS5-01 won’t break the bank either – so if wake from S4/S5 and a sleeker install is a must have feature for you this could be the perfect solution.

Device

Inteset provided the optional external IR receiver along with the PC-IRS5-01, so the full potential for the device was available. This included an external USB 5V power supply alongside the base PCB, mounting bracket, USB control/power cable, and front-panel wiring harness used to install internally. The internal receiver is small enough (1”x1.5”) that it should be straightforward to install in most HTPC enclosures, but as there a wide variance in chassis so it will be important to measure first and plan accordingly.

Use

With four separate plugs on the PC-IRS5-01, installation can be a bit more involved than typical for internal IR receivers. The trade-off here is flexibility of course, with options for external power and receiver placement. If only mounting internally, then just two of the cables will be required--which is clearly spelled out in the included instructions. Because the PC-IRS5-01 can wake the PC from S4/S5 it is critical that a source of 5V power is available to provide electricity in those states.  For most modern motherboards there should be a BIOS controlled option (see the gallery for a screenshot from an ASUS H81T) to always power the USB headers, and if it is then simply attach the included USB cabling to a free four-pin header (it will not work with five pin because the fifth pin is intentionally blocked) and connect the +/- pass-through power wires to the front panel header and chassis power button. If you have a board that does not provide 5V USB power during S4/S5 then it will be necessary to find another source. Generally there will be one internally as well (e.g. intrusion detection header), so definitely check the manual before opting for the external USB power option. When power is applied the PC-IRS5-01 has two reasonably bright LED lights on the front of the PCB (you can see them, and the reflected light in one of the photos above), in the three enclosures I tested light bleed was visible in a darkened room so some electrical tape may be required to shutter them in a permanent installation.

Astute readers will notice that I did not indicate that the power LED pass-through wires should be connected to the front panel, and that was with good reason but requires some explanation. According to Inteset the power LED pass-through is used to detect the power state of the PC (i.e. when there is current, it is on) and the PC-IRS5-01 will trigger a power state change accordingly--either by closing the power circuit on the motherboard (i.e. emulating a physical chassis power button press) when in S4/S5 or via the appropriate driver command when it is on. In practice however, I found that on motherboards where the power LED blinks in a low power state (generally this just S3) the detection mechanism would get confused and was unable to change power state at all when the PC was not on.  Leaving the LED wires disconnected works around this issue, and in testing on three different motherboards (ASUS H81T, GIGABYTE GA-A75M-UD2H, and Intel DZ77GA-70K) no detrimental effects were noted. This makes sense too; with the PC-IRS5-01 unable to detect system state it should always emulate a physical button press – which would be no different from you pressing the button on the chassis. In the past, this may have caused issues, but with modern BIOS able to use this as a signal to the OS to standby/hibernate/shutdown gracefully I would recommend running in this configuration unless you see an issue.

In use, the PC-IRS5-01 generally functioned exactly as I would expect a RC-6 (Windows Media Center eHome) compatible IR receiver to work in both Microsoft Windows and OpenELEC (embedded Kodi). The only idiosyncrasy noted was that while the discrete POWER_OFF IR command works properly, POWER_ON does not acting instead just like POWER_TOGGLE, which was quite disappointing because I rely on POWER_ON to ensure state in my startup macro.

Conclusion

Overall, I was quite pleased with the functionality and flexibility provided by the $37 internal Inteset PC-IRS5-01 IR receiver. In day-to-day use, it provides the same drop-dead simple usage as the external (cough, unsightly) Windows Media Center receiver has over the years while addressing the ugliness and full power state support that was lacking. I do wish that discrete power commands were supported however, as it makes full startup macro automation possible.

Pro:

  • Just works RC-6 (Windows Media Center) IR control
  • Reliable wake from S3/S4/S5

Con:

  • LEDs can bleed light outside the chassis
  • Discrete ON is not supported

Thanks to Inteset for providing the review unit.

Comments

Nice writeup Andrew. Question.

Does this thing allow you to define new IR signals beyond those in a standard windows remote? This allows me to use these additional ir signals for custom commands defined in software such as girder or eventghost. I guess they would need some plug-in it work with this software as well.

When the PC is on it works just like a Windows Media Center (RC-6) remote, so you are limited to the set of IR command provided. That said, there is a huge amount of flexibliy there because the entire keyboard (including key combos) are available. I've leveraged this in the past in some of my SW projects to do all sorts of things.

 

Hi. Did you ask Inteset about the lack of Discrete ON feature? Is it intentional or can be fixed? I asked them but they just said “The IRS5 powers on if it is off and off if it is on. It is not discrete and is not needed to be discrete”.
 
I want some internal IR receiver for the S5 state to use with a Harmony remote, as a part of some Activity, like turn on TV → turn on soundbar → turn on PC. With this IR receiver, I won’t be able to do that? Will it send a toggle instead, and if my PC was already on, it’ll turn it off? Or maybe Harmony has its own ways to remember states, and I can still program it to do what I want using just one button, based on conditions? I’m thinking of getting one of those remotes with a Harmony Hub, and don’t want to buy something expensive if I won’t be able to make one button solutions involving my PC.
 
I also couldn’t really understand the part about the detection mechanism and LED wires. Is it connected to the toggle issue and would it help to solve my issue if it just worked properly? How do I know if it’ll work properly on my motherboard? (ASUS P8Z77-V DELUXE). 
 
