Remote: hard vs. soft buttoned

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by BrianMu, Dec 14, 2001.

  1. BrianMu

    BrianMu Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 23, 2001
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    I'm looking for a new remote control and was convinced that I needed a hard buttoned remote. Now that I think about it though, my current hard buttoned remote controls every function I need to control in my setup. The problem is that half of the functions are hidden on mis-labeled or poorly labeled buttons. The way I see it, the only way to truely remedy this situation is to go to a Pronto. The MX-500 would be closer, but is still not up there with the Pronto in terms of always having all of the buttons labeled correctly and in terms of macros. So it seems that anything less than a Pronto would be a compromise in terms of adaptability and customizability. The question is: would I grow to love a Pronto or hate it? The ideal thing for me would be to buy a Pronto and try it out for a while. But since I would buy it online due to price, it would be a royal pain to return one if I didn't like it.
    Anyway, I'd like to hear from some people who have changed their mind on which they prefer and why. e.g. you bought a Pronto and thought it would be great, but ended up hating the lack of hard buttons or you never thought you'd like a Pronto but love it after using one.
  2. Todd B

    Todd B Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 1, 1999
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    I am one of those who have gone from a Pronto to an MX-500 for day to day use. I've only had it for a couple of weeks so who I can't say which will ultimately win out. Here were my reasons for switching...
    • I needed the buttons. The lack of hard buttons for menu items was really the killer. I was always looking at the "buttons" on the Pronto instead of the menu I was navigating. This was really a pain for doing system setup.
    • The Pronto is (almost) infinitely configurable. However, that amount of power takes time. It took me weeks to tweak my remote. The MX-500 took a few hours to create a setup that I was happy with. The Pronto can be a real time hog if you let it.
    • Most Pronto configurations I have seen (mine included) require multiple pages per device to fit all of the buttons in. In practice, I found myself moving between pages frequently. While the MX-500 does have an additional page of LCD buttons per device, it has enough buttons that I hardly ever go to the second page (except to remember what I put there [​IMG]).
    • The Pronto's a lot bulkier than the MX-500. I preferred the feel of the 500.
    • Did I mention that I needed the buttons. No kidding, it's amazing how important this was.
    Now there are a few things that I love about my Pronto. It makes discrete codes a cynch and I do like having a remote that I can program to do just about anything. As a result, I don't plan on getting rid of it anytime soon.
  3. Christian Speights

    Christian Speights Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 14, 1999
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    I may not be the best person to give advice since I just got the software to work on a Mac (after months of trying)...but I'll chime in anyway.
    First, realize that the ability to customize the Pronto can be a blessing or a curse. Its great in that you can set up your remote to do EXACTLY what you want, how you want it. This includes setting up macros so you don't need an engineering degree to figure out how to watch TV (nobody ever knows how ot work my system).
    However, getting it right takes time and effort. A Pronto can make it easy but making it easy takes a lot of work. There are great resources out there like Remote Central but each system and each person is unique. Getting the setup you like best will take time. Some people love the challenge.
    The other thing that never really hit me is that the screen is kind of small. There is a finite amount of room on each screen. That means different functions need to be spread onto different screens (unless you want miniscule, unreadable buttons). You will not have all the functions available at all times. You will not have all the functions of the TV remote on one screen and the receiver remote on another. Keeping the buttons that you need the most at the top level is part of the challenge.
    You also don't have the tactile feedback with soft buttons, although that will become less of an issue the more you use it.
    I'm rambling. The Pronto is a great option...but it requires some love and attention to make it perfect. I've been conditioned to use the hard buttons on a suite of remotes, but I think I can be weened off of them with the right ccf.
    Hope this helps.
  4. Bryan Acevedo

