Philips NEW Pronto TSU9300 Programmable Remote Control
, reviewed by Dr. Ken Taraska
No matter what level of home theater you own, the only interface you have with your system is the remote. If you run a simple system of only a receiver, source and display, you could get by with the remote that's included with your receiver these days, but if you want the best theater experience, you must realize the crown jewel of your theater is the remote control. The better the remote is, the smoother your system works and the more enjoyment you and your family will reap from your home theater.
Philips, at the forefront of programmable remote control design for over a decade, has just released a new remote that strives to do anything you could want for a truly high-end remote feel at a budget price. The new Pronto TSU9300 was designed with the help of custom installers' feedback and its feature set shows it. Retailing for $799, the TSU9300 aims at the middle-range-to-higher-end theater, though it could often control more than any theater will throw at it.
The new Philips Pronto TSU9300 is fully programmable and customizable and is truly designed for the modern world. This new Pronto offers IR and Wi-Fi 802.11g control of devices. A touch screen panel with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels is flush-mounted to the gloss black face panel, which is flanked by a brushed aluminum edge. The remote comes with everything you need to get started, including a charging dock, power and USB cable, software install disc for PCs with either Windows XP or Vista and power adapters for several other countries' power plugs, as well as a comprehensive manual and start-up guide.
The remote is designed for one-handed use and measures eight-and-a-half inches by two-and-three-tenths inches by one inch. The hard buttons are well laid-out and backlit, with the exception of five buttons across the lower edge of the display, which are labeled on the display so they are also easy to find in the dark. On the top of the remote is a single power button. Below this centrally-mounted button is the two-and-four-fifths-inch diagonal touch screen. Five hard buttons are aligned from left to right below that. Moving further down the remote, there are home and menu hard buttons, then the cursor control surrounded by a scroll wheel. The bottom of the remote has hard buttons for volume, channel mute, info return and a guide button. Page up, down and a light button are on the left side, as well as a hard power switch. The remote is made of high-density plastic and has a solid feel to it. The backside of the remote is pretty simple and relatively flat, except for the three contact points for recharging the installed battery, and has smoothly curved edges that make it comfortable for your hand.
The Philips Pronto TSU9300 comes prepared out of the box to deal with several common music servers, including the Escient Fireball, Imerge and any Windows Media Center Edition PC. Keep your eyes peeled for more to be added. The TSU9300's wi-fi capability enables the remote to display the information you need from your music server on the remote's display, giving you direct feedback right in the palm of your hand, while the scroll wheel on the remote lets you quickly scan through even large music collections with iPod ease. This new Pronto can directly control Lutron RadioRa lighting with the addition of an IP to RS-232 controller from Philips and even offers two-way feedback on lighting status. Lutron's RadioRA is a lighting control system that can be retrofitted into any home without costly rewiring, allowing easy addition of lighting control to older homes.
Truly mooen home theaters aren't just easy to use. They're controlled by systems that automate all the subtleties of the movie, TV, gaming and music experience, and the new Philips Pronto TSU9300 allows all these systems to be customized to your own exacting specifications, no matter how demanding they are. With the remote's ability to program macros for any key or button of up to 250 steps, you will never run out of capabilities for even the biggest systems. Do you want the lights out for movies but low for TV and different lights on for gaming? No problem. Want the screen up during the day and down at night? Yep, the Pronto can handle that, too. In fact, you could control your entire home from this single remote. With the addition of the Philips available RFX9400 IP to IR extender or the RFX9600 IP to RS-232 extenders, you can easily and perfectly control your components from over 100 feet away without the line-of-sight restriction of typical IR remotes.
The Pronto remotes come with everything you could ever need to set it up yourself, but I will not pretend to say the Pronto Edit Professional software is Apple-simple to use for the newbie. The programming software has you add all the components you have in your system, then choose the activities you desire the remote to offer. You can customize the display for each panel of the touch screen backgrounds and buttons. The editing software allows you to perfectly control size and placement of everything, and you can import any pictures you would like for anything. I elected to use the standard buttons from the software, and added some interesting backgrounds for fun. When I was happy with my programming, I uploaded it to the remote and was up and running in about an hour.
