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The hard buttons surrounding the menu pad may already have printed labels, but their function can still be a mystery. Starting at the top-left and moving clockwise are four small arrows arranged as a diamond surrounding a small circle, a “V”-shaped checkmark, a stylized house-shaped icon, and two rotated “J”-shaped lines placed close together that resemble an “S”. According to the manual these are “Toggle”, “OK”, “Home” and “SmartSurfer” respectively, although without that guidance I’m sure everyone would have come up with their own favorite names!
Power and communications.
Located on the bottom of the remote are two connectors. The smaller one on the right is a standard Mini USB port for communications with a PC, while the larger one on the left is a proprietary jack that connects with the optional docking-slash-recharging station. Although the Pronto NG and ProntoPro use identical connectors, the NG is not compatible with the Pro’s docking station.
The entire bottom surface of the TSU3000 is the battery compartment cover. This cover and a surrounding shallow rim slide off to reveal the battery beneath. Also under the cover is a small [Reset] button that can be used to reboot the remote in case of lockup. A half-length vertical groove in the otherwise perfectly flat cover surrounds the unlatching mechanism and is also a great place for fingers to rest.
The Pronto NG is designed to use four regular alkaline AAA batteries, or optionally, a special rechargeable battery pack. To accommodate these different choices the remote ships with a plastic snap-in AAA battery tray that is removed if the docking station is purchased.
The official Pronto manual does not rate battery life, a good thing since the first prototype I saw only lasted a week – in standby mode! Of course, the shipping remote is much better and with every firmware revision Philips manages to tweak battery life further. Still, it’s not up to the efficiency of previous models. With average use I would expect less than a month out of alkaline batteries. With extensive backlighting use and USB time that could go down to weeks.
Sit ’n’ charge.
As a solution Philips offers the $79 DS3000, a rechargeable battery pack and USB pass-through docking station. The DS3000 cradle measures 5.0” wide, 6.4” long and 1.1” thick (12.8cm by 16.3cm by 2.8cm) and has a DC power-in connector and standard USB jack on the back. A shiny colored strip that runs along the top of the station highlights two vibrant blue LEDs that illuminate when the remote is charging, or flash if there is a problem.
The bundled NiMH battery pack plugs into a special connector inside the battery compartment, indicating to the remote that it should adjust its voltage level scale. Using regular rechargeable batteries instead of the pack causes the TSU3000 to assume that power is low even when it is not, as four NiMH or NiCad batteries only add up to 4.8 volts instead of the nominal alkaline 6.0 volts. It is not possible to recharge regular rechargeable AAA batteries with the docking station.
You may be thinking that it’s possible to buy quite a few alkaline batteries for $79, but the real purpose of the docking station isn’t to save money – it’s for convenience. The convenience of no longer worrying about using the backlight for too long, and the convenience of never again replacing batteries every couple of weeks, be they regular or rechargeable. Just slide the remote onto the station every few days and enjoy! As NiMH batteries don’t really have a memory problem like NiCads, no ill effects will occur by recharging often. Indeed, the original rechargeable battery pack in my Pronto TS-1000 has been in use since 1998 and is still going strong.