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The silver-colored remote is ergonomically shaped, curving upwards in the middle much like a telephone handset. The sides also curve inwards near the bottom and middle, expanding in width near the top around the cursor pad. On the back of the remote you’ll find the battery compartment which holds four AAA batteries. The compartment cover fits securely, however nothing is used to prevent the batteries from rattling around inside. Three tiny hard plastic nubs serve as feet.
More buttons than you can shake a stick at!
Considering its standard sizing, the Remote Wonder’s exterior is simply overflowing with buttons. This has the benefit of offering that much more control over multimedia functions, but it also has a downside where some buttons are placed so close to others that they become difficult to use accurately.
Including the slightly concave 8-way cursor pad, there are 52 buttons or functions. The remote can control up to 4 activities, including TV, DVD, Web and Multimedia Files. Buttons are finished in a very glossy light blue (red for [Power] and [Record]), which is distinctive but provides little contrast from the aluminum-colored casing. The glossy finish gives the buttons a firm, yet grippy feel. The keypad is not backlit or glow-in-the-dark. Tactile response is firm, adequate for most buttons, although I found the two horizontal volume and channel toggle buttons to be a bit wobbly, giving little indication as to which half is being pressed.
Some buttons have been placed in less than ideal positions. The [Mute] button is located right between [Volume] and [Channel] and is so close that it’s nearly impossible to press [Vol+] or [Chan-] and not brush against it. In addition, the small 5-way menu cluster at the bottom of the remote is in the narrowest section of the housing, yet has been burdened with two additional buttons on either side, causing it to be 5 buttons wide. As well, those two ancillary buttons don’t control menu-related functions!
Excluding the plethora of buttons on the surface, the only other visible features of the Remote Wonder are a tiny red LED on the upper left corner that lights whenever a button is pressed, plus a dimple on the front where an infrared transmitter could reside on other remotes that may make use of the same housing.
RF instead of infrared.
The Remote Wonder comes with a small RF (or “radio frequency”) receiver that plugs into any Windows-compatible PC’s USB 1.1 port. The receiver measures a scant 1.25” wide by 2.1” long by 0.75” thick (3.2cm by 7.9cm by 1.9cm) and is positioned on the end of a 2 foot (61cm) cord. Extending from the other end of the receiver is a thin 6” (15.3cm) flexible antenna that can be positioned wherever is convenient. A red LED on the receiver indicates when it is receiving power from the computer’s USB controller.
RF offers several benefits over the more traditional infrared technology. First, RF’s range is generally much larger than infrared. Second, it’s omni-directional so you don’t need to point the remote at whatever is being controlled – the signal can even go through walls and cabinets.
There are, however, two negatives when compared to infrared light. First, RF range is completely dependant on the surrounding environment. Due to walls, equipment and other conditions, some people have difficulty using RF remotes several feet away from the receiver, never mind the great distances generally promised or desired. Second, RF remotes simply cannot [yet] have their functionality amalgamated into another universal remote. This goes against the grain of every product we review here at Remote Central, where consolidation of remotes is paramount. If a PC is going to be used with an established home theater, there’s currently no way to merge the Remote Wonder’s functionality into the likes of a Home Theater Master MX-500, Philips Pronto or Sony RM-AV3000.