The Crisp Solutions UCommand is modeled after a remote that has been available in various forms for a number of years now Ė Rotel, Cambridge and several lesser known names have all sold various versions. But the new $129 USD UCommand has been refined and improved a great deal over those early units, with more usability, speed and learning memory. Plus, the company backing it, Crisp Solutions, is promising increased customer service and support.
Starting with the basics, the UCommand ships in an unimposing blue box which tells you little about the product within. The remote itself is quite impressive to look at, being much slimmer than I expected. At 3.25 x 7.0 inches and only an inch high at the thick end, the UCommand is quite pleasant to hold. Smooth rounded corners and a tapered back fit easily in either hand. The remote is not so wide as to make it difficult to reach across with your thumb to the buttons on the other side. Other than the matte finish, there are no finger grips or tactile coating on the unit, so youíll have to rely on pressure to maintain a hold.
The remote operates with 4 AAA batteries placed at the top of the remote, creating a small bulge on the underside that angles the face when it is sitting on a tabletop. Due to this, the center of gravity is approximately two thirds from the front, which means the remote is comfortable to hold cradled in your hand. Despite its svelte shape the remote is remarkably heavy, weighing in at 9.5 ounces with batteries. The manual rates battery life at nine months, but considering the power drain from the LED backlight and the fact that these are AAA not AA batteries, youíre more likely to get around five months (depending on usage). The black plastic housing is quite thick, and the remote feels solid Ė high quality. Very little lateral flexing is possible; it should survive the odd accidental drop onto a carpeted floor. The two halves of the plastic mold donít meet quite perfectly at the sides, but fortunately the edges are not sharp Ė I actually found myself using them to help hold the remote more firmly.
Hard Button Free
One of the unusual design choices present in the UCommand is the complete lack of hard buttons Ė you wonít even find a backlight button here. Everything is controlled through the large touchscreen LCD, which measures 2.35 x 4.25 inches. Although the touchscreen is of the "never needs calibrating" style, the touch matrix is not overly visible (or "touchable") as on other models Iíve seen. Itís just smooth, glossy glass. I would expect a surface like that to build up fingerprints quickly, so Iím tempted to keep the protective vinyl coating on it permanently. The screen is backlit, but instead of the now common electroluminescent style of smooth lighting, the UCommand uses the same backlighting as on earlier models: individual LEDs placed at the edge of the screen. Although this does produce nice bright light, itís somewhat unevenly bright at the top, dimming down to slightly darker at the bottom. A small dark spot in the exact center top of the screen, under the ERROR label, is where the light sensor is hidden.