Designing the ideal universal remote control is a difficult task. With so many potential combinations of home theater equipment possible, it’s nearly impossible to invent a “one remote fits all needs” miracle product. This is an industry where there’s always room for new ideas, which is why it’s a particular pleasure when a new brand name crosses my desk, promising novel designs and innovations that could help advance the entire remote industry. Or at least provide everyone with yet another choice!
The company of interest in this case is Proton – and although you may not have heard of them before, they’ve been busy making home theater products for some years now. Only recently entering the universal remote control business, Proton’s first such product was a rebadged clicker from Taiwanese OEM manufacturer Sunwave – the company responsible for various models sold under the Crisp Solutions, Sima and Millennium brands. In the past, Sunwave’s remotes have proven to be solidly constructed and easy to use, but have generally lacked higher-end features and enough useable buttons for modern day feature-laden equipment.
Although Proton’s latest remote control is also built by Sunwave, sharing many of the same features present on their earlier creations, Proton (not to be confused with “Pronto”) has gone the extra distance and commissioned an entirely new and exclusive design. The iRemote (...not to be confused with “iPronto”...) iR800 was even distinctive enough to capture a CES Innovations 2003 Design and Engineering Award. Good show!
With the backing of an experienced remote control manufacturer and a prestigious award already under their belt, is Proton’s iRemote good enough to be the next remote to grace your coffee table?
The 16-device $159 USD MSRP iR800 is shaped like most traditional remote controls – long, narrow and thin. It uses a combination of regular hard buttons and a generous-sized iconic LCD touchscreen, merging the best of the “blind touch” and “device-specific button labels” schools of thought.
In a welcome change of pace from the norm, the iR800 actually looks good. Its tri-tone domed-top case features a light metallic grey frame, gunmetal grey hard button backdrop and rear housing, plus a glossy black screen bezel. Touches of chrome add an elegant appearance. The symmetrical and orderly button arrangement gives the remote added appeal and perceived ease-of-use.
Measuring 2.4” wide, 7.5” long and 1.2” thick (6.1cm by 19.1cm by 3.1cm), the iR800 weighs 5.75 ounces (163 grams) by itself or 7.34 ounces (208 grams) with batteries. This is an average but solid-feeling weight for a remote of this size.
The upper half of the iRemote is occupied by a medium-sized LCD touchscreen that measures 1.5” by 2.7” (3.8cm by 10.6cm). At the top of this screen is a 9-character by 2 line alphanumeric dot-matrix display that shows the active device, time and day-of-week, as well as assisting in initial configuration. Below that are 15 touch-sensitive LCD segments (14 usable for device functions), each of which have between 3 and 4 possible preset icons and text labels.