By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
At the same time remote-control technology is becoming more and more sophisticated — a finger's touch away from directing every component in a home entertainment system — manufacturers, many say thankfully, are working to make routine use of the device, more simple.
Marantz America, for example, features customizable, illuminated touch-screen panels with electro-luminescent back lighting in its next-generation RC5200 programmable touch-screen learning remote. The unit offers advanced functionality and new ergonomic designs that make it easier than ever to control every component in a home entertainment system, according to the Itasca, Ill.-based company.
The RC5200 also functions with Marantz's RX-77 RF (radio frequency) extender, which allows the remote to operate systems that are installed in locations out of the reach of its infrared (IR) beams, including systems in other rooms throughout the home.
The RC5200 provides total control of the audio/video components in a home entertainment system, along with IR-controllable accessories such as lighting and motorized projection screens. It features a monochrome display and 2MB of external memory.
Although sophisticated in operation, this remote is designed for ease of setup and operation. Animated help files make programming a breeze, according to Marantz, while the RC5200 offers a host of convenient functions, such as one-screen access to all controls of any selected component and macro capability that enables the user to transmit multiple-step control sequences with a single command.
Suggested retail is $599.99, and the RX-77 remote control extender has a suggested $159.99.
"Want to crank up the music, but you're in the basement?" asks remote maker Sima. The company's new SUR-47 universal remote allows control of A/V components from any room in the home.
It combines the direct simplicity of an IR remote with the powerful utility of RF signal transmission and ties together touch-screen flexibility and hard-button functionality, said the Oakmont, Pa.-based company.
The remote, which controls up to 16 different components, comes with a send/receive base unit that transmits through walls and around corners, up to about 100 feet. Users press a button to select a device, and the touch- screen displays the appropriate control panel instantly. Macro commands automate numerous functions, while a remote locator finds the hand unit when it is "lost."
The SUR-47 will be available at the end of September for a suggested $249.95.
An eight-device digital video recorder (DVR) Philips Magnavox remote from Gemini Industries, model PMDVR8, is said to be the first of its kind to provide full digital video recording functionality for TiVo and Replay systems, by encompassing all 14 TiVo and Replay keys.
Designed for consumers who wish to combine their countless cumbersome audio and video remotes into one that features an easy, user-friendly interface, the unit represents the first standard remote that provides full functionality for television, DVD player, satellite TV, A/V home theater and DVR keys. The keypad is color-coded according to which device each key applies to — blue for DVD player, black for satellite TV, red for A/V home theater and green for DVR.
The remote is available from the Clifton, N.J.-based company at a suggested $29.99.
Whether users are big channel surfers or movie buffs, the Thomson RCA universal learning remote, model RCU1010, with LCD touch screen, can be programmed to control up to nine components — including television, VCR, DVD player, personal video recorder, satellite/cable, CD and audio equipment.
The slim, back lit unit quickly "learns" codes from the remotes already stuck in the couch in a few simple steps, according to the Indianapolis-based company. It includes macro keys, enabling users to program a series of actions that can be operated with a single button push, such as turning on certain home theater components.
The large LCD screen can be set up to display the most popular functions, so these can be performed quickly and easily. Suggested retail is $129.95.
Home theater control is in the palm of a consumer's hand, said Philips Consumer Electronics about its new Pronto Next Generation TSU3000 remote, that features a 16-color grayscale touch-screen LCD with blue back light. The unit sports a stylish gray and polished silver casing with 4MB of non-volatile flash memory.
Pronto Edit NG software enables Pronto users to let their imaginations take control. By synchronizing the Pronto universal remote to a PC, tech-minded consumers can program the Pronto to new levels, allowing import of graphics such as channel icons or pictures of their A/V components. The software also creates an easy environment to program and edit macro commands, customize menus and lay out the virtual buttons on the LCD screen, enabling users to control their IR devices with a single tap of the screen.
The touch-screen remote from Atlanta-based Philips Consumer Electronics North America also features exterior controls for additional ease of use. The four-directional navigation button allows users to easily browse through the menu screens, vertically through pages of each device and horizontally through the different devices, to control their home theater devices. The TSU3000 is available for $399.99.
