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User reviews for the UCommand 616 from Crisp Solutions.
Average: 4.13/5.00 Median: 4.50/5.00
The UCommand 616 learning remote features control of 10 devices, an LCD touchscreen with custom button size, placement and labels, as well as macros and timers. An optional docking station allows you to hook the remote up to a PC.
The reviewer has used this remote control for 1-3 months.
Review 3 made on Sunday March 11, 2001 at 1:24 PM.
I purchased this remote in order to consolidate my seven other remotes in my home theater. I have been able to this with no problems at all. This remote uses a dot matrix screen which permits the adding, deleting, resizing and relabeling of virtually all buttons in the main and device menus. This has permitted me to custom design this remote to fit my needs exactly. There are other more detailed reviews of this device in other areas of this site so I won't go into a lot of details. However, with only 4-5 hours of setup time (most of the time was spent on button layout planning)this remote was up and running my complete home theater system. The learning process is very intuitive and a complete device can be learned in just a few minutes. This is where the strength of this unit really shines. You don't need a computer enginneering degree just to get this thing to run. You don't even need a PC interface if you so desire. The backlight is bright and is adjustable to ambient light conditions and length of time on. The LCD screen has great contrast (most one color ones do) and very easy to operate. As I stated earlier, the display is dot matrix, but you will be unable to download bitmaps to this unit ala Pronto. If this is what you are looking for I advise you to look elsewhere. There are a few weaknesses with this unit however. Macros can only be accessed from the macro menu. This means you cannot assign a device button to activate a macro. Also, the hard buttons do not operate while in the main menu. They only work while in the device mode. I do not consider this a big deal as I am in the device mode 99% of the time anyway. Overall I rate this unit a 5 for quality as it appears to be very well built, a 5 for features because this unit controls all my components fully, and a 4 for value because I feel it is slightly overpriced. I paid $199.00 for the remote and the Ni-Mh batteries. I feel the asking price for this setup should be around $179.00. Still, I consider this the best LCD/hard button remote out there for under $200.00. Arguably, I would rate it in the top 5 of all remotes regardless of cost. You can do better but I will guarantee you that you will be paying more.
My H-T System: Zenith 27" AVI Yamaha RX-V800 Receiver Mains: JBL N-26 Center:JBL N-Center Surr: JBL N-24 Sub: Yamaha YST-SW160 DVD: Pioneer DV-333 S-VHS: JVC HR-S7600U VHS: Sony SLV-696 C-Band:Kenwood KSR-1200P W/CM 10' dish Digital Cable with S/A Explorer 2000 Entech S-video adapters for C-Band Monster Interlink 2 S-Video cables Belden digital RG-6 with RCA connectors for analog audio cables JVC Toslink Cable Belden 8717 twisted shielded speaker cable
The reviewer has used this remote control for 1-3 months.
Review 2 made on Wednesday November 15, 2000 at 7:05 PM.
Very nice design. Feels good in your hand. Very easy to program. LCD display is good. Good documentation and technical support.
Cannot associate macros to hard or soft buttons. No punch-throughs. Cannot learn hard buttons from main menu.
I received the new UCommand 616 yesterday with great anticipation. I have read many positive posts about this remote on this site, so I was sure it would be great for my small HT setup. For example, I only have a TV, Receiver, VCR, CD and Satellite. All late model name brand components too. Nothing exotic.
There are many things to like about this remote. It learned everything I threw at it the first time. Programming the 616 is a snap. The LCD is bright and responsive. And it just feels like a quality remote in your hands.
But the UCommand 616 misses the mark in a few key areas. The most glaring weakness is the inability to associate a macro to a specific hard or soft button. While on the surface this may not appear to be a big deal, it really reduces the overall efficiency and ease of use of the remote.
For example, let's say I want to watch DirecTV. To do this, the following things are required on my system:
Assuming everything is on...
- The surround receiver must be set to Video input. - The surround receiver must be set to Dolby. - The TV must be set to Input 2.
Pretty simple. But anyone not familiar with my system is going to be unaware of this. So my goal was to create a macro to do these steps, and then associate that macro to the "DirecTV" option on the main menu. That way it doesn't matter if you know how my system works. Hit the DirecTV button and it's ready for you.
Well, you can easily create a macro with the UCommand 616 to do these steps, but since that macro can't be triggered when the DirecTV option is selected from the main menu, a new user will need to learn how to execute macros. Not very intuitive - or efficient. I'm back to training people on my remote.