I have a fair amount of experience programming Pronto remotes, so I was able to set up my system by myself, but thankfully, when Philips sent me this unit, they had programming company Only One Remote (www.OnlyOneRemote.com
) contact me to design a programming file for my remote. When I downloaded the program that the folks at OnlyOneRemote.com made for me, I was floored. They are experts in the programming of these remotes and did a far superior job to anything I could have ever done. They used vivid colors and gorgeous GUIs to represent each option and allowed me to fine-tune my control. My Blu-ray player screens were a bright blue, my TV screens were another color, etc. This made it even easier to tell which macro I was controlling. The transport keys they added to the display were totally cool-looking. To make them even easier to use, they put a button on the home page of each transport for a larger version, so the transport buttons were huge, with a loss of only two other controls on the display.
Operating the remote was a joy. The hard buttons were perfectly backlit. They didn't cause a scene in dark rooms, while they were easy to see in any level of lighting. The smooth and shiny front allowed the hard buttons to be immediately felt and the slightly textured rear kept the remote stable and comfortable in the palm of the hand. The touch screen was of moderate size, yet large enough to house ten channel icons and the multiple pages available will cover even the most hardcore TV viewers' favorite channels. The touch screen was accurate, allowing even my large hands to precisely control the buttons. The included base station quickly charged the battery, which lasted out of the charger in my system for a week. The IR emitter worked very well, even when pointed far away from the component being controlled, but was limited by line of sight.
The software that comes with this remote allows seemingly infinite control, but with this flexibility comes difficulty. I have a reasonable degree of experience programming Pronto remotes, but if you are not familiar with the software or the difficulties of programming a remote to function perfectly every time, you really should look for some help. You could program the Philips Pronto TSU9300 by yourself, and many will, but I think you might be missing out on just how good this remote can really be.
While the IR emitter is very powerful, it still requires a line of sight to function. The TSU9300 does allow for wireless wi-fi communication, and
Philips has add on devices to allow wi-fi to IR, as well as wi-fi to RS-232 control. While wi-fi to IR allows for nearly perfect control of gear, wi-fi to RS-232 is faultless. Either or both of these could be necessary and will add to the cost of the remote system. Home theater fanatics with simpler systems that don't have one of the supported music servers could save money with some of the less costly remotes available.
Your remote is the pinnacle of your home theater, and being able to effectively control any and all components in your rig is its only goal. The Philips Pronto TSU9300 is an amazingly flexible remote that is capable of controlling almost any home theater, from the simplest receiver-based system to an all-out assault with countless options and fringe systems, such as screen control, lighting, music servers, temperature and of course your gear. If you want the finest control of a room, and even a home, this is likely the cheapest way to command your gear without going to a true dealer-installed system like AMX or Crestron, and the user programmability will save you costly dealer reprograms for minor gear changes.
The new Philips Pronto TSU9300 remote not only will control any system you could have, it adds the benefit of bi-directional feeds for many common music servers, allowing in-your-hand control of playback. This is something that simply hasn't existed prior to the likes of AMX or Crestron, and is a huge step forward in remote controls. If you use any of these music servers, the wow factor of this feature alone would justify the cost of this remote. Additionally, there is increased ease of use with its new scroll wheel for scanning your music library. The TSU9300 is capable of wi-fi to IR or RS-232 control and these features will be necessary for the high-end home theaters to improve efficacy of control. The wi-fi to RS-232 controller can also add bi-directional control of Lutron RadioRA's lighting control system, allowing anyone to truly raise the bar of their home theater control, regardless of when your home was built.
This remote doesn't come cheap, and it will benefit from either tons of time on your side or a small investment in a company like Only One Remote to make it perfectly suit your system. Once you get it set up right, you will be able to experience the level of control others have spent (and still spend) tens of thousands of dollars on. A well-programmed Philips Pronto remote can honestly compete with the big boys at a fraction of the cost, while being easier to modify as well. This is a breakthrough product and one I think you will hear plenty more about in the future as it hits the street.