    Bryan Acevedo Second Unit

    Aug 7, 2001
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    Both of the previous posters have hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned. These issues are exactly what I posted about in your other thread, Brian.
    I went from hard buttoned to touchscreen, and then back again, because I, too, NEEDED the hard buttons. There is nothing like tactile feel from a remote. The screen size (actually pages) is also what I mentioned. Having your buttons scattered all over the place is a pain. This is where most of your time would be spent tweaking. Moving buttons around just to get the configuration right. Then as soon as you do, you go out and get TiVo, and you spend another two weeks tweaking the remote. For some people, this is the fun part. For the rest of us who just want to use the remote, it is not! [​IMG]
    Someone mentioned in the other thread that the hard button issue is overblown. But maybe for HIS use it is overblown. If you are using the remote only in a HT environment, and not doing a lot of menu navigation, then they can be a great solution.
    But for those of us where our HT is also our "daily driver" system, a touchscreen is more of a pain than it is worth. It's like people who say that a racing suspension on their "race car only" car is not a problem, when people who use their "race car" as their "daily driver" would disagree.
    And the time issue - you may or may not have all of the time in the world to program a pronto. And, in my opinion, unless you are willing to put in the time to tweak it correctly, you and your wife will hate using it.
    It all comes down to how you actually use your system, in my opinion. Maybe both would be great (Pronto to have all buttons on one remote for setup, etc., and MX500 for daily use).
    I also found the "I need every button on one remote" issue overblown. Like for me, my TV buttons aren't needed past setup. Once I set my settings, I never need to touch it again. So I only have the basic TV buttons on there. Same for some of my other devices. To me, the remote is more of a "what do I need to run my system every day". Not, "what do I need in case I possibly want to tweak something because I am obsessive about it". You would be surprised at the buttons you can live without on a remote, after you get your system set up. After I stopped obsessing about getting every friggin' button (who needs an open/close button for their DVD player on the remote?) on the remote, it was much easier to only set up what I needed.
    Good luck!
  5. BrianMu

    BrianMu Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 23, 2001
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    It sounds like we might be on the same page. I also don't need every button on my remote. The advanced setup buttons are overkill. My biggest beef is that when for instance, the cable box says press "B" to list shows by title (or whatever "B" does, I want a button on my remote that says "B" rather than having to know that when in Cable mode, TV/Video = "B".

    I guess I'd consider the MX-500 to be the perfect remote for me if the LCD display was higher resolution (I wouldn't mind smaller letters to show the word "Subtitle" vs. "SUBTL", etc., etc. I know it's a small point, but as I said before, I have a remote that performs all of the necessary functions. I want the ability to have better (bigger, more comprehensive) macros and a more "slick" interface. Maybe I need to wait to see reviews of the MX-700 when it comes out or even wait to see if there is an MX-1200, etc. What I'm seeing is that people who generally prefer feeling for the buttons they use all the time (the most common functions for each component), do not adapt well to the Pronto. That being the case, I might as well stick to what I've got until a remote comes out that better meets my needs/wants (MX-500 with better macros and a better LCD display).

    If anybody can offer any more advice, I'm still all ears.

    Thanks for all the help,

  6. Brett_V

    Brett_V Extra

    May 9, 2001
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    I agree to some degree with the previous posts BUT..

    If your system is or will become complex with the addition of new and better equipment, a powerful remote is truly a necessity. I know that other hard-button learnable remotes can be taught to do the trick, but if you have a wife or kids in the house that want to fire up the theater, there is only one remote that can make a complex system a piece of cake! the Pronto.

    OK,OK, I agree with the hard button issue also. And I mostly desire hard buttons when I'm surfing thru guides looking for something to watch. So, I created a fix that works beautifully with the pronto. When I hit the guide button on my touch screen, it sends the guide IR signal to the SAT box then jumps me to a new device page that has defined cursor control for the 7 hard buttons on the pronto. ie: mute = sel , ch+ = page up , ch- = page down , vol+ = cursor up , vol- = cursor down , left button = left cursor , right button = right cursor. Now I can surf quickly thru screens without looking at the remote. When the mute/sel button is pressed, it executes the sel IR signal and then jumps you back to the original device I was using before I pressed guide.

    This has solved my issue of hard buttons, and allows my wife to operate the theater without calling me downstairs every time she wants to switch from TIVO to DVD or whatever.

