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Upgrade your MMC!
If you own an ATI All-In-Wonder video card, the Remote Wonder II opens up a whole new appearance for the Multimedia Center: “Easylook”. The name may sound like some sort of desktop management feature for dual monitors, but it’s really ATI’s HTPC front-end interface.
Pressing the “ATI” button on the remote starts up a full screen interface where the TV, DVD, File Player and Media Library components can be initialized (the list of programs cannot be customized). All components have received a significant makeover compared to the non-Easylook version – large, easy-to-read on-screen displays, transparent overlays, information windows that slide and fade smoothly in and out. Anyone familiar with ATI’s default simple interface would find it hard to believe it’s the same program.
For example, from the TV section one can see what program is playing, what’s coming on later, schedule programs to record or watch with just a few clicks, and navigate all DVR functions. The Media Library lists every piece of media on a PC, from recorded programs to photos to music, and can quickly generate playlists. It’s all very practical and, after getting used to how everything works, quick to navigate. Options for Easylook are somewhat hidden, located under MMC’s main configuration window.
The fancy full-screen Easylook interface does highlight one point: it’s the only place where any sort of on-screen interface can be seen. Everywhere else, adjusting the volume or hitting a key offers no feedback as to what has occurred. No built-in task switching utility is included either. Although the “Alt-Tab” key combination can be assigned to one of the remote’s customizable keys, when more than two applications are running it scrolls through them at such a rapid rate that stopping on any specific program becomes a game of chance.
Mac OS X drivers.
After the low-customization Windows drivers, I didn’t hold out too much hope for the Mac version being any better – but oh was I wrong.
Testing on an iBook with latest driver version 1.5, the Remote Wonder Control Panel has three main screens: “Buttons”, “Options” and “Advanced”. Above all of this is the main profile selector... that’s right, since ATI doesn’t really make much in the way of home theater hardware or software for the Mac, they’ve completely opened up the Remote Wonder to use with absolutely any program. There’s a generic global profile, one for each of the four [AUX] modes, plus defaults for many standard programs such as iTunes, QuickTime and Safari. Plus, profiles can be created for any other installed programs as well. Versatile options even let the remote be disabled when a certain program is active.
Starting off at the “Options” screen, the Mac drivers include extensive mouse cursor customization. The cursor’s speed can be adjusted from “low” (15 seconds to cross the screen) to “high” (under 1 second). Cursor acceleration – which, like the Windows drivers, is actually a deceleration – works much better on the Mac drivers. You can adjust the maximum length of time the cursor is slowed, but during this time it comes up to speed smoothly, instead of suddenly jumping from “school zone” to “autobahn”. The mouse double-click sensitivity and so-called “Spring-Load” speed (auto double-click when the key is held) can be adjusted as well. Even the remote’s general keys can have their repeat delay and repeat rate changed.
But the most impressive improvement I saw was in mouse cursor performance. Amazingly, the Mac drivers sense 16 directions from the remote instead of the mere 8 provided by the Windows drivers. This, combined with more sophisticated cursor acceleration, make the cursor a whole lot more accurate and easier to control. True, the rubbery top still gave it the tendency to waver off track, but the effect was far less pronounced and more quickly corrected.