Video Review: Philips Prestigo SRT 9320 fancy-pants touchscreen remote control

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There’s an episode of Seinfeld (“The Slicer”) where George and Jerry discuss the merits of skin care and the skin care industry. Neither of them think very highly of either—at one point, George tells Jerry that all you need to do to take care of your skin is “wash it, dry it, move on!” That’s how I’ve always felt about remote controls: there’s no need to complicate the celebrated procession of turning on and off the TV and DirecTV receiver, of opening and closing the DVD or Blu-ray player; there’s sure as hell no need to shell out hundreds of dollars merely to lower the volume of your sound system with a shinier piece of plastic than the one that came in the box. So I’ve always believed, at least; and to an extent, still do. But you know what, gosh darn it, after using the Philips Prestigo SRT 9320, I’ve come this close to reconsidering my anti-fancy remote position. (I know for a fact that, broadly speaking, I have a problem with “luxury,” wether it be fancy remotes or fancy restaurants; it’s the peasant in me.) If I had never heard of the remote my life wouldn’t be all that different; but, I don’t know, as a piece of consumer electronics, as example of what can be engineered, well done to the crazy Dutchies at Philips.

The control center of the remote is its 2.5-inch touchscreen. (OHMYGODIPHONERIPOFF.) From here, you can control any one of 20 different components in your entertainment system: TVs, set-top boxes, DVRs, surround sound systems, etc. Twenty different items! Owing to the touchscreen, there aren’t too many physical buttons on the face of the remote. There’s channel up/down, volume up/down, a generic power button, and home, among others. (See photos.) Home, as you might have cleverly guessed, is where you begin your Pretigo journey.

After charging the remote—no cheap-o double-A batteries here!—for, oh, let’s say an hour or so, you’re going to want to press that there home button. That’s where you’ll set up all the different devices in your system. There’s a whopping three components in my setup: a TV, DirecTV DVR and Blu-ray player. (What riches!) Holding the home button for three seconds brings you to the device setup panel. Adding and programming devices, I’m happy to report, is dead simple. First, you turn on your device manually so the remote can, you know, interact with it. Then you merely select what kind of device you’re trying to program (TV, DVR, etc.) from the remote’s GUI, input the brand name (for me, Samsung) using the touchscreen, and then the remote confirms your brand name (Samsung). After you’ve selected your brand of device, the remote cycles through models till it actually controls your device. You’ll know the remote has found a match, has been properly programmed, after your device turns off. “Oh, look, my TV turned off!” Bam, it’s programmed. So, theoretically, you could program your entire home entertainment system in just a few minutes; I did. And, from what I understand, programming this type of remote is what usually drives people insane: “Why the heck won’t it work?!” Well, I lose my mind at the drop of a hat these days, and had no such issues programming the remote. Had I had any problems, I may well have thrown the remote into the Hudson River. So if that’s not an endorsement!

You can also easily program macros on the remote, such as “turn system on.” Here, for example, your TV, DVR, external speakers or whatever it is you use to watch 24 on Monday nights come on with the push of a button. Well, the push of the touchscreen. This is handy if you don’t want to move device by device in the menu, turning each component on individually.

I don’t know, what else, what else… You can set up your favorite channels on the remote, and there’s built-in, highly legible logos to help distinguish the channels from each other. Say you have four channels you constantly watch, like I do