I received my review unit of the Philips Pronto with great anticipation: the information on Philips’ web site promised a very unique experience. Opening the package, I was surprised at the compact size of the unit. About the same size as a Palm Pilot, the Pronto is ergonomically designed to be comfortably held in one hand, or with it’s concave bottom sit on your leg without slipping off. It also appears to be quite sturdily built and should survive the occasional accidental drop onto a carpeted floor.
A large dot matrix touchscreen is surrounded by physical volume and channel buttons on the right, and two buttons on the bottom that can be set to control any common commands. On the left side is a recessed contrast dial and below that a backlight button that switches on a pleasant, smooth blue-green light. At the bottom of the left side is a jack that allows for future connectivity to a PC. On the back is a tiny reset button and contacts for the optional recharging dock.
The Pronto features a marvelous graphical operating system that also happens to be one of the quickest I’ve had the pleasure of using in a remote control -- or PDA for that matter. It Features four shades (white, light gray, dark gray and black) along with animation and scrolling. It’s very easy to learn the intuitive controls. A "Home" button sits on the top left corner and the current time resides in the center. Below the Home button is a quick-link to the Macros menu, and next to that is the current device’s name. Click on the name and a drop-down list appears of all available devices. This list is also duplicated as separate buttons on the Home screen. Scroll arrows on the right side of the screen allow you to flip between the current device’s screens, while on the bottom there’s a Setup button and labels for the two lower physical buttons.
"Learning" a must!
The first thing I noticed when reading the manual is that the Pronto doesn’t include any pre-programmed commands except for Philips and Marantz components. So, every button has to be programmed from your current remote controls -- something that could prove difficult if one is lost or broken. While sitting down and learning every signal sounds like a daunting task, I actually found it to be an enjoyable experience and a great way to become acquainted with the unit. The Pronto features non-volatile memory, so your commands are safe even without batteries in the unit.
Unlimited devices. That alone is enough for anyone shopping for remotes to stop dead in their tracks! The Pronto can have any number of system devices -- you’re only limited by available memory. And even if memory appears to be full (something I have not yet experienced) the Pronto includes an automatic "defragging" routine that clears up space.
Unlike most universal remotes at or below this price level, each component requires several screens to reproduce all buttons. If you’re not used to this technique it may sound like a slow process, but after an hour or two of use I found it remarkably quick. Plus, there’s the added bonus of it appearing simpler for the less experienced (or those folks with "button-phobia") when only related controls are grouped together.