I’m sure you’ve been in this position before: a manufacturer introduces some shiny new thing to replace the less-than-shiny old thing you’ve been selling and integrating for years, and all of a sudden that less-thanshiny old thing looks positively obsolete. Control4 could have taken that approach with its newest wand-style system remote upgrade; in fact, it did take exactly that approach with its new touch screens... the older, bulkier models of which will soon be unsupported by new software updates.
The Control4 SR-260 System Remote, as its name implies, is an incremental upgrade over the company’s previous flagship wand-style remote, the SR-250. The new Control4 SR-260 System Remote, though, as its name implies, is an incremental upgrade over the company’s previous flagship wand-style remote, the SR-250. If my calculations are correct, that change in numbering indicates a roughly four-percent upgrade over the previous model. And at first glance you’d think that figure sounds about right. Because it doesn’t really look like much has changed.
The ring of buttons surrounding the red “4” near the top of the remote, which is used to access the Control4 system’s onscreen navigator on your connected displays, has been removed to make room for a larger, more colorful screen and a few extra buttons, for example. But the ring motif hasn’t disappeared from the remote altogether. Instead, it has been transferred down to the transport section (play, pause, skip, rewind, fast-forward, stop, record, DVR, etc.). If I had one significant complaint about the old SR-250 in the years that I’ve lived with it, it’s the fact that operating the transport controls while watching movies and TV shows–and even while listening to music–was a near-impossible task by feel alone. The buttons were too cramped. Their layout made no sense.
By contrast, it took me no more than a couple of minutes to learn to navigate the SR-260’s transport section without ever so much as glancing away from the screen. All of those buttons not only have more room to breathe now, but they’re also much larger, with a much more logical arrangement: the play button right at the center of the ring, with pause below, skip buttons to the left and right, scan buttons just above those, and the DVR button (probably my most-used button after the pause key) situated right at the top.
I simply cannot overstate how much this has improved the quality of my TV-watching life. Aside from that, though, I have to admit that the way I use the System Remote hasn’t changed all that drastically, except in one respect that I’ll touch upon in a sec. Operating the lights is the same. Working the locks and checking my security cameras is the same. Tweaking the schedule on my thermostat works no differently. Indeed, the new SR-260 even feels pretty much just like the old SR-250 in terms of ergonomics and overall layout.
Sure, the colored red, green, yellow, and blue buttons, which I need to use quite frequently when operating my Dish Network Hopper system, are a little easier to reach now. I have to admit, though, that the new screen built into the SR-260 has been a way bigger bonus for me than I expected it to be. Gone is the amber OLED screen of old. In its place is a larger, brighter, higher-resolution screen with colors that can be customized with hues like Screaming Green and Wild Watermelon and 17 other selections (not all of them quite so saucy). That seems like such a little thing on paper, but the customization option just makes the System Remote feel less generic, and more like a thing that’s tailored specifically to my tastes.
A less subjective benefit is the fact that the larger screen makes room not only for two extra lines of text (and hence, two more devices on the screen without necessitating any scrolling), but it also means that there’s room for a battery life indicator and a signal strength indicator right there at the top of the display. No more running out of juice right in the middle of a movie. And no more digging through menus to see how much longer I can make it before needing to slap a new set of batteries into the back of the remote.
The other big benefit of the incremental nature of the upgrade from SR-250 to SR-260 is that programming is a cinch. In fact, I could have easily just opened Control4’s Composer Pro software, dragged the driver for the SR-260 into my home theater (after upgrading to OS 2.7, that is), picked a new color for my screen, and I would have been super happy with the upgrade, since all of the device programming is updated automatically. Assuming you do your OS upgrades remotely, you could set up a new SR-260 for your clients in, like, five minutes from the time you walk through the door.
But there are also those extra buttons I mentioned a few minutes ago. Those, it turns out, are custom buttons, which can be programmed independently for each activity. In my case, for example, when I’m watching my OPPO Blu-ray player, one of the custom buttons acts as an input control for the player itself, so I can switch to the Roku Stick plugged into its MHL port without having to navigate to the home screen and scroll through icons. Another now acts as the Top Menu button, which I’ve always had programmed to the # button on my SR-250, that in turn caused problems when I actually needed the # button to function as a # button.
With a little bit of creative programming, you can even assign complicated macros to any of these buttons on a room-by-room basis, giving your clients true single-button access to lighting scenes or any other sort of routines your imagination can cook up.
Better still, although I’ve positioned the SR-260 as an upgrade throughout this review, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to replace the SR-250 in your clients’ systems. In my home theater, the old SR-250 simply moved down to the other end of the couch, so my wife can pause shows or skip back a few seconds to hear a line of dialogue, or even take over TV-tuning duties without having to nick my remote from my end of the couch. Given the two-way nature of the Control4 system, our remotes are intimately intertwined and constantly in sync, so any input changes she makes with the old SR-250 are instantly reflected on my SR-260. That means there’s no more fighting over the remote. And any little black box that can affect that sort of dramatic lifestyle change deserves major kudos in my book.
Control4's new SR-260 System Remote takes an "only fix what was broken" approach to its incremental redesign of the old SR-250. But little changes make a big difference. The new transport control layout in particular makes operating the remote by touch alone so much easier.
If I could have made one additional change to the SR-260, it would have been to add a bit of sculpting to the backside of the chassis. The form factor remained the same, which means that the remote is a bit bricklike. Some nice sculpted finger rests on the back would have made the unit easier to hold. But that's a minor complaint.
► Model Number: C4-SR260 (English), C4-SR260-I (Iconic)
► Total buttons: 50
► Quick access control buttons: 2 (Listen, Watch)
► Transport control buttons: 8
► Backlit buttons: Yes
► Display: 160 × 128-pixel 8-bit color OLED (Supports multi-byte characters such as diacritics and Chinese)
► Light sensor: Yes. Automatically adjusts screen brightness.
► Motion sensor: Yes. Wakes remote when motion is detected.
► Communications: ZigBee (802.15.4)
► Batteries: 4 AA or Lithium Polymer (sold separately)