Philips' Pronto line of universal remotes was once the pinnacle of home theater cool--supercustomizable touch-screen models with a dedicated community of users who shared icons, macros, codes, and tricks on many an online message board. In the face of stiff competition from Logitech's PC-programmable Harmony line, the Pronto line has since been rebranded as a boutique option, only available via custom installers. In its place, however, Philips has since rolled out the Prestigo line of consumer-friendly remotes. One such model is the SRU8010, which retails for about $80. It's not designed for high-end home theater use (those who want to program elaborate multidevice macros), but for everyone else--the other 80 percent of the population who are just looking for a quick and easy way to consolidate all those remotes on the coffee table--the easy-to-program SRU8010 deserves serious consideration.
The SRU8010 has received some winking notoriety for its separate "His" and "Hers" channel lineups, but those are 2 of 10 possible distinct customized channel slates, which can be personalized for individual family members or groups (kids, grandma) or for specific channel groupings or genres (movies, news, HD channels--whatever you'd like). The channel choices are shown on the brilliantly bright 1.5x2-inch color screen that dominates the top quarter of the remote. It's got 10 contextual hard buttons--five on each side--that correspond to the customized channel offerings. Even better, the channels can be set to show their familiar logos, so they're easily distinguished from one another. Personalizing channel or button names is easy--just type on the numeric keypad as you would when sending a text message on your cell phone.
The His and Hers channel lineups are just 2 of 10 possible options--a kid-friendly channel slate is shown here.
Beyond the screen, the Prestigo SRU8010 has a pretty standard button layout. A big five-way directional pad is flanked by large channel and volume up/down buttons, below which is the 12-key numeric pad. On the very bottom are the transport controls--fast-forward, rewind, play, pause, stop, and record--and interspersed throughout are some other critical keys, including ones that will match up perfectly for cable and satellite electronic programming guides (guide, info, menu, quit) and TiVo and other DVRs (replay, thumbs up/down, and advance). All of the buttons are rubberized, but unlike the mushy type found on many remotes, these are as close to hard plastic as we've seen. The only real miscue from an ergonomic standpoint is the location of those all-too-critical video transport keys. Because they'll likely be among the most used--for DVRs, DVD player/recorders, VCRs, and CD/audio players--they would've been much better placed toward the middle of the controller, directly below the D-pad. The numeric keypad should be on the bottom--with this remote's ample channel shortcuts, punching in channel numbers will probably be among the least used functions.
Button layout is generally good, but we would've moved the transport buttons from the bottom to the middle.
Programming the SRU8010 is a snap. In fact, it may be one of the most easily programmed remotes we've come across. Classically, programming remotes involved either typing in codes from an instruction manual or (as with the Logitech Harmony line) attaching the remote to a computer to upload device profiles and preferences. The Prestigo SRU8010 instead uses a wizard--on the built-in screen--that takes you through the process step by step. Just choose the device type you want to set up (it can control as many as 10). A wizard takes you through programming each device, step by step, with the color screen explaining each step. Just choose the manufacturer (it lists all the top names), then cycle through the available codes until you get a response.
Just tell the Prestigo the manufacturer of your device, and there's a good chance it already has the control codes built in.
Once you lock in, you can further customize buttons by "learning" them from your existing remote. For instance, we were able to add our cable box's zoom function and TV's sleep function with ease. Reassign any of the hard buttons as you'd like, or use the screen and corresponding buttons to add up to 26 additional commands. Likewise, if the codes aren't built into the Prestigo, the learning function will let you add pretty much any device to the remote, so long as you have access to its corresponding infrared remote.
The Prestigo can learn the codes from any old remote, thanks to this IR receiver.
Setting up the customized channel lineups is just as easy. You can use any of the existing favorites lists, or rename them to your liking--HD channels, movies, news, whatever. There are dozens of channel icons, covering channels from the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS) to more esoteric fare (Speed Channel, Noggin, Current). For the most part, the icon database was surprisingly up to date, but a few key networks were M.I.A.--dead or dying channels such as CNNfn and CourtTV were found, but the newer MyTV and MOJO networks weren't. Because of that--and the fact that you can't update the logo selection--there are some generic icons (stars, balloons, music notes). Alternately, you can just input an alphanumeric label (such as WWOR or ch09). Parents will appreciate the parental control mode, which lets them lock a preset number of kid-friendly channels (as programmed by the 'rents) as the only ones accessible from the remote.
Multistep macros can be programmed on the Prestigo SRU8010 as well--but they're limited to one device at a time. So while you can set an AV receiver to prep itself for DVD playback--power up, switch to the right input, engage midnight mode, or whatever--you can't utilize the sort of multidevice task-based macros found on the likes of a Logitech Harmony remote. That's not a criticism per se--that sort of sophisticated programming ability is pretty much beyond the mission statement of this particular Prestigo model. The remote is also a little beefy--it's 8 ounces when the three AA batteries are loaded up--but its permanent memory retention means that you can swap in new power cells without having to reprogram from scratch.
In the final analysis, some hardcore home theater users may scoff at the Prestigo as gimmicky (the His and Hers buttons), underpowered (no multidevice macros), or a little too "senior friendly." And that's fine, because this remote isn't for them--it's for their significant others, or even their parents (older folks will love the big numbers on the keypad and the superbright LCD screen). If you don't need the advanced macros or if you're frustrated by the Harmony remotes' need to be tethered to a PC for programming, the Philips Prestigo SRU8010 may be just what the doctor ordered.