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.

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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.

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