Universal Remote Control today revealed their new MX-700
remote control, which will be accompanied by a special "Sidekick" accessory remote. Essentially an upgraded version of the Home Theater Master MX-500
, the MX-700 includes more advanced capabilities and is targeted solely to the custom installer market - it will not be available via the retail sales channel.
The MX-700 builds upon the remarkably successful MX-500 platform primarily with new PC-aided programming tools, however many other physical and operational refinements have been made to the remote, many in response to user suggestions. To begin with, Universal Remote Control has come up with a completely new computer software package to program the remote with. Though it visually resembles the MX-1000's "MX Designer" application, almost everything has been rethought and retooled. Faster, easier, better, more sharable - these are primary concerns when designing for the custom installer market. In response, a setup wizard is supplied to quickly configure preprogrammed device codes, power macros, activity macros and more. The remote's updated database of infrared codes will include discrete functionality for a number of brands, while the wizard features numerous workaround "examples" for TOADs (Toggle Only Actuated Devices). An always-visible remote emulator is used during programming and to both test commands and intuitively record macros.
Devices with learned signals can be "imported" and "exported" to individual files for easy sharing. Selecting a preprogrammed code will now also relabel the LCD buttons to match - no more improperly named functions. Macros can be copied from button to button and punchthroughs are easily assignable to one or more devices. Although most programming will be done via the computer, the MX-700 manages to maintain a modicum of on-board setup for quick learning, label changes, etc. Configurations can be copied either via saved files or "beamed" from one remote to another without the use of a computer or cable. Interestingly, Universal Remote Control hinted that the MX-700 System Software will be used as a starting point for a number of other advanced Universal Remote Control products yet to be announced.
Onto raw specifications, the MX-700 will be able to control a maximum of 20 devices thanks to two "Main" LCD pages. Each device will include a similar number of physical buttons as the MX-500, but instead of two LCD screens per device the MX-700 is capable of providing up to four screens with 10 custom-labeled buttons on each. The number of devices and pages per device will be "soft", meaning that unwanted devices or pages can be removed from view. In addition, a device can be hidden and its commands used only in automation macros, keeping certain advanced functions out of regular view. Speaking of macros, each LCD button will be capable of storing a macro with up to 190 steps, as will the [ON] and [OFF] hard buttons - there's over 900 macros in total, and they've promised that the remote won't run out of memory! The [FAV] section, typically for favorite channel macros, has been enhanced so that each of the 50 possible LCD buttons can store up to 190 steps, from any other device.
Some buttons on the new remote have been rearranged in a logical manner. For instance, the three bottom macro buttons have been removed, while the keypad's [DIS] button has been renamed to [+10]. The transport group has been rearranged, dropping [REC] and Chapter Skip in favor of [MENU], [INFO] and [EXIT]. Finally, a [GUIDE] button has been added between the Volume and Channel toggles. All buttons feature an enhanced physical shape that Universal has dubbed "GemStone". Otherwise, the MX-700 maintains the MX-500's already excellent ergonomic design, high-contrast LCD screen, 5-way menu joystick and all-button EL backlighting. One item that has still not been added is a clock for timer functions.
As mentioned earlier, the MX-700 will include a supplementary "Sidekick" remote, known as a MX-200. Basically a single-device remote with a small number of backlit hard buttons, including 190-step [ON] and [OFF] macros and three favorite channel buttons, the Sidekick will be easily programmable via the MX-700's software and is designed for "simple channel surfing". More sophisticated Sidekick remotes may be offered in the future, but for now it just may be key to the "spouse approval factor" that works its way into almost any home theater purchase.
The MX-700 and MX-200 will be sold as a single package to custom installers, most likely around the November or December 2001 timeframe, for about $499. Universal Remote Control did not show an actual MX-700 at their conference, although they promised that remotes would be available on the show floor. For now, I am including two computer-generated images, which were provided earlier. Actual photographs will be posted along with my full CEDIA 2001 report later, after the show.
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