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Crisp Solutions UCommand 626
Improvements: they’re inevitable. Just as the UCommand 515 model has been enhanced as the UC-525, the UC-616 has since been replaced with the $199 USD MSRP UCommand 626. The UC-626 incorporates a number of useful improvements that make it an even better value than the UC-616. If you’re not yet familiar with the UC-616, I suggest reading the first part of this review.
The first and most obvious change with the UC-626 is in the case color. The shiny “Aluminesque” faceplate from the UC-616 has been changed on the UC-626 to flat black. The new finish adds a sort of gritty texture that cuts right though greasy fingers to offer a solid grip – and doesn’t showcase fingerprints! The rear half of the case has also changed in tone from a medium gray to a complementary dark black, although it’s solid plastic and not covered with the same tactile coating. The UC-626 is also available in the original gray design.
A modem for your remote...
Next up is the computer connection. When we first reviewed the Crisp Solutions UCommand 616, one of our main concerns was that the only way to hook the remote up to a computer was by using the docking station – an item that cost, by itself, half as much as the remote. Even though the prices of both the remote and docking station were lowered after our review, their combined cost still reached nearly $300.
No longer is the bulky optional rechargeable docking station needed for general communications. Instead, the UC-626 ships with the “SLC-2081” communications adaptor, which replaces the circuitry previously contained in the docking station. I did see a version of this adaptor that also came with USB communications at the CEDIA 2001 tradeshow, however the final shipping product only includes an RS232 serial port. The adaptor is actually quite compact, measuring only 3.1” by 1.5” by 0.5” (7.9cm by 3.8cm by 1.3cm), and comes complete with three useful LEDs for “Power”, “Transmit” and “Receive”. These lights are particularly useful for troubleshooting any potential communications difficulties and help indicate when everything is functioning properly. The adaptor receives its power directly from the remote.
To support the communications cable, the UC-626 has an extra port on the left side of the remote, immediately beside the “Power” port, which can be used for recharging the optional NiMH batteries that ship with the docking station or external recharging pack. Thus, owners of the UC-616 won’t be able to simply purchase a cable for use with their existing remotes – the UC-616 simply doesn’t have a place to plug it in.
The PC software package “RemoteLink” remains the same as when we originally reviewed it: even though it can be used to backup files and create configurations from scratch, there are no further customization options available over those already built into the remote.
Other changes to the UC-626 are minimal, but effective. First, the light sensor has been removed from behind the LCD screen – where it caused a distracting shadow at the top whenever the backlighting was enabled – to the surface of the remote, just like they did with the UC-525. Second, the silkscreen hard button printing has changed, from white text on a black background, to larger black text on white. This change aids button visibility when viewed in the dark with the backlight enabled. X-10 infrared codes, which proved nearly impossible to learn on the UC-616, are now built-in.
Finally, the backlight now activates (if the light sensor says it should) whenever a hard button is hit. On the UC-616, the backlight would only activate the second time a hard button was hit. There’s still no way to activate the remote with the touchscreen, and the backlight itself hasn’t been brightened.
All in all, the UC-626 maintains the same memorable characteristics as the original UC-616: fast, customizable, and not too expensive. If the UC-616 sounds like the right remote for you, the improved UC-626 will serve your home theater even better.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)