...Continued from Page 6.|
Customizing those keys.
While the “Buttons” tab allows basic customization of the six colored user keys, just like the Windows drivers, the real action is found on “Advanced” where every key can be customized with new commands. Well, not every key – you can’t customize the three mouse-related buttons, but everything else is fair game.
Buttons can be assigned a keystroke (either a standard key with up to four modifiers, or a system command), can launch a program or file, or can send specific commands to the DVD Player, iTunes or Quicktime and even start the program if it’s not already running. As for the [AUX] keys, although they can be used as unique profiles, programs still cannot be automatically launched.
A surprising amount of advanced control is provided. For each profile a keystroke can be sent to the foreground program or directed to another program, a profile can have keys set to operate the standard global command, or even disabled if desired. Remote buttons have two states, pressed and held, and each can be set to perform a different task. And, unlike those tricky plug-ins that the Windows drivers use, one or more profiles can be easily saved to disk for backup or to share with other Remote Wonder owners.
Since ATI doesn’t have a Multimedia Center for the Mac, no Easylook interface is included, nor is any remote-specific on-screen display provided (although the drivers do activate the default OS X displays for things like volume control).
Although not publicly released as I write this review, ATI is already working on improvements to the Remote Wonder’s Mac drivers. The future version 2.0 will include a refined user interface, permit assignments to mouse-related keys, and add several new options to key assignments and profile management, and may even allow [AUX] keys to launch a program. Kudos to the programmers!
Just like home theater remotes, computer remotes come in two general flavors: those that use IR and those that use RF. The disadvantage of IR remotes is that they operate via line-of-sight, so you need an IR receiver visible from where the remote will be used. Infrared remotes are nevertheless quite beneficial as they can be easily integrated with other universal remotes, such as Pronto or Home Theater Master models, helping owners maintain a single-remote household. Which is of course what Remote Central is all about!
The Remote Wonder II is based on RF and operates at 433MHz. Since the Remote Wonder can’t be integrated with standard universal remotes, it’s really better suited to HTPCs where the computer is the home theater, rather than those that are accessories to existing home theaters. Still, the upside of RF technology is a big one as the RF receiver can theoretically be placed almost anywhere: hidden from view, behind a cabinet, or even in a different room than the remote.
ATI rates the RF range of the Remote Wonder II at approximately 60 feet. Now, RF range is a lot more difficult to nail down than IR range, since RF is entirely dependant on the local environment. The answers to difficult questions like “how much general RF noise is there?” and “how thick are the walls you’re trying to go through and what’s in them?” can make a world of difference in one person’s RF experience compared to another’s.