Also, where do you find those discrete codes? Never used a learning remote before, so it’s all theory for me for now. Are there some universal codes (for MCE remote standard or something), and ON specifically does work the same as toggle?
 
Another question - do I have to drill the hole in the front panel and hook up my receiver eye there via internal extender, or can I completely avoid that by getting a kit with external extender and just mounting its IR bud on top of my PC without any drastic measures?
 
While researching, I found some other internal IR receiver kits, but they cost more and do look less flexible and requiring more work with setup. If you used them, can you tell me how they compare with Inteset one, and would they be a better fit in my case?
  1. Simerec PCS-2 http://www.simerec.com/PCS-2.html (PCS-MSE model also looks interesting, but it looks like it’s not available for purchase)
  2. Flirc SE http://www.streacom.com/products/flirc-se-adaptive-ir-receiver/
  3. Any others? I found out many aren’t on sale anymore.

enchained wrote:

Hi. Did you ask Inteset about the lack of Discrete ON feature? Is it intentional or can be fixed? I asked them but they just said “The IRS5 powers on if it is off and off if it is on. It is not discrete and is not needed to be discrete”.

 
I didn't ask, and I disagree with their assesment. Discrete power commands are essential to building macros.
 

enchained wrote:

 
I want some internal IR receiver for the S5 state to use with a Harmony remote, as a part of some Activity, like turn on TV → turn on soundbar → turn on PC. With this IR receiver, I won’t be able to do that? Will it send a toggle instead, and if my PC was already on, it’ll turn it off? Or maybe Harmony has its own ways to remember states, and I can still program it to do what I want using just one button, based on conditions? I’m thinking of getting one of those remotes with a Harmony Hub, and don’t want to buy something expensive if I won’t be able to make one button solutions involving my PC.
 

 
Harmony remotes do track state (they have to, IR is one way). The problem is that PCs turn themselves on/off, so remembering state isn't reliable.
 

enchained wrote:

 
I also couldn’t really understand the part about the detection mechanism and LED wires. Is it connected to the toggle issue and would it help to solve my issue if it just worked properly? How do I know if it’ll work properly on my motherboard? (ASUS P8Z77-V DELUXE). 
 

 

The device uses the power LED on/off state to determine the power state of the PC. This isn't great design because many boards (including ASUS) blink the LED in standby (S3), so the device can't detect what's going on.
 

enchained wrote:

 
Also, where do you find those discrete codes? Never used a learning remote before, so it’s all theory for me for now. Are there some universal codes (for MCE remote standard or something), and ON specifically does work the same as toggle?
 

 
Harmony has an extensive database of MCE RC-6 commands, including discrete power. I have one of the old MS IR keyboards that I use to train for specific key combos.
 

enchained wrote:

 

Another question - do I have to drill the hole in the front panel and hook up my receiver eye there via internal extender, or can I completely avoid that by getting a kit with external extender and just mounting its IR bud on top of my PC without any drastic measures?
 

 

You only need to drill a hole if you're not using the external extender.
 

enchained wrote:

 
While researching, I found some other internal IR receiver kits, but they cost more and do look less flexible and requiring more work with setup. If you used them, can you tell me how they compare with Inteset one, and would they be a better fit in my case?
  1. Simerec PCS-2 http://www.simerec.com/PCS-2.html (PCS-MSE model also looks interesting, but it looks like it’s not available for purchase)
  2. Flirc SE http://www.streacom.com/products/flirc-se-adaptive-ir-receiver/
  3. Any others? I found out many aren’t on sale anymore.

Sorry, haven't used any of these. When I can't use an Intel system (which support discrete power with their CIR), I use a standard WMC USB RC-6 IR receiver.

Thank you very much for the explanations!

I didn't ask, and I disagree with their assesment.

I'm actually surprised that they didn't seem aware of this issue - they even link to your article on their product page, and I referred to it when asked the question.

 

The device uses the power LED on/off state to determine the power state of the PC. This isn't great design because many boards (including ASUS) blink the LED in standby (S3), so the device can't detect what's going on.

Oh, so that's why blinking is confusing - it could be detected wrongfully as on (if S3 counts like an off?). I don't use S3/S4 state at all, cause waking from sleep sometimes messes some of the devices for me - keyboard won't work, etc. That's why S5 feature is crucial to me. So, if I'll connect those LED wires, and won't use any low-power states, only S5 - will the toggle work descrete-ish for ON, as supposedly intended by the manufacturer? i.e. usable in creating macros.

Either way, I think I can make another macro just for when PC is already on, so it's not as critical to me as it seemed.

Thanks again!

enchained wrote:

Oh, so that's why blinking is confusing - it could be detected wrongfully as on (if S3 counts like an off?). I don't use S3/S4 state at all, cause waking from sleep sometimes messes some of the devices for me - keyboard won't work, etc. That's why S5 feature is crucial to me. So, if I'll connect those LED wires, and won't use any low-power states, only S5 - will the toggle work descrete-ish for ON, as supposedly intended by the manufacturer? i.e. usable in creating macros.

Either way, I think I can make another macro just for when PC is already on, so it's not as critical to me as it seemed.

Thanks again!

Yes, if you only use S0 & S4/S5 LED detection should work correctly.

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