The second major issue is the inability to learn hard buttons while at the main menu, and the lack of punch throughs. You can't just pick up the remote and hit the hard channel or volume keys. Nothing happens unless you are in a specific device screen. Again, it makes it hard for a new visitor to get it working.
In fairness, the UCommand has replaced all of my other remotes. I just wanted to reduce the complexity of my system as well. The UCommand 616 was not able to accomplish this for me.
Written by Mike Riley from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The reviewer has used this remote control for 3-6 months.
Review 1 made on Friday October 27, 2000 at 10:42 AM.
Slim, easy to hold. Easy-to-read LCD screen. Simple to program. Nice looking, and durable. Very fast, very powerful
Page flipping on any LCD screen remote is not something all users will want.
The Ucommand-616 from CrispSolutions (www.crispsolutions.com) is a big step up from the Ucommand-515 universal remote control. It offers specific improvements that a lot of users will find appealing, and maintains that sense of “cool” that CrispSolutions products are becoming well-known for.
For a complete technical rundown of the 616, refer to Daniel Tonk’s thorough review elsewhere on this site. Here, I’d like to touch on the semantics of the usefulness of the 616.
There seem to have emerged, over the past few years, four or five types of remotes in the secondary Universal market: -Tiny, easy to use pre-programmed remotes for people who just want to have a single unit for their TV and VCR, plus maybe a stereo or a DVD. -Standard, pre-programmed jobbies that have enough buttons to accommodate all or many of the buttons found on the original remotes -Remotes that also Learn from original remotes, and are hard-buttoned -Remotes that are all touch-screen -Combination remotes, with both touch-screens and hard buttons -High-end graphical touch-screen and button remotes.
As one moves up the scale of usability and features, so too go the prices. The 616 falls into the “combination” category, utilizing both a touch-screen and 8 hard buttons. It is more expensive that the majority of learning remotes, but is in a lower bracket than the software-configurable units currently on the market, like the Pronto. This market, as we know, is rapidly changing.
At its base price, without charging station or software download capability, the 616 currently stands alone in this category. It may be preferable to the 515, because it includes the key hard buttons that a lot of users prefer to have (transport keys, volume, on/off). And the fact that it can be held and used with one hand truly places it in the world of the lazy-man’s tool… which is what a remote should be, anyway. I’m sorry, I just don’t have the urge anymore to sit down and fritter and tweak my little screens into cool-looking images of Home Theatres, yada-yada… . I’ve had enough of that with my PC. I just want a hand-held device that runs all my equipment using pretty much one hand, and just a teensy bit of pointing.
The 616 provides all that, shy of a few commands that I cannot seem to learn. More on that later. The point is that, while there may be some very specific technical shortcomings in the way a Macro doesn’t return you to the Device screen you want, or the fact that if you only need two screens for one device you still have two blank screens left over, who cares? The number of things this baby does is phenomenal for its price range, and better, it does them extremely well.
First off, let’s look at just “using” the thing. It’s slim, it fits in one hand, and you can reach all the hard buttons with the same hand. Programming the four central arrow keys can cover both transport, and volume, depending on the device selected and how you like to set it up. If you prefer serious volume and channel control, as well as VCR navigation, at the same time, you just program the hard buttons for vol/chan, and add four arrow nav buttons to the soft screen. In fact, you can easily program soft and hard keys for several different devices onto just one or two screens, so you don’t have to jump around selecting different devices. I suspect most people require pretty standardized functions when they are firing off their remotes; the difficult part is finding a remote that can duplicate the unique functions of their particular device.
For example, I watch DVDs and use my receiver for big-movie sound. I do the same with VCR tapes. But my wife doesn’t care about surround sound. So, my basic 616 screens are set up so that neither of us have to flip between devices to do this. Rather, I have just a few basic screens that handle most requirements. Like this: -TV and VCR use: hard buttons are channel and volume. Panel 1 is channel numbers, and direct input buttons for VCR. I don’t have to leave that screen to select the VCR input. For the wifey, she doesn’t care about the stereo being on when watching a tape, so the volume controls for the TV operate while a tape is playing. The “Channel 10+” button is the VCR input. Once in VCR mode, she slides to Panel 2 for all the VCR commands. -DVD use: A panel under the DVD Device setting has receiver commands and DVD and VCR direct inputs. I operate volume and surround from these soft buttons, and use the hard keys for transport. There are also soft keys for FF, FR, and Freeze. If I decide to watch a tape instead, the next panel under DVD has a duplication of the VCR controls as used in the TV/VCR combo above.
All in all, then, a limited amount of panel-hopping with the maximum amount of Device control. How many remotes can you say that about?
