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Infrared has both its good and bad points as an interface technology. The major benefit is that this remote’s codes can be taught to any standard universal learning remote control, unlike RF solutions that must always work independently of your main system controller. This is a fantastic plus, since the goal here at Remote Central is to help you keep the total number of remotes to a minimum – not add yet another item to the coffee table.
The only negative is that infrared is much more directional than radio frequency. While an RF antenna can be placed almost anywhere and the remote will still work, in the Streamzap’s case the infrared dongle must be located in an exposed line-of-sight to where the remote will typically be used. As the USB cable on the IR receiver is approximately five feet in length, the receiver must also be situated fairly close to the computer.
Good for hands both big and small.
The remote measures a relatively compact 7.9” long, 2.1” wide and 1.1” thick (20.1cm by 5.3cm by 2.8cm) at its largest points. Like most modern designs, the Streamzap is shaped ergonomically for a comfortable grip: the sides narrow inwards at the middle to 1.9” wide (4.8cm), while the back tapers thinner at the same point. The entire remote surface also has a slight arc to it, curving downwards to 0.9” thick (2.3cm) at the top and bottom.
The two required (but not included) AAA batteries are housed in a smooth bulge on the back that feels surprisingly comfortable in the palm. An additional bulge at the top keeps the remote level while sitting on a tabletop. The battery compartment’s cover is solidly constructed with no fragile appearing tabs, however Streamzap chose a particularly unfortunate place to put the release lever – right where my fingers want to rest. The sharp lever protrudes beyond the natural curve of the battery compartment and results in an uncomfortable pressure point... plus the urge to fiddle with the cover!
The remote’s case is made of durable, thick matte textured plastic – no special coatings to scratch or wear off. As there are no screws utilized in the housing’s construction, some lateral twisting is possible, although in this case the entire remote seems to twist as one, rather than the two plastic halves of the case shifting against each other, which is more typical. Weight falls in at a light 4.1 ounces (116 grams) with batteries, or 3.3 ounces (94 grams) without.
Tactile response is average for a remote in this price range. Keys feature comfortable domed tops and are generally spaced well for even big fingers, although I found the channel and volume key clusters tiny and cramped. The remote does not feature backlighting – not really expected in this price range – but also does not have any glow-in-the-dark properties. Most keys are well shaped and logically grouped for easy blind recognition in a dark environment, although I would have liked to see a more original layout for the transport cluster at the bottom.
A modicum of buttons.
The Streamzap PC Remote features exactly 35 buttons, covering numerical keypad, channel, volume, menu and transport functions. Even though the plastic case is black, the majority of buttons on the Streamzap are also black with white silkscreened printing.
Starting at the top is a red [Power] button, which can be used to put the computer into “standby” mode (but, ironically, not wake it up). If desired this function can also be completely disabled. Next to the [Power] button is [Mute], which (obviously) mutes the master volume control. Below those two buttons is a standard 10-digit numerical keypad, with telephone-style letters printed above each key (text entry is only supported with certain programs).