Product Review

Philips Pronto TSU9600 Remote Control

Part II

April, 2007

Ofer LaOr


The buttons are strategically placed on the right hand side (not so good for left handed folks). They are mostly accessible through the right thumb. The remote is much lighter than it might appear. It is designed to fit very snugly in your right hand while still allowing your thumb to quickly flip through the channels, looking for that critical episode of CSI you might have missed.

Still, if you're doing anything more than flipping channels, you'll need two hands for this remote. Whereas I could do virtually everything using one handed operations on previous Prontos, this is clearly too large a remote to do that. You simply hold the remote with one hand and use the other hand to control things on-screen.

Hardware button-wise, there are several new hard keys, including five keys below the screen: Menus key, EPG button, Channel, Volume/Mute, Power button, and Page Up/Down buttons (which can now be programmed).

The remote comes with a stylus, although I never need to use it, and it seems like that item will be a common complaint as it is way too easy to lose (there should have been some kind of string or wire attached to prevent it from getting lost).

The remote charges on a transparent base where it stands almost upright. The base is transparent and is lit up with white LEDs when powered on. When the remote is charging, a red light appears below it. In a dark room, this can be quite a spectacle. It is definitely a very cool look.

The 9600 comes with quite an advanced software package: the Pronto Edit Professional. This is yet another version of the software that can read older designs and support the phone in full. For the first time, the built-in template design comes with transition screens animation screens that help you pass the time when you turn on your system and a long macro has to turn on your display, A/V receiver, switch them all to the appropriate inputs, switch to a particular channel and then to a particular channel, change aspect ratio, set the volume level, etc. Macros can have up to 250 steps, but given that one macro can also make another macro start running, you have endless possibilities.

The software allows you to import graphics from the Philips gallery (which is quite extensive), and in the near future, I'm sure Remote Central will also add their own gallery and designs to the mix.

Button graphics are in the new PNG alpha-blended format, which not only allows for a reasonable size compression with big files, but also allows for transparency control. This will let you create buttons that throw shadows or light up their surroundings. This, combined with such an amazing screen and a much faster CPU, completes complex macros much faster than any previous Pronto remote I've tested.

The difference in speed between the TSU9600 and the previous generation of products (TSU7000/7500 Pronto Pro, or RU980/990) is just amazing. They really did revamp everything.

Additional features now include much smarter capabilities on the software side. You can distinguish buttons that function globally (e.g., volume should always be controlled on my A/V receiver) from those that are done locally (channel up and down should work different depending on which screen you are on). You can assign particular devices to a screen, which makes creating new buttons and macros much easier to do. It still takes quite a while to work everything out, particularly when you have lots of devices in your home theater (or entire house, as you can automate everything with this remote). A wizard-based system to start things off would have saved a serious amount of effort and time.

Here is a separate page showing screen shots of the software.

The end result of the software is a new XCF format. With other Prontos, you could download this file to your Pronto or upload it back if you needed to. This version only allows you to download the files to your Pronto. I assume the reason is that custom installers were tired of having their expensive designs shared by different users and even shared on the Internet. Now, only the person who has the original file can modify it.

A nice idea, "borrowed" from Microsoft Power Point , is Pack-N-Go, which allows a custom installer to create an EXE file that the end-user runs and automatically uploads the modified design to the remote. This saves custom installers the bi-monthly call that sounds a lot like "press that menu button to load the file, did you do it? Now, click upload to Pronto". Since it doesn't expose the actual file, users can keep a copy of their design, without being able to change it or "share" it with their friends or on the Internet.

The 9600 comes with Wi-Fi capabilities. This serves to control other devices on the network (essentially Lutron and Escient systems). In the near future, Philips will also introduce a way to control your HTPC (through MCE) directly on your Pronto. WI-FI means it will have two-way control and will be able to verify each operation before proceeding to the next step.

If your computer is out of range, it will not continue to switching your TV to display it. Two-way control means you can also see what the unit is doing at any given time. With Escient, that means you can see your song collection and can flip through it using the circular silver jog dial surrounding the cursor buttons. Unfortunately, this button is not addressable through the Pronto professional software, which means that if you don't have a similar Escient Fireball server at home, you won't be able to use that hard button yet.

Click Here to Go to Part III.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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