The Pronto RU980 (also sometimes referred to as the TSU7500) is truly beautiful to look at. The touch screen is big enough to accommodate buttons for people with normal-sized fingers. Unfortunately, even with all this space, the unit packs in so many controls for every possible device that we felt like we spent an inordinate amount of time flicking through pages of controls.
Of course, with the software that comes with the unit the user can cut out some of the unnecessary buttons and pages — that is, once they figure out how to use it. More on that in the Performance section.
The Pronto RU980 is all screen, with some configurable controls framing it on the right, below and on the left edge of the unit. It comes with a basic default setup that is ready to control your TV, preamp, CD recorder, even your automatic curtains, but as we mentioned earlier, that ends up being a lot of pages to flip through. The charging cradle for the unit holds the remote snugly — in fact, too snugly. It was a tug of war to remove the unit, and we winced every time we managed to wiggle it loose, wondering what it was doing to the tiny pins in the connecting point. (Fortunately, we looked at the manual and found that you're supposed to tilt the remote up 30 to 45 degrees before pulling it out — odd.)
The unit also comes with a USB cable for connection to the PC and a rechargeable battery. The supplied manual is necessarily thick — there are a lot of functions to digest.
Philips claims there is no limit to the number of devices the Pronto RU980 can control — we would guess it's more an issue of how much device info will fit into the unit's 32MB of memory.
As with most of the high-end remotes we test, we took a look at how much the remote would allow you to do without being tethered to the PC. With the Pronto, this was quite a lot. We were able to get the unit to learn the functions of our test remotes (though occasionally we would have to do it button by button, because it didn't seem to recognise the devices from one sample button). It is also possible to configure some of the device pages with the remote in standalone mode — generally, deleting unnecessary buttons and pages. For major redesigns and adding new features, the user should use the supplied PC application.
This device and its accompanying software had one of the steeper learning curves we'd encountered, but after a lot of trial and error, we found the system to be extremely flexible. When we started up the software, we were faced with what basically was a blank canvas. Uploading the settings we established with the remote in standalone mode, we had a place to start. Without wizards, it was a bit difficult to get going with the configuration process, but this is perhaps not such a bad thing (how many times do you find that wizards try to help you do things you don't really want to do?).
The other bonus with the software is the library of images — it's truly an amazing wealth of buttons, icons and backgrounds. You could really create some interesting screens (if you have quite a bit of free time).
The Pronto RU980 is an amazing piece of work — beautiful to look at, and able to be configured to serve just about any high-end technophile. With a price like this, though, you'd expect that. Whether all that functionality really makes this a better universal remote than, say, the Logitech Harmony 785 depends on how keen you are on creating that "perfect" remote (and on how deep your pockets are).