    Hope this helps, I couldnt survive without the pronto.
  7. Scott-C

    Scott-C Supporting Actor

    Jul 23, 2001
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    All of the previous posters make great points about the advantages and disadvantages of a touchscreen remote. I've lived with the Pronto since March and have really enjoyed it. I appreciate the ability to customize the interface to look exactly the way I want it, but I will acknowledge it's a time-consuming process (I viewed it as a fun project to enhance my HT, so it was actually very enjoyable for me).

    The screen is small in the sense that it can't hold every button you may want to use in a given session, but with time and experience I came to find that I really only use a limited number of buttons on a regular basis, and I was able to consolidate those buttons onto a few screens. I also built the interface so it logically takes me from "point A" to "point B" when I'm using the system (for cuing up a movie, for example). As I've used my first-generation CCF, I've made notes in a small notebook about things I liked or more importantly, did not like and wanted to change. That way, over time I can tweak the CCF to better serve my personal needs. I've made tons of modifications but lately it's been pretty stable because it works so well for me.

    I'm not as bothered as some about the lack of hard buttons. I use the Pronto's hard buttons for volume, mute, etc. but find it simple and not annoying to use the screen's buttons for other functions. However, I do understand how tactile feel can be very important for some.

    You may want to check the return policy of wherever you plan to purchase your remote, regardless of what you decide to do. If you do decide on a Pronto, you can download the ProntoEdit software and create your interface before you even get the remote. That way, immediately after you receive it you can spend a few weeks using it with an interface that works for you, while deciding if you want to keep it (if there is a return policy with the remote, that is).

    Good luck!
  8. Chuck Kent

    Chuck Kent Supporting Actor

    May 29, 1999
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    Brian: I am a hard button person. I tried the Sony RM-AV2100 in my smaller system for several months and just couldn't get past the continuing need for trying to find just the "right place" on the screen to press. Plus, as the others have noted, there is pretty much zero tactile feel to a touchscreen.

    For the last several years, my remote of choice in my main system has been a Marantz RC-2000 MkII. While not a perfect solution (there aren't any) it was more than capable of running the 6 remote controllable boxes in my setup. Add the fact that it had user adjustable LCD labels for the keys not already labeled and you ended up with what was once called "The Remote of the Gods".

    But, like many on this forum, I'm always interested in looking for the next new thing on the horizon. At this point, I believe that the best remote in the hard button realm (in the under $200 price range) is the Home Theater Master MX-500. In fact, I liked the MX-500 so much that I retired my Marantz for one.

    It's important to realize from the start that it too is not perfect. As you've already noted, it doesn't offer quite enough macros. IMO, it's close but a few more would probably make most of us happier. (I only use 4 but other users might want up to a dozen.) And while it has 5 characters per customizable LCD label, a users ability to abreviate functions is sometimes taxed. (My RC-2000 MkII had only 4 characters per label. Going to 5 has been great!)

    But other than these 2 weaknesses, I have found the MX-500 to be a definite step forward in almost every other way. For example, you mentioned that you would like for the MX-500 to have better screen resolution. Well, all I can say is that mine is perfect. Not good, but PERFECT. It is MUCH MUCH better than my old Marantz and is so good that often, I don't even need to use the backlight in nearly dark conditions.

    Another big improvement is that the MX-500 has a much stronger infrared signal than ANY other remote I have ever owned. I can literally control my 6 remote devices from any angle in the room. This is a big plus!

    The MX-500 is a big leap in ergonomics too. It uses 4 AAA batteries that sit length-wise in the unit. This makes it much lighter and better balanced than the (4 AA front loaded) RC-2000 MkII. A user can hold and operate an MX-500 with one hand quite easily.

    So.. is the MX-500 the one for you??? Based on your writings, I think it could be. But if you need more than 5 macros, then you would need to look elsewhere. (You can "fool" the MX-500 into more macros by using the Favorites pages creatively. But the truth is that this is not user intuitive at all. IMO) I agree that the MX-700 will bring some neat things to the table. But it's going to be expensive too. And for me, that is also a big consideration.

