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Product Review
 

Philips Pronto TSU9600 Remote Control

Part I

April, 2007

Ofer LaOr

 

Specifications:

● 3.7" VGA Screen (640 x 480)
● 21 Hard Buttons
● USB 2.0, 802.11b/WEP64/WEP128
● Access to Lutron and Escient Systems
● Backlight
● Speaker
● Charging Time: 3 Hours
● Dimensions: 1.4" H x 6" W x 4" D
● Weight: 0.5 Pound
● MSRP: $1,299 USA (Street Price $999)

Philips Pronto

Introduction

It wasn't so long ago that if you had a DVD player, a receiver and a large screen TV, you thought you had an amazing home theater.

Standards have changed, and now you need a really big screen TV or projector, at least two good video sources, a PVR/TiVo, STB (Set top Box) A/V receiver, a streamer / HTPC / XBOX / PlayStation, and a few other gadgets to get into that club. All these toys mean you probably have a box to put all those remotes in.

I, for one, had an LCD remote for quite a few years. My first so called "home theater" had a TV, DVD player, and A/V receiver. In those days, three remotes were an annoyance to me.

I found out that a new product was on the market by Philips called "Pronto". I was torn between that remote and a joint venture between Microsoft and Harman/Kardon yielding a humongous remote called TC1000 (TC= take control). I ended up purchasing the TC because of a nifty jog dial that allowed you to (theoretically) surf channels by simply rotating it.

Why bother with an LCD remote? First, no matter how many hard buttons you have in a universal remote, it is never designed exactly how you want it. I needed something that I could control 100% in terms of how it looked and how it did things.

The TC1000 turned out to be a horrible purchasing decision. The Pronto series of products was continually evolving, while the TC1000 was abandoned and was a mediocre product to begin with.

The greatest power of the original Pronto was also its greatest weakness. It required a combination of a graphics artist and a programmer to build a half decent remote design. In those days, you only had tiny graphics and only two shades of gray (and, of course white and black) to work with. But still, the Pronto presented you with a completely empty pad of paper. You could end up designing anything you saw fit with it. It was a product that was priced for end-users, but gave you more power than a custom installer had with other products.

Pronto models continually improved during the last decade, adding more features, larger screen areas, more shades of gray, more hard buttons, and more recently . . . color LCD.

The basic idea behind the Pronto has been that you receive an empty slate. You then decide what each button will look like and what it can do. Each button can link to another button's code, output I/R codes, add a delay, a beep or even jump to another screen.

Ultimately, with the critical help of www.remotecentral.com, some of the nifty features in the Pronto became much more powerful. Users were able to figure out I/R codes and share them among themselves. This even included codes that were not available on the original remotes. The Pronto code format became so popular that some companies give you a limited remote for their products, while the full functionality is simply in downloadable discrete codes on that product's website, and you put them on something like the Pronto.

People also started sharing Pronto screen designs. With each product generation, Philips continually supported older formats and allowed users to upgrade and improve their designs. Add an occasional Remote Central Pronto design contest, and you have some amazing graphical designs that you can adopt and use.

That really means that anyone with some technical know-how can now program a Pronto. You never really start from scratch anymore you typically take an existing design, drop in some discrete codes, and start connecting the dots.

Philips tried another route with the RC9800 remote (not in the Pronto line of products) that basically asked you quite a few questions and ultimately created a design for you. The benefit of that product was that it connected to your wi-fi network, was able to stream content, and had bidirectional control.

The TSU9600

Philips has now introduced the newest item in the Pronto lineup the Pronto TSU9600. This remote enhances the Pronto experiences in quite a few interesting new ways.

The design of the unit is completely flat and streamlined, and there isn't even an indentation around the touch screen. That's really an amazing achievement, and it does take some getting used to. The benefit, of course, is that dirt does not tend to bunch up after a few months at the corners of the bezel.

The screen itself is 640x480, using a new TFT LCD design that is much brighter and more attractive than other models. In fact, it has the best screen I've seen on a remote or even a PDA in quite a while. The images are crisp and amazing, and you find yourself often longing that the remote also showed the video itself.

The screen has a landscape orientation, which does get some getting used to. We're so used to elongated stick-like remotes that a landscape remote does feel strange in your hand.

There are several hard buttons (as opposed to software or "soft" buttons that you design on the LCD screen) to work with. The buttons are in shaped with the same slick texture as the rest of the remote, but are slightly raised and transparent. This gives the remote a very slick and streamlined look and feel. However, the downside to this approach is that any tactile markers that were available on the hard buttons in previous designs are now gone. Previous designs had small lines and grooves designed into them, allowing you to play with the remote without missing a split second of watching your home theater. With the new design, you will find yourself looking at the remote a lot more and awkwardly pressing the wrong button now and again.

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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