By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
With remote control units multiplying in home media rooms faster than flies at a barbecue, makers are looking to take control of the expansion in the number of these devices, by turning more to universal remotes that do the complete job. Sony Electronics, for one, is set to liberate the family entertainment center with its universal Remote Commanders that consolidate control of up to 18 compatible, separate audio and video components.
"We designed our universal remotes for people who want to take back control of their many entertainment components, but don't want to spend a lot of time programming a whole new device," said Jim Avato, accessory marketing manager at Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony. "Now, they can control a variety of audio and video equipment with one easy-to-use remote."
The top-of-the-line RM-AV3000 handles up to 18 components, including televisions, DVD and CD players, VCRs, tape decks, TiVo digital network recorders and cable set-top boxes.
The remote stores 45 macro commands, each with up to 32 steps, to turn on components, select the right functions and tune to the right channels — all at the touch of a single button.
Other features on the approximately-$200 retail remote include a memory backup, a hold function to lock buttons, clock/timer function and a copy function to transfer settings and commands.
For home theater enthusiasts looking for ways to manage audio and video components, the RCA-brand touch screen RCU1000B from Thomson Multimedia is said to help keep the viewer in control. This Touch Screen Learning Remote Control, which features a high-resolution screen that measures 4.5 inches high by 2.5 inches wide, offers a dot-matrix text layout that has 40 labeled key areas. This can be customized to display the functions the user performs most often, such as sleep times, VCR recording or picture-in-picture.
"We anticipate a continued consumer trend toward more advanced remotes, and we will expand our touch screen and learning remote offering to satisfy the demand," said David Geise, VP for accessories and components at Indianapolis-based Thomson Multimedia.
The RCU1000B controls a television, VCR, DVD player, cable box, satellite receiver, four audio devices and an auxiliary device. In addition to quickly learning codes from existing remotes, nine macro keys can be programmed to memorize up to 20 keystrokes, allowing TV viewers to turn on their entire home entertainment center at the touch of a button.
"As consumers seek solutions for managing their home entertainment systems, the market for universal remote controls continues to show healthy growth, especially in higher-end products," said Bill Brown, Thomson Multimedia remote control product manager.
The Pronto TSU2000 and Pronto Pro TSU6000, from Philips Consumer Electronics , provide users with a wide variety of control and customization options for their home cinema systems. With the addition of the Pronto Neo TSU500 to the Philips family of remotes, the company is able to offer a more affordable option for consumers who want the help of a universal remote control that is customizable and easy to use.
"Now, we can target a mainstream audience by offering the benefits of the higher-end Pronto products at a lower price," said Michael Lang, general manager of audio/video. Lang is referring to the Pronto Neo, at a suggested $249.99 retail, compared with $399 for the TSU2000 and $600 suggested retail for the Pronto Pro TSU6000. The Pronto Neo features a back lighted touch-screen LCD display with a resolution of 160 by 100 pixels.
The unit, from Atlanta-based Philips, incorporates 15 hard buttons for basic functions and utilizes cursor control for easier navigation through satellite or cable-box graphics interfaces.
The GE-brand 7 Device Universal Learning Remote, from Jasco Products , eliminates the need for multiple remote controls. The RM94940 is designed to help consolidate remote controls used for television, VCR, cable, DVD and CD players, satellite and stereo system — allowing the operation of all home entertainment equipment with one device.
The remote from the Oklahoma City-based Jasco offers learning capability, giving the user the ability to program-code up to four functions from the original remote control, simply by pointing the two remotes end to end and following the enclosed instructions.
The remote goes one step further with its programmed code list, with the RM94940 controlling the on-screen channel guide found on most cable and satellite systems. It is colored Brilliant Blue and works with most major brands, including GE, RCA, Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Zenith, Sharp, Mitsubishi and more. Suggested retail is $24.99. "Most remote controls on the market today don't offer onscreen menu controls, or only offer limited access," said Ron Kennedy, product manager for remote control products at Jensen, a Recoton company.
"Jensen created the concept, design, motherboard and technology" for its new, advanced technology line of universal remote controls, said Kennedy, "then combined [these] with the most comprehensive, industry-recognized library of audio and video device codes."
Included in the new line from the Lake Mary, Fla.-based Jensen are the JR300 (3 in 1), at a suggested $9.99, the JR400 (4 in 1), at a suggested $14.99 and the JR500 (5 in 1), at a suggested $17.99.
The models, which combine the latest screen technology along with a vast brand compatibility and ultra modern design with ergonomic features, also include easy set-up, memory backup, volume lock to control television volume from a VCR, satellite or cable mode, sleep timer, code search and channel scan.
Called the most advanced programmable remote control ever created, the RC9200 is said to offer greater versatility than even custom installation control systems, according to its maker Marantz America . The RC9200 offers a brightly illuminated touch-screen display, 8MB of flash memory and a high performance processor for ultra-high storage capacity and sophisticated control capabilities.
The Marantz unit includes programmable Instant Surf buttons that call up any channel at the touch of a single button, and the ability to import full-color channel icons and personalized graphics.
The top-of-the-line RC9200, at a suggested $1,249 retail, provides total control of audio/video components in a home entertainment system, along with IR-controllable accessories such as lighting and motorized projection screens.
The remote, from the Itasca, Ill.-based Marantz, can display hundreds of control screens, and comes programmed to operate a wide variety of company audio and video products. Universal Remote Control's SideKick, which complements the master MX-700 remote control, is designed to provide casual users of complex, custom-installed systems with a simple remote solution for watching television, satellite or cable programs.
"The SideKick is the perfect solution for those household members who require one touch automated macros to turn on and configure the home theater, yet may be intimidated by remote controls with too many buttons," said Hank Eisengrein, product manager.
Speaking about the Harrison, N.Y.-based company's Home Theater Master MX-700 Dual Remote Control, which incorporates two remote controls in one package, Eisengrein said the unit will automate up to 20 different home theater components and perform over 900 macros.
Suggested retail for the MX-700 remote, SideKick remote, PC serial-cable and batteries is $499.95.
Providing what Cypress, Calif.-based Universal Electronics calls the key to the networked home, the company's Nevo platform offers an interactive method to wirelessly access every device in the home or home office.
A user can point to any consumer electronics product or major appliance in the house and, on the screen of a Nevo-embedded device — such as a Web pad or personal digital assistant (PDA) — a virtual remote pops up to control the CE unit. Once Nevo resides on a Web tablet or PDA, a user can watch television, while another family member browses the TV program guide or other related information in real time on their PDA or PC device.
The unit, which operates on any display device with Windows CE 3.0 and higher, has yet to receive a suggested retail, pending the retail price of the PDA set by an OEM.
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.