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User reviews for the Philips iPronto TSi6400 from Philips Electronics.
Average: 3.17/5.00 Median: 3.17/5.00
The new iPronto is more than a mere remote control. This Linux-based 6.4" TFT color touchscreen panel is also a full-featured electronic television guide and 802.11b wireless web surfer. The unit features 640x480 resolution, 64mb RAM, 64mb ROM, stereo audio, LiIon battery and much more!
I've owned the iPronto for about a year and a half now, and have owned Pronto remotes for the last 5 years. I really enjoy the almost endless possibilities that come with the editing software and have done some fairly complicated customization. My environment consists of some fairly complicated automation and sequencing of both A/V gear and extras such as curtains and lighting. If I weren't a big do-it-yourself on a budget kind of guy, I would probably have to own a Crestron or AMX touch panel controller to do what I need, so that should be a testament to what the iPronto is capable of doing.
If I were listing the best thing about the iPronto, it would be the endless possibilities presented by the real estate of the touch screen panel and your ability to do almost anything you want with that space. From custom backgrounds, creating your own buttons, labelling, you name it: there's enough flexibility that your own imagination can drive what the remote becomes. To do that does take some doing, however. The editing software isn't user-friendly in they way that the term is defined in the last 20 years. But if you're willing to put in the effort, you really can do a lot.
The bottom line is that I really like the iPronto.
That being said, I need to look at it from the perspective of its cost. The thing lists for $1,500. As great as it is, is it worth that? To answer that, I have to discuss some of the problems with the remote.
For one thing, the battery life only lasts a few days at best and once the battery runs out, you have to reboot the remote, which takes minutes. It's embarrassing having a large group of people over to see your fancy setup and saying "just wait a few minutes while the remote control warms up." So you really have to leave it plugged in. The big problem with that is that Philips didn't create a charging base for the unit, and for some inexplicable reason, decided to put the connection on the top of the unit. So you're left with a very visible power cord that you're afraid to remove for fear that you'll forget to plug it back in later and the remote will die.
The next thing that bothers me with the remote is the large number of unimplmented features. The brochures tout its speakers, microphone, memory card slot, usb connection, web browser, and split-screen capability. So when you buy the remote you're thinking, "wow, in addition to controlling my system I can surf the web, listen to MP3s, maybe chat, etc." However, I have come to realize that I will never to anything of the sort. The microphone and USB connection have never been implemented in the software by Philips. The speakers are usefull only for the boot-up music (you forgot to plug it in again, didn't you?), the memory card slot has only recently been enabled and while the sales brochure says SD and MMC, what was recently implemented was MMC and it only works for fairly small cards (good luck finding one).
Split-screen. Originally, the remote allowed you to bring up four panels at once. That meant your pre-amp, your DVD player, the lights, whatever, all at once. However, the split-screen feature apparently caused some bugs and rather than fix them, Philips removed this feature from the current software releases. Take another feature off the list.
What about web browsing? Web browsing does work. However, due to the technology Philips chose, the browser is really, really slow. Painfully slow. Almost unusable slow. What's worse, many of today's JAVA-enabled websites (say most of the big name places to check sports scores) will not work on the iPronto. You'll get a message to the effect of "Please upgrade your browser software to 90s technology to proceed," which you can't. You're locked into the software that Philips chose.
One more thing worth mentioning is that the remote does an EPG and software-check update nightly. It will update the programming guide and download any new software that Philips has published. Why is the mention of these features in the "weaknesses" section of the review? I'm afraid it's because they cause problems. It's not uncommon to find the remote locked up and unresponsive in the morning. For me, it happens once every 2-3 weeks. I've seen others with less frequent lock-ups and some with more. You have to manually reboot the remote when this happens. The big downside here: you leave the remote plugged in so that when your guests come over, the remote will be ready to go, only to find out that it locked up during last night's sync.
Dealing with Philips is another area that needs discussion. I've had to call twice now for help. The first time I needed technical support. Although I was able to get an actual person on the line, they weren't even close to knowing as much about the remote as I did and I ended up thanking them, hanging up, and spending a couple of days figuring out how to fix the problem myself. The second time was a few days ago. My remote has recently (on its own) started acting up. After a recent nightly lockup, the touch panel thinks I'm pressing about an inch to the right of where I'm actually pressing. So I run the calibration utility, which fails. Repeatedly. In addition to that, the remote has decided that it's scared of the dark and won't ever turn the backlighting off, regardless of any settings.
So I've owned the remote for just over a year (12 month warranty). You would think Philips would want to do right by its $1,500 remote customers, especially considering the false advertising for the unit. But you would think wrong. The line I got (from two levels of customer service) is that the iPronto is a "depot" product and that they absolutely never make any exception to the 12 month warranty policy. Never. (I'm looking at hundreds of dollars to get this fixed, by the way).
So, am I a happy iPronto owner? I love the remote itself. I would love it more if it did everything Philips promised it should do and everything it's capable of doing. However, there are too many issues here for a remote of its cost to recommend it to others without urging them to consider the iPronto's shortcomings.
It's nearest competition in a features and price match up seems to be the MX-3000, which seems to have a lot of happy owners. It's cheaper, but doesn't offer the more-than-a-remote features that the iPronto claims to offer. Unless you need the larger touchscreen of the iPronto, I'd give that a serious look.
The reviewer has used this remote control for 1-3 months.
Review 1 made on Tuesday November 4, 2003 at 10:58 AM.
Plenty of screen size,Electronic program guide, crisp and clear display unlimited macros.
A tiny bit slow, battery life not very long, although I believe once programmed and is used for its real purpose that battery life will be fine.Hard buttons do not stay active when unit sleeps.
iPronto, what a sweet unit it is. While it does have its quirks for the most part this remote really does the job. I suspect all of the negative comments about iPronto are people that are just overwhelmed by all the flexibility this remote offers. This is definately not the old technology here. A couple of things that are frustrating is the fact you cannot emulate the ir signals as in Pronto edit, and the unit is somewhat slow but I challenge anyone to grab their half dozen remotes and beat the thing, I think not! The electronic program guide is a very nice feature, setting up the wireless was a snap, downloading the newest firmware update took about 1/2 hour but worked flawlessly. (I did not even try to operate the unit till I had v1.5 assuming that alot of peoples gripes were corrected with the update)iPronto is somewhat large compared to my old TS-1000 and I will miss that old unit, but I think if Phillips stays on track with future expansion of this remote the extra bulk will be no disadvantage. If my iPronto were to be run over by a truck I would surely replace it with the same unit. The biggest obstacle you will face with iPronto is setting up your equipment and the macros you want for your particular setup,iPronto does exactly what you tell it to do so if your electronics dont function properly when you press the buttons, well then the problem is BETWEEN the iPronto and the Couch! I am making good progress there and will be posting my .icf soon. even with buttons not programmed yet and pages out of order my tecnologically challenged wife and my 10 year old son cruise around with ease. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you please, that is the grandios plan anyways.