Conventional wisdom holds that large touchscreen remotes rest comfortably at the top of the control food chain, with hard-button wand-style remotes relegated to second-class status at best. Let’s not forget, though, that conventional wisdom also once held that the Earth was flat. It took Greek mathematician Eratosthenes to conclusively contradict the veracity of a disc world, and it seems that URC has just staged its own Eratosthenian revolution in the remote world with its MX-5000 two-way wand remote control, which is the market’s first combination wand/touchscreen controller with tactile haptic feedback.
That feedback, while certainly something to talk about, isn’t what sets the MX-5000 apart, though. What puts it on a level playing field with the big boys is its brilliant ergonomic design and two-way Wi-Fi functionality. The remote’s brushed metal façade and glossy backlit buttons exude a level of quality befitting its $1,200 price tag.
PROGRAMMING FOR PROS
This is, without question, a product for the custom installation channel. There aren’t any handy programming wizards to take you through a simple setup in a few quick minutes. URC’s Complete Control Program is a labyrinthine piece of software that wastes no time with handholding. My first experience with the program—when I installed URC’s top-of-the-line MX-6000 touchscreen remote last year—involved several days of training and a couple of days making macros, learning how to nest macros within macros, and figuring out exactly how URC’s IF/THEN/ELSE commands worked.
A Peer Product Review of the MX-5000
by Dan Paulson, Paulson’s Audio and Video, Farmington, MI
Describe the feature set of the product. What stands out most to you as an integrator?
We really like the ability we have to customize the MX-5000. In addition, all of my staff are amazed by the MX-5000’s professional, sleek, refined look. The screen is nice, and we like that it’s a one-hand wand touchscreen. I like the haptic feedback, too. It addresses a common complaint about touch screens: fat finger disease. With most touchscreens, customers often feel they push too many buttons at once, or don’t know if they’re pushing the right one. The haptic feedback on the MX-5000 removes that issue.
What features would you like to see changed or added to the MX-5000?
One thing we noticed is that the MX-5000 doesn’t have a numeric keypad. The ability for our customers to type in numbers would be convenient. But a numeric pad would take away from the MX-5000’s aesthetics, and I’m sure that’s why they didn’t include one. We’d also like them to open up the platform and let it communicate with other devices.
That experience paid off, though. Although the MX-5000’s screen is smaller and the screen layout is different, programming the remotes turns out to be a nearly identical experience, so if you already know your way around the Complete Control Program, you’ll feel right at home with this new remote. It takes me hardly more than an afternoon to get the MX-5000 programmed— with a few custom graphics here and there—and fully integrated into my media room system, which already included URC’s MRF-350 RF Base Station and PSX-2 Personal Server, a networkable iPod dock designed to interface with the URC’s two-way remotes.
With everything in place, I was able to control my system from anywhere in the house via RF, without regard for line-of-sight. Sure, the MRF-350 lacks the RS-232 control capabilities of URC’s much more sophisticated MSC-400 Master System Controller, but given the power and flexibility of the remote’s IF/THEN/ELSE macros, I don’t need RS- 232 control in my mid-sized media room. The system works like a champ, without fail, every time I turn it on (and off).
URC’s PSX-2 Personal Server is a networkable iPod dock designed to interface with the URC’s two-way remotes.
The MX-5000 also features a good bit of two-way functionality even without RS-232. With both the MX-5000 and PSX-2 connected to my home network (the former via Wi-Fi, the latter hard-wired), I’m able to not only browse my iPod’s library on the remote’s touchscreen (complete with album artwork), but also tap into added functionality like search and on-the-fly playlist creation.
Most of the same internet widgets available for the MX-6000 are also available here (with the understandable exception of full-blown web browsing), as is two-way interactivity with a number of receivers and processors from manufacturers like Denon, Yamaha, B&K, Onkyo, and Integra. But perhaps the coolest of all the MX-5000’s Wi-Fi tricks is its ability to control and browse the music library on your Windows Media Center-equipped PC.
For systems that don’t require (or clients who can’t afford) more advanced whole-home touchscreen control systems, the MX-5000 is a rocking device that combines many of the best aspects of touchscreen remotes (customizable graphics and simplicity of operation) and hard-button controllers (not having to constantly look at the remote to operate it) in one beautifully built package.