Philips TSU500 Prontoneo Universal Remote Control Reviewed

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"There are two types of people in this world: those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loved him." For the uninitiated, these words were spoken by Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) to explain what went wrong with his previous marriage in the classic comedy What About Bob? I can't say for sure whether or not Neil Diamond has such power to divide the masses, but one subject that surely does is the touch screen remote control. When it comes to touch screens, you either like them or you don't.

Additional Resources
• Read more remotes and system control reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver that can be programmed into the TSU500.

Since its introduction in 1998, the Philips Pronto has been the remote of choice for touch screen fans. Now, Philips is hoping to bring more users into the fold with their new, less complicated, less expensive model: the ProntoNEO.

According to Philips, the ProntoNEO is "meant for people who like the idea of a customizable LCD remote, but don't want to spend many evenings programming it." After spending some time with the ProntoNEO, I would say that if your system is simple and your equipment is common, your out-of-the-box experience should be relatively painless. However, programming the ProntoNEO can get complicated quickly if you decide to explore some of its more advanced features.

Bells and whistles aside, the ProntoNEO is a competent universal remote that, if programmed properly, can replace all the remotes in your home. If you're tired of needing eight remotes to watch a movie, a universal remote is definitely worth considering.

Whether or not the ProntoNEO is the remote you should buy is another question entirely, and one I hope to help answer.

Unique Features
The first thing that sets the ProntoNEO (and all Prontos) apart from most universal remotes is the fact that the user interface relies primarily on a large touch screen LCD. Those of you who detest touch screens can stop reading here. Thanks for playing.

Touch screen remotes require looking at the screen to perform most functions (unless you have a very good memory). You can't just feel your way around like you can with traditional hard button remotes. In most home theater setups the room is not completely dark, but it is usually too dark to read. Luckily, the ProntoNEO is fully backlit, illuminating not only the screen but also its small cluster of hard buttons with a pleasing blue-green glow. The unit also allows you to customize the length of time the backlighting remains lit. The screen itself is a monochrome LCD with four gray scales and digital contrast control.

When comparing universal remotes, the ability to learn commands from other remotes should be high on your wish list. Despite what some manufacturers may promise, no universal remote can do everything out-of-the-box relying solely on preprogrammed codes; there are just too many different pieces of equipment out there. By pushing a few buttons and pointing your old remote at the ProntoNEO, the ProntoNEO can learn commands for each device on all but a few select buttons, which are reserved for core system functions.

In addition to learning individual commands from your old remotes, the ProntoNEO's hard and soft buttons can also be programmed to execute macros. A macro is a programmed series of commands that executes at the push of a button. Macros can greatly simplify your life, allowing you to program a sequence of keystrokes onto one simple button. With the ProntoNEO, virtually any button can become a macro button. The unit also lets you program time delays into the recording process, since some equipment needs a moment or two to process the first request before it will accept another. Spending the time to program macros for common tasks might seem like a pain at first, but it will pay off in spades when you see how quickly a macro gets your system up and ready.

Continue reading about the TSU500 on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for Philips TSU500 Prontoneo Universal Remote Control

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

3.5

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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If you ask a Pronto owner what his/her favorite feature is, chances are good it's customization. The Pronto family of remotes is a tweaker's dream, allowing you to customize button shapes, colors, labels, graphics and channel logos. What you can do with the Pronto interface is limited more by your imagination and amount of free time than anything else.

Setup/Ease of Use
The user manual supplied with the ProntoNEO is sorely lacking, only hinting at some of the exciting things it can do. However, the official Pronto website (www.pronto.philips.com) can be called upon for a thorough explanation of features and useful information.

The ProntoNEO handled my Sony TV and DVD player just fine, but controlling my Harman/Kardon receiver and Philips DirecTV/TiVo satellite receiver required a lot of manual code learning. When all was said and done, it performed as advertised.

Using the ProntoNEO takes some getting used to, especially if you've never used a touch screen remote before. For the most part, the screen is very legible, though I found it to be rather fuzzy when dealing with logos and custom graphics.

The ProntoNEO felt awkward in my grip, and there were several instances when I found myself using two hands. I'm sure the more time you spend with it, the easier it becomes. I didn't care for the remote's hard buttons, especially the four immediately beneath the screen. I found these buttons to be too small and too close together. The rubbery channel, volume, and cursor buttons were functional but had a little too much lateral movement for my taste.

Like other Prontos, the ProntoNEO allows you to customize its interface on your
home computer with the included NEOedit software. Using the NEOedit software is completely optional and a computer is not required to use the ProntoNEO. That said, however, using the NEOedit software is the only way for the ProntoNEO to live up to its full potential.

The programmed codes, buttons, and page designs on your ProntoNEO are stored in one configuration file. NEOedit allows you to modify that file. The software has a fairly steep learning curve, but there are other users out there who can help if you get stuck. Many of them congregate at http://www.remotecentral.com/files/index.html. You'll find areas where other Pronto and ProntoNEO owners have posted their configuration files, which you can freely download.

The large and friendly Pronto owner community, while wonderful, also represents my biggest gripe with the ProntoNEO. Configuration files for all other Pronto models are incompatible with the ProntoNEO. This means that you cannot download and use the configuration file from a Pronto or ProntoPro, but only from another ProntoNEO. This is where the ProntoNEO begins to develop an identity crisis.

The inclusion of the editing software in this package is clearly an attempt to make the ProntoNEO as much a Pronto as its older siblings, but its incompatibility with other Pronto models make the NE0 a bit of a black sheep in the Pronto family.

Final Take
So what's the verdict on the ProntoNEO? On one hand, it's a touch screen. For some, that will mean a slick, customizable interface. The ProntoNEO will control all of your components, it's fully backlit, and it sports robust learning
and macro capabilities.

On the other hand, it's a touch screen. So for others that will mean fumbling for buttons in the dark and draining battery life on backlighting. The ProntoNEO suffers from awkward ergonomics and its proprietary file format isolates you from the throngs of other Pronto owners.

If you like the idea of a customizable touch screen remote, I recommend you scrape together the extra money and spring for the TSU2000, the ProntoNEO's older brother. It does everything the ProntoNEO will do (and then some) and it also gives you instant membership to the large group of happy Pronto owners and their support.

If the only question you're still struggling with is whether or not a touch screen is right for you, ask yourself one question: Do I like Neil Diamond? Well do ya, punk?

Suggested Retail Price
$249.00

Additional Resources
• Read more remotes and system control reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver that can be programmed into the TSU500.


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