    Good luck with your search!
  9. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

    Sep 30, 2001
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    Disclaimer: I am not a hard button lover.
    I have tried my share of hard buttoned remotes for my setup
    and there is no doubting the fact that you can "get by" with
    even the cheapest hard buttoned ULR's like the Radio Shack
    15994 or some of the other ULR's. These remotes have a huge
    set of limitations in the default unchangeable button labeling
    and also the memory and learning features.
    So then you move on to the premier hybrid LCD/Hard button
    Remotes like those offered from Home Theater Master and RTI.
    These are the Creme De Le Creme of the hard button world and
    they generaly have enough labelable buttons for the average
    HTF guru. But they still have thier drawbacks. You can not
    nor will you ever be able to "label" the hard buttons unless
    someone invents some revolutionary technology where we can
    adjust the pigment in the silicone rubber. Or perhaps a clear
    overlay that you can print on your PC and slide into the
    case of the remote and have it backlight would be the ideal
    awnser. Unfortunatly no such technologies or designs currently
    The hard button camp does have some very valid points on
    ergonomics and tactile feedback. Do not think that LCD only
    remotes are free from drawbacks.
    That all being said I am on the side of the LCD remote. I
    own the Pronto Pro and I think it's the most marvelous thing
    since sliced bread. For me "Tactile" feedback of hard buttons
    was not nor will it ever be an issue to the point where I
    would consider not buying a touchscreen. The power of the
    interface, the ability to build you own GUI that is exactly
    tailored TO YOU is something that you will never be able to
    do with say a HTM MX-500. Yes you do need "pages" of buttons
    on the Pronto if you want to replicate ALL factory remote
    functions. This is where a great GUI design will make or
    break your using pleasure.
    For me and my current setup I learned that large buttons are
    are better than "more" buttons (per page) my newest CCF file
    which I just finished last night, is apropriatly named: "The
    Big Easy v1.0" because the buttons are large and physicaly
    spaced away from each other. This does allow you to memorize
    thier position and you certainly CAN hit the button without
    looking at the remote (contrary to popular belief)but it does
    take practice and there is no tactile response (there is however
    an audiable response)
    When I becan to work on my second CCF file I carefully sat
    down and thought about what was the most important buttons
    to me..
    For example..
    When I go to the TV device the screen that auto loads is the
    "menu" screen. The Menu screen contains no numeric keypad and
    no direct channel access (those have thier own pages) so you
    may ask "Then why load the menu page?" Simple really, Because
    on the menu page resides the 4 way arrows and my Guide+ button
    which allows me to navigate my TV's OSD for Channel Access.
    And for my DVD and my VCR the most important buttons are the
    transport buttons EG: Play, Stop,Search,Slow,Menu etc.
    If you design your GUI wisely (It takes weeks..) then you
    will have an LCD Touch Screen that works for you and not
    the opposite. With this all being said, you still may very
    well prefer a hard button remote and I surely can not fault
    you for that. We all have prefrences, for if we did not then
    we all would be using the same remote with the same TV and
    drinking the same beer watching the same movie. And that would
    not be any fun, now would it? [​IMG]
    In closing all I can say is that the Pronto Pro was the only
    choice for me. Anything less and I would not have been pleased.
  10. Neil Weinstock

    Neil Weinstock Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 28, 2000
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    I've concluded that hard buttons vs. touch screens is like being a dog person vs. a cat person. Some people prefer one, some prefer the other, period.

    Only you can decide which you prefer (or prevent forest fires, but that's another matter.) As far as hard button remotes go, the MX-500 is very, very good (not perfect), and I'm thrilled with mine. I have since bought one for my father, and our friends have now populated their entire family with them, and everyone is happy. I should get commissions from HTM for selling these.
  11. Bob Craig

    Bob Craig Auditioning

    Jan 7, 2000
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    Hey, guys... Thanks for the great input on how you're using your remotes. Based on what I've picked up here, I ordered an MX-500 yesterday. [​IMG] Sounds like it bridges the gap between being pretty simple, yet powerful enough to get most jobs done.
  12. Scott-C

    Scott-C Supporting Actor

    Jul 23, 2001
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    Congrats on buying your remote and best of luck with it Bob!

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