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Pronto Touchscreen Control

Perhaps the most confounding idea in all of quantum physics is wave-particle duality—the concept that all matter and energy exhibits properties of both particles and waves. The idea has been borne out time and again by num

Perhaps the most confounding idea in all of quantum physics is wave-particle duality—the concept that all matter and energy exhibits properties of both particles and waves. The idea has been borne out time and again by numerous experiments, it’s central to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and it makes a really good analogy for advanced touchscreen remote control systems. Bear with me…

Touchscreen remotes are, after all, equal parts consumer electronics device and custom installation service, to an extent that far exceeds most products in our industry. Give two different installers the task of programming a remote as complex as Pronto’s TSU9800 Home Control Panel, and chances are they will each come up with something quite different even for identical systems—perhaps radically so.

No matter what they come up with, though, chances are it will be more flexible and more powerful—not to mention a whole lot easier to program—than it would have been a couple of years ago. Just before the original introduction of the TSU9800 a year ago, Philips also unveiled Version 2 of its ProntoEdit Professional (PEP2) software, which incorporated the suggestions of custom installers and continues to evolve and expand.

The software’s Quick Start Wizard, for example, makes the process of starting a new project from scratch easier than ever. After selecting a system’s worth of components from the Philips database and deciding upon a set of default activities, PEP2 builds a rough, but fairly comprehensive, control interface for you, complete with most of the macros and pages you would need in a typical system. Sure, a bit of tweaking needs to be done, but the Wizard gets most of the laborious busywork out of the way quickly

Macros can also be stored and reused quickly and easily, as can complete GUI templates. Amazingly enough, I was able to build a complete control solution for my media room from scratch in just a few hours, without ever attending a training session and with only minimal reliance on the software’s help menus. You definitely shouldn’t skip the training yourself, though, since different levels of certification at Philips’ Pronto Professional website will grant you access to increasingly more advanced ProntoScript modules.

Pronto’s RFX9400 Wireless Extender communicates with the TSU9800 wirelessly via an ad hoc connection, eliminating the need for line-of-sight control.

My complaints about programming the TSU9800 are few and mostly minor. Firstly, the ProntoEdit software does not really allow for more nuts-andbolts- level macro programming. And for the most part, there’s no reason to do so. But I can’t, for example, create If-Then/Else commands so the remote remembers if I’ve turned my display on and turn it off if I switch to an audio-only activity. If you want to turn a device off when switching from one activity to another, you will either need to insert discrete off commands in every activity macro, or step up to the RFX9600 Advanced Serial Extender, which adds RS-232 control and power sensing to the mix.

For my sort of mid-level media room, though, Pronto’s RFX9400 Wireless Extender provides more than enough “spooky action at a distance,” as Einstein would have called it, communicating with the TSU9800 wirelessly via an ad hoc connection and eliminating the need for line-of-sight control. You can also connect the RFX9400 to a wireless home network and assign it a dedicated IP address, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for expanding the range of your system.

My other beef is that Philips’ IR code database can be a bit perplexing, since most devices are represented by a codeset number instead of a model name. Thankfully Philips has partnered with Atlanta-based Only 1 Remote to offer an updated, downloadable IR database that’s much easier to navigate. It’s limited to newer and more popular gear, though, so if the system you are programming for contains older or more esoteric equipment, you might still have to do some trial-and-error digging.

And as for the hardware itself, quite frankly, it is so simply elegant that one struggles to find much to say. It is a quantum leap over its older, littler brother, the TSU9600, in terms of screen size, but offers the same bulletproof build quality and uncluttered aesthetics. With 6.4 inches of VGA screen real estate, it is big enough to accommodate even the most unwieldy of front paws, but small enough to rest comfortably on a leg. And its size makes it perfect for wall mounting (a wall-mount bracket is included, and the back of the remote has hard-wired connections for power and network connectivity).

Its extra mass also makes the TSU9800 much more stable and easier to use when docked in its glowing, transparent charging base, and its updated scroll wheel (which can now be used as a volume controller) operates more smoothly and quite frankly feels more expensive. The two additional hard buttons (“Info” and “Back”) are also very welcomed.

All things considered, hardware and software combined, the TSU9800 and updated ProntoEdit Professional software make for a great mid-to-upper level control solution—perfect for when a standard universal remote control isn’t enough, but a full-fledged ultra-high-end whole-house automation solution isn’t needed or wanted. It’s great to see the line continue to evolve as it has. But let’s not start mixing our scientific metaphors here.