...Continued from Page 3.|
While the size and spacing of keys on the first Harmony might have been a bit on the generous side, the exact opposite situation confronts the SST-768: buttons are quite small and closely packed. The issue is most evident at the top of the remote, where there are 9 buttons for transport controls in a very limited area. Folks with big thumbs – or less than perfect aim – may find it tricky to hit only a single key.
Fortunately, the Volume and Channel toggle keys are large and comfortable to use. Buttons are moulded in four colors of plastic: white, grey, blue and green. Labels are printed in white or black, though I would have liked the small circular “Record” symbol printed in red. As it is, in black, it might be confused by those with poorer eyesight with the “Stop” key on the opposite side. Otherwise, I would have swapped the “Stop” key at the top right with the “Frame Advance” key immediately below “Play”, to increase separation.
All buttons are topped with a domed, hard, glossy finish that appears to be completed over top of the silk screened label printing. This should mean a long button life without worry of the text wearing off. Button tactile response is good, requiring a firm enough press and delivering solid feedback. Three small nubs on keys in the center of the transport, volume and keypad clusters are there to help find your bearings in the dark, however it isn’t as easy to separate other buttons by feel alone... which is something that might be required, as no button backlighting is provided.
The LCD display is backlit by six tiny yellow LEDs, as on the original model, however they aren’t bright enough to illuminate anything else. Strangely, the SST-748 (which is the original limited-button SST-745 recreated into the new case design) advertises glow-in-the-dark buttons – something not actually on this, the more expensive top-of-the-line model. At this price point full backlighting really would be nice.
Is “more” quite enough?
One point apparent from looking at the new SST-768 is that, while there are certainly more buttons than before, there do not seem to be quite enough! In addition to volume and channel, most modern devices require three crucial button clusters: transport, menu and keypad. On the Harmony, only two of those are evident: transport and keypad. This is where two groups of four black arrows moulded into the case by the keypad and transport clusters come into play: under certain operation modes, usually indicated by the LCD screen, the keys around those arrows are repurposed to 5-way menu functions. Although the ultimate solution would have been to integrate a small 5-way pointing stick into the unit, the original design goal of the Harmony was for as few buttons as possible. The SST-768 is already pushing the envelope on the whole “limited button” notion, so it’s understandable that Intrigue chose this option. Now, if only the little moulded arrows lit up when the menu was active!
On the side of the Harmony is a three-way scroll wheel, plus a small button marked [C]. These two items are where all of the remote’s main operations are performed – switching tasks, transmitting secondary commands and browsing menus. The SST-768 features a full 2 megabytes of memory, twice as much as the original SST-745 or new SST-748. The extra memory permits a larger chunk of television program listings to be downloaded at a time – up to 14 days’ worth!