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Yes, cursor control!
Normally the 5-way menu buttons emulate the keyboard’s four cursor keys plus [Enter], but when mouse control is enabled permanently or (if configured) toggled active by the red button, those buttons will instead move the mouse cursor. When a button is held briefly the cursor will move in small increments, but when held down the cursor will traverse the screen more quickly.
However, mouse control can only be described as awkward. Just four directions are available – up, down, left and right – it’s impossible to move the cursor at an angle. Additionally, when the cursor is moving quickly it displays at a slow frame rate, jolting in large increments. It still took 8 seconds to traverse horizontally across my screen (results may vary depending on resolution). The left mouse button is emulated with the [OK] button, although no provision has been made for the less often used right mouse button.
Although most keys are well utilized for home theater applications, the [Power] and [Exit] keys seem to be easily confused. For example, the [Power] button can only be used to put the system into standby mode. It cannot be used to shut down programs, even if you have disabled the standby mode feature. To close an application you must use the [Exit] button, unless the application makes specific use of it (at which point it is unclear how to quickly shut down the program).
Unlike some other PC remote control solutions, the Streamzap does not feature an on-screen display to inform the user what’s going on – at minimum I would have liked to see a volume status display.
...Not your standard infrared test.
As the Streamzap does not control any home theater devices, I am unable to complete the customary Menacing Thick Fluffy Blanket (MTFB) analysis. For accuracy the test relies on certain known elements, such as a benchmark infrared receiver, a standard blanket composition and a consistent infrared code. However, for this review I’ve devised an alternative test that still makes use of the same technique. Instead of testing infrared strength by using the [Mute] command for a Sony receiver, here we’ll teach the Streamzap’s [Mute] command to other previously graded remotes and compare the results.
The benchmark remotes for this test will be the Philips Pronto TSU2000, the Sony RM-AV3000 and the Home Theater Master MX-500. Beginning with the Pronto, the new test resulted in a final score of 3.0, three layers of blanket successfully infiltrated. The RM-AV3000 fell in slightly higher at 3.5, while the MX-500 came out on top at 4.25 – fairly consistent when compared to our standard test’s results of 2.5, 3.75 and 4.5 respectively. The Streamzap, however, ranked in with a final score of 2.0, falling somewhat below the performance of these other, more expensive remotes. 2.0 is still a very respectable score and I found the remote offered excellent range and “bounce”.
Although the Streamzap remote does not have an “IR transmission” LED, the USB IR receiver does. The IR receiver turns out to be more of an “IR forwarder”, as it appears to respond to absolutely any infrared detected in the correct frequency range – although clearly only the Streamzap’s commands will perform any function. The receiver worked quite well and had a virtual 360 degree window of reception.
The Streamzap PC Remote does in fact bring quick and inexpensive wireless command to almost any home computer system, but falls short of offering a home theater style of intuitive control that certain users may be hoping for. If Streamzap decided to make a higher-end version of their product with more buttons, greater customization, better cursor control, telephone-style text entry and perhaps even a PC front end for launching programs from, I could see it having mass appeal.
Streamzap’s PC Remote offers easy installation, a good assortment of keys, usable cursor control, plus the option to integrate with a learning remote control. Although not packed with features, the PC Remote provides excellent value for money.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)