Now let’s cover some of the details that make the 616 a joy to operate. First, it is as easy to program the UC 515. Anyone not familiar with the programming technique, refer to Daniel’s reviews on both. Suffice to say here that programming is incredibly intuitive, and extremely fast. You can be up and running with basic component controls for a three or four Device system with 30 minutes… and 15 of those are for reading the manual. (By the way, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more well-defined, easy-to-follow user manual of any sort, anywhere… thanks to CrispSolutions hard-work).
When you want to specialize, you’ll find several Menu techniques that allow you to create your own text and icon labels for every button, in upper and/or lower case. You can resize the buttons so simply it’s almost silly. You can have different sized buttons on the same panel, to represent which functions are more important or more-often accessed with that big clumsy thumb of yours. You can macro your brains out and label the buttons with full sentences, like “Sharyn: press here to turn everything ON (except me).” You can a timer for any macro, as well, so you can turn on the surround receiver at full blast every day at noon and scare the pee right out of your dog or cat. Man, this is living.
The Ucommand 616 can control up to 10 devices through it’s selection of panel menus, which is more than most people, even Home Theatre nuts, are often gonna have. But you can really control as many as you want, as long as you don’t mind having a lot of functionality for each device. Say, for example, you record hockey games for the Armed Forces serving overseas, and you have every type of satellite receiver known to the free world, so you get the broadcasts of all the pucks everywhere. Well, you can set up twenty sets of buttons to operate twenty different set-top receivers, and twenty more sets of buttons to operate 20 different VCRS. And you can use the macro and timer functionality to kick off all the recording for everything. How? Because the 616 learns directly off the original remote: it doesn’t care at all what Device is actually displaying on the top of the screen. It will learn 12 different commands from 12 different remotes on one single screen.
And teaching all these devices is made simple by the placement of the “learning window” at the bottom end of the remote. This means that, when holding your original remote to the 616 to teach, both units are in an upright, readable position. This differs from many learning remotes that must go head-to-head, making you strain your neck and flip the units around to see the buttons you have to push.
Am I getting through to everyone just how versatile this baby really is?
Coming back to earth for a bit, while there is not a dedicated light-key, and you cannot hit the screen to turn on the backlight from the resting state, Crisp is promising to address this shortcoming in the future if they can. In the meantime, the display is the easiest to read I’ve encountered among the LCD panel devices I’ve used. The black of the buttons’ outlines and lettering is pure, so just a low-level setting for the backlight provides extremely easy reading, even for people who need glasses (like me).
Creating and moving buttons is a snap; in fact, any type of programming on the 616 is a snap. The one thing I wish it could do, that it currently does not, is allow me to “move” keys from screen to screen, or duplicate screens that I want to move to a different location. For example, I had created a third panel on my Receiver screen that I really wanted to be accessible on Screen 2, to ease up the switching back-and-forth requirement. Instead, I had to recreate it, one button at a time.
In keeping with CrispSolutions’ standards for remote controls, the 616 learns just about everything an OEM remote can throw at it. It’s top end of 150 kHz, though, will prevent it from picking up on a few high-end devices. And true to form, it has a hard time with Sony’s surround functions from their A/V receivers. However, as some of the more dedicated researchers on this website have discovered (the Robman!), the instruction set for Sony’s commands is a very convoluted, layered series of timed attacks that would confuse even a mathematician. I see little problem, however, in having one powermaster remote for everything else, and keeping my Sony surround remote for special effects tweaking when necessary.
In short, there is very little of serious consequence to complain about the Ucommand-616, and much to applaud. While I don’t care for the high price of the dedicated charging base and software adapter, I also don’t see a need for it for most users. The software, in it’s present format, duplicates functionality that is already available within the remote’s menuing system. When it is capable of adding advanced codes, however, along the lines of the Radio Shack 1994, the price will be more than worth it. The power of being able to assign commands to keys that are unable to learn from the original remote will make this mid-priced unit worth its weight in aluminum.
Adding to all the capability of the 616 is CrispSolution’s remarkable dedication to customer service. Already they are offering upgrades to provide X-10 capabilities for those who populate their house with that company’ automated devices. And they have a number of people working on updates to the learning capabilities, the software functionality and stability, and so on. And I know from experience, as do many regular readers of this site, that they provide serious consideration to every customer suggestion; Uli Theissen, the company founder, can often be found reading through the forums here and offering his own replies.
Is there anything more that I want out of a remote? In a word, Yes: more, more, more! But hey… that’s what keeps life interesting, no? Yes? Yes. … Mike Riley