- why can't someone make a real smart remote control?
A plea for logic and
user-friendliness in remotes
Commentary by Les
In my many years of
being an audio and videophile, I have had my share of remote controls
- for just about every piece of equipment I have ever collected. My coffee
table at times seems to disappear amongst the refuse of remotes and, although
I certainly enjoy the convenience, I often wish the electronic manufacturers
could find a better way.
Oh, sure we have the
"smart or learning remotes" but unfortunately they don't always
solve the problem. There are times I need a certain function at my disposal
that the smart remote has no memory for.
A good example of
this was when I had recently misplaced my Laser Disc remote and I had
a good friend over for an afternoon to view a few classic movie clips
to show off my surround system. It was so frustrating to manually find
the chapter stops that it took away the enjoyment and the flow of the
demonstration. I was using my learning remote but it only knew the basic
functions of the Laser player.
Suppose you lost your
VCR remote and couldn't program your favourite sitcom! Smart remote to
the rescue? Highly unlikely.
of the manufacturers have some interesting alternatives - such as Lexicon
whose remote features a graphical user interface (GUI) which mimics the
remote control function of your component. This means that the actual
controls are recreated graphically, on a backlit LCD display! However
its $2500 cost is not exactly pocket change for some.
new Stage 3 series introduced the KC-Z1, what seems to be a radically
innovative design in A/V preamp/processor technology. It features a detachable
LCD touch screen remote. The unit, measuring about 4.9 X 6.8 X 2 inches,
uses RF (radio frequency) technology, which allows the user to operate
the preamp from any where in the house!
The remote uses icons
and graphics to help you set up everything from the basic functions to
more complex surround parameters. The remote is configured in a "layered
progressive menu" configuration, taking your from the simple to the
more in depth settings. Cost of the preamp about $3900.
Sony also has a remote
that doesn't get much exposure but is worth looking at. It's the RMV1100
which, at least in Canada, is available only as a special "parts
department" order item. It used to be included with the old KV32XBR90S
The remote is backlit
and features control menus for whatever piece of hardware you're using.
As an example, if you press the LD (laser disc) function, those controls
appear on the LCD screen. The touch sensitive screen is ideal and appears
to solve the "lost" remote scenario. Also, with the backlit
function, it's much easier to see what you're doing in a dimly lit room.
I do wish that the
actual function select buttons (i.e. TV, VCR, Amp, Tape, etc.) were also
lit up, but I guess you just can't have everything.
Do bear in mind this
unit is quite wide and may not fit comfortably in all hands; also it takes
6 AA batteries and can go through them rather quickly when you use this
as your only remote. The price, you ask ? Around $375.
Yamaha has some remotes
that feature a bright yellow layout, which is better - but it still can't
beat a lighted remote.
It would even be nice
if, when you bought that high end Home Theatre receiver or preamp, it
would include a decent, legible, backlit learning remote like Kenwood's.
Too many remotes, with their small grey labels on a black background that's
virtually illegible when you're watching a movie under dim light, don't
take the user into enough consideration.
all-function remote would also eliminate the search for that special function
from one's collection of "clickers." Let's face it: a remote
should be user friendly, functional and ergonomically pleasing, not intimidating
with a myriad of buttons that are so close together you need a magnifying
glass to make them out.
This issue needs to
be addressed more seriously by the electronics manufacturers or by some
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think