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Touch and Go

These days, there are more universal remotes than satellite channels. The trick is selecting the right product for your project. Here’s a round up of new remotes that will make your clients’ lives easier and meet any budget requirement. Interior designers will thank you, too.

Universal Electronics Inc.’s newest wand-style remotes are the NevoC2 and NevoC3, with color displays, on-device programming, and even web-based programming. NevoC3 also features a touchscreen and RF control with a unique feature that allows direct RF control of DirecTV set-top boxes without a separate RF base station.

Ramzi S. Ammari, UEI vice president of product development, said that the company’s design philosophy is “elegant yet functional.” He explained that the NevoC2 and NevoC3 needed to be sleek, easy to hold, balanced in the hand, and have an intuitive key layout.

“Color displays were required to allow a bright, clear, customizable, and appealing user interface,” he noted.

The display allows installers to have features like channel logos on buttons to make selections visually intuitive.

Ammari also said that UEI developed these new products to meet installers’ increased requests for less expensive remotes for secondary rooms and or low-cost installations. “These new remotes offer powerful yet easy to program features at a lower price point,” he added.

They supplement the existing NevoS70 and NevoQ50, more advanced controllers.

The MX-5000 is a hybrid, of sorts, combining advanced touchscreen technology with the satisfying sensation of a tactile button press.

URC wanted to create a remote that embraced the best of both worlds, Sienkiewicz explained. The MX-5000 is URC’s first wandstyle remote control to feature haptic technology, so when you touch the screen to select a function, the area you press on the MX- 5000 vibrates.

“You get that physical feedback that you subconsciously crave,” Sienkiewicz said. “We’ve essentially taken the functionality available on our flagship MX-6000 touchscreen and made it available in a more conventional remote with the MX-5000.”

The Zigbee-enabled MX-880Z is an upgrade to the existing MX-880 RF remote specifically, which was tailored for MDUs and other situations where RF collisions caused by too many remotes in proximity could be an issue.

Because consumers enjoy (and increasingly expect) color LCDs on cell phone and iPods, in addition to haptic feedback with the MX-5000, URC has added color LCD screens throughout the line.

Crestron Electronics marketing communications director, Jeff Singer, says that “slim and sleek” were the design requirements driving the look and functionality of the new Crestron TPMC-3X WiFi handheld touchpanel. “We wanted a lightweight, slim, attractive handheld; we wanted easy navigation and ergonomic button layout; ultra-bright and highcontrast display,” he explained.

Crestron’s TPMC-3X WiFi handheld touchpanel.

Crestron designed its own WiFi antenna and radio to enable much greater range, speed and coverage. The TPMC-3X has 150 feet of indoor range and 360-degree, omni-directional communication to enable roaming throughout the house.

“The new TPMC-3X gives the freedom of RF with the data rate to handle streaming media,” he said.

RTI’s newest handheld remote control is the T1-B, which offers an incredible value to consumers, according to RTI VP of marketing, Pete Baker.

“The T1-B gives integrators the sophisticated functionality of more expensive touchscreen controllers at a much lower price,” he said. “We wanted to provide the dealer with a great (control) solution for more budget-conscious projects, without compromising look or performance of the remote.”

Baker called the T1-B an “extremely sexy” controller with a sleek industrial design, offering a very intuitive, powerful, and affordable control solution at $349.

The T1-B features 40 assignable keypad buttons, eight source buttons, and four general-purpose keypad buttons with interchangeable key labels for more intuitive control. When other RTI devices are employed, the T1-B is capable of RF transmission through walls and cabinets, RS-232 control, contact closures, power sensing, and more.

Baker said that in addition to RTI’s design evolution, functionality has been enhanced on existing lines with the addition of two-way communications, ZigBee technology and WiFi capability.

While the miniaturization of WiFi components now allows for thinner designs, “Thinner is not always better when it comes to control panels,” believes Dick Mol, of Philips Consumer Lifestyle in Belgium.

You also need a convenient grip, ergonomic operation, and you don’t want to lose your controller somewhere in the couch. This is why the latest Philips Pronto TSU9300 includes an extra grip at typical grip locations. For ease of use and simple finger operation, Philips designed blind operation of hard keys and a cursor with rotary wheel.

New technologies like Li-Polymer batteries and miniaturization of components allow more design freedom that you can see, for example in the new Pronto TSU9300. “It’s has a very compact and stylish design while it is still as powerful as its bigger brothers,” Mol said.

The TSU9300 is a family member of the Pronto range, which includes the TSU9400, TSU9600, and TSU9800 panels.

Because interior cohesion is so important, Philips prioritizes aesthetic appeal. Advancements in touchscreen technology offer the possibility of a flushmounted display, while light-guide technology guarantees equal spread of LED-backlight. Like Crestron, IP control is important to Philips, which offers control through a unique Pronto protocol on top of TCP/IP, which translates into end-user access to WiFi for fast-button response time. The two-way control, called Pronto- Script, allows feedback on the display and dynamic GUIs. The IP/WiFi-based extenders locally convert commands to IR and RS232 or contact closures. Additionally, Mol said that better 3D rendering tools make it possible to work at the “edge of the mechanical possibilities.”

Philips’ Pronto TSU9300.

Manufacturers have developed a host of remote controls that are simple to use and cost a fraction of step-up touchpanels, but in what ways has the programming of handheld remotes gotten simpler for custom installers? @copy:Ammari said that the NevoC2 and NevoC3 include both on-remote programming and web-based options. Also the on-remote programming uses an on-display wizard to walk installers through adding or “learning” devices into the configuration.

“The installer can test device commands while standing in front of the AV system without being tethered to the PC,” he said.

Installers also can upload the on-device configuration from the remote to the web-based application and then create activities, favorites, and user profiles.

Singer noted that Crestron offers GUI templates and Windows-based programming software, as well. Simple, menu-driven wizards guide dealers through a few steps to assign buttons and keys, and program touchpanel interfaces.

Philips also believes in keeping it simple and smart. “We managed to introduce the efficiency of a wizard based PC-editor while maintaining the flexibility that you need to get any job done, whether that is a basic four activity project or a complex multi-room system with two-way feedback,” Mol said.

Philips created the MyDatabase concept for easy selection and replacement of component IR codes. This means that there’s one editor for all Pronto panels with standard templates for all possible components. The Smart wizard will auto-create your project in three steps, keeping the option to further tweak afterwards.

RTI’s T1-B

Baker asserted that when it comes to installer friendliness, RTI ranks high. “We’ve always been highly regarded for our Integration Designer programming software,” he said.

The new 7.0 programming software allows integrators to implement full two-way control with products from partner manufacturers. With new Zigbee and WiFi functionality, the result for RTI products is tight integration with third-party devices for intuitive, seamless control. Installers are able to program feedback from AV and lighting systems, thermostats, multi-room audio, media servers, and other systems, on handheld remotes. In the past, there was a unique editor for every URC remote, Sienkiewicz testified. Now, with URC’s Complete Control Program (CCP), every remote can be programmed using a new universal programming platform.

“You learn CCP once, and you can program any of our remotes. We rolled out our Complete Control Program (CCP) platform this year and have added all of our new remotes and many of our legacy remotes to the CCP platform,” he said. Furthermore, CCP uses a “whole-house” approach to programming, so you can more easily associate what’s happening in different rooms of the home that’s being automated. The code is portable from remote to remote in URC’s line. Sienkiewicz confides that it’ll make our installers’ lives easier and give them so many more options in the long run.

Margot Douaihy is a contributing editor of Residential Systems and co-director of the Studio at Colton Writing Center in New Orleans.