By November 30, 2009

Philips Prestigo SRU 8015 universal remote review

My living room entertainment center is a device nightmare. I have a Toshiba television, a Sony receiver, a digital cable set top box with DVR functionality, an original Xbox running XMBC, and an Xbox 360. That’s five remotes, and that’s after I got rid of the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube.

For example, if I want to watch video served from my home network I have to:

  1. Turn on the television (Toshiba remote)
  2. Turn on the Xbox
  3. Turn on the receiver (Sony remote)
  4. Find the program I want to watch on the Xbox (green wireless Xbox controller)
  5. Adjust the volume on the receiver (Sony remote)

I’ve gotten used to it, but trying to explain how things work to new folks required literally pages of documentation. Until I can reduce the number of devices in my entertainment center, I needed a way to reduce the number of remotes necessary to do basic tasks.

Enter the Philips Prestigo SRU 8015 universal remote, which I purchased during a recent Woot-Off.

Overview and ergonomics

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/8296-2/IMG_0700.JPG
The Prestigo SRU 8015 is a large remote with a color screen and backlit buttons. There is a large “shuttle” wheel in the center of the device. Inside the shuttle is a four-way directional pad, and inside of that is an OK button. Beneath that is a check mark button, and beneath that are your typical volume and channel control buttons.

It’s laid out simply, and I was able to teach Stilts and Sedagive? how to use the remote in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Much better than when I had to explain to a house sitter how to manipulate an army of remotes while on vacation.

The Prestigo SRU 8015 has a tilt sensor of some kind. It is supposed to light up when you pick it up, but this doesn’t always work reliably. Sometimes the backlight will just turn on, sometimes it won’t turn on when I pick it up. The backlight does activate with every keypress, so this isn’t a crippling deficiency.

The remote takes three AA batteries, which is a relief — I don’t like having AAA batteries in the house just for a few devices. You’ll be thankful, too, especially since the Prestigo chews through batteries pretty quickly. The downside to the AA batteries is that the ass of the device is pretty heavy. Look at the SRU 8015’s profile and you can see why:

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/8305-2/IMG_0706.JPG

From an ergonomics perspective this is a bit of a problem. It feels really weird to use the buttons higher on the device, like the power button or the video source select button. The weight of the remote is past your hand and feels unbalanced. Sedagive? has tiny paws and uses both hands, but I insist on awkwardly clutching the remote in one hand while stretching my thumb to the top of the remote.

Setup

Setup was a lot easier than I was used to with older universal remotes. I selected the brand of the component I wanted to program, and then the SRU 8015 went through a number of pre-entered codes. Once my device powered on (or off, if it was already on) I pushed the check mark key. I found every one of my devices via a pre-entered device, but you also have the option of manually programming every button on an unrecognized remote. The Prestigo even detected my Xbox 360, which was unexpected.

You can also name your devices, but I stuck with the out of the box ones (TV, receiver, etc).

One neat thing about the Prestigo is that you can configure Activities, which is a combination of keystrokes for one or many devices. For example, I have “All On” and “All Off” Activities programmed. The All On Activity turns on my television, my receiver, and my cable TV box. The All Off turns them all off.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/8299-2/IMG_0703.JPG

Screen and device control

Like most universal remotes, the Prestigo SRU 8015 has a color LCD screen. This is super useful in selecting the device you want to control. My prior experience with universal remotes didn’t have a screen, and you couldn’t easily tell what device you were “connected” to until you pressed a key.

It’s easy to see what device you have selected:
http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/8301-2/IMG_0704.JPG

Usability / ergonomic problems

My only complaint about the Prestigo SRU 8015 is about the shuttle / directional pad / OK area. I guess if you are young, have smaller fingers, or are extremely dexterous this may not be a problem, but when you are a mouth-breathing gorilla like me your hands get in the way. Observe:

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/8303-2/IMG_0708.JPG

What am I trying to do here? If you guessed “click on the directional pad” you are wrong — I was trying to rotate the shuttle dial up.

If you position your thumb flat, you don’t have to worry about triggering the d-pad by accident. However, you are unable to rotate the dial as well as if you put the tip of your thumb on the wheel. If you use the tip of your thumb on the wheel, you run the risk of hitting the d-pad.

The d-pad vs OK button is even worse.

Philips should have put a raised nib on the OK button and made the shuttle ring wider and taller.

This isn’t a killer problem if you are really concentrating on the remote and if the lights are on. However, if you are watching television late in the day, the lights are off, and you’re tired, you may wonder why pushing the volume control doesn’t have any effect. Chances are, you accidentally bumped the shuttle and you’ve selected the cable box instead.

Conclusion

The shuttle wheel setup is a shame, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from liking the Philips Prestigo, or from buying a second one for my A/V setup in the bedroom. I really like it and it beat my expectations. I bought it on a lark from Woot.com for $33 shipped. The retail price is somewhere in the $70 – $80 range, and to be honest I don’t know if I would like it at that price point.

Woot likes to run items multiple times (hence my follow-up purchase) so if you’re patient and keep an eye out you might be able to snag one at greater than 50% the typical retail price. If you’re in a hurry to solve a multiple device problem or want to get a gadgetholic a nice gift this year, the Philips Prestigo SRU 8015 is available from retailers like Amazon.com.

Recommended.

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