The Kameleon-powered 6-In-One universal remote from Universal Electronics is a display technology that acts as "digital ink" to intelligently illuminate only the set of keys needed to control each entertainment device, such as a television, DVD player or cable box.
With Kameleon, the universal controller intelligently changes its display to reflect the user's entertainment environment, whether listening to music, enjoying home theater or simply watching television.
When users watch television, for example, they only see and are able to send TV-specific commands. When they switch activities and begin to watch a movie, keys such as play, fast-forward and stop are displayed so users can control the DVD player. In this way, consumers enjoy simplified interaction with their entertainment devices through the easy-to-use, graphical, touch display that shows only the relevant functional keys for each device. Kameleon's signature back lighting also provides a bright and vivid display for ease of viewing, and the animated graphics on the display give a quick visual feedback for the controller's status.
The Cypress, Calif.-based Universal Electronics said Kameleon interface technology has been selected by RadioShack to power its next-generation remote. Suggested retail for the Kameleon-powered RadioShack 6-in-One is $59.
Two new remotes from Jasco Products are said to be ideal for users who want to combine their audio and video remotes into one, user-friendly remote.
The GE-brand Medallion Series remote, model RM24970, is a seven-device remote that controls electronic components such as a television, DVD player, VCR, satellite receiver, CD player and audio receiver. It works with over 325 TV brands and comes equipped with a TV and DVD menu function with "navigation keys" that are ideal for home digital entertainment equipment, picture-in-picture and home theater surround sound features. Suggested retail for the sleek, ergonomic remote is $14.99.
The EZ Clean Universal Remote, model RM27972, from the Oklahoma City-based Jasco, is a four-device unit that controls electronic components such as a television, DVD player, CD player and audio receiver. It works with over 325 brands and is ideal for the kitchen or outside summer areas such as the swimming pool or hot tub. It offers a membrane keypad to protect it from spills, food and dust that harm sensitive components. Suggested retail is $12.99.
Although not new, the RM-AV3000 Universal Integrated Remote Commander, from Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony Electronics, lays claim to a recent 12 months in the No. 1 dollar volume share position, based on NPD data, said Sony. "Consumers have made the RM-AV3000 universal remote commander the No. 1 selling remote in the industry because it offers a way to control all their components with an easy-to-read touch-screen display, as well as hard buttons," said Jim Avato, product manager.
For commanding home theater systems, the remote can control all A/V and non-A/V equipment for up to 18 components and can pre-program with nearly 500 sets on non-Sony commands. A powerful learning capability makes it able to customize text names for learned commands and it offers 33 macro keys to simplify and automate a home theater operation.
Suggested retail for the touch-screen LCD and blue back-lit remote is $199.99.
An advanced new programmable remote, from Universal Remote Control, provides complete control of all audio/video components in a home, regardless of location. Called the MX-800, the unit is compatible with PCs, operates up to 20 audio and video components and can create 900 macro buttons, each featuring 199 commands. The name of each component and its function appear on a 2.1- by 1.4-inch LCD screen with text-editing capabilities.
The combination of the MX-800 learning remote, with the MRF-200 base station, creates a command center for an entire home audio system, regardless of where the equipment is placed. Using both RF and IR technologies, the MX-800 and MRF-200 can send commands up to 100 feet, through walls and household structures.
The MRF-200 receives RF signals from the MX-800 and transmits commands to all components in the cabinet or room, either through the MRF-200's front IR blaster or six plug-in blasters.
The MX-800, at a suggested $499 from the Harrison, N.Y.-based company, including the MRF-200, comes pre-programmed for over 1,000 audio and video components, including personal video recorders, DVD players, VCRs, cable and satellite receivers and audio equipment.
A new remote control processor, the RP-6, from Chanhassen, Minn.-based Remote Technologies, provides many features typically found only in more expensive control systems. Some of these include RF transmission from the remote control to the processor, programmable triggers, addressable IR outputs, macros that can be stored in and executed from the processor and separate RM-418 receiver modules that can be used in multiples for greater coverage.
The RP-6, used with Remote Technologies' Theater-Touch T2 universal remote, has a suggested retail of between $550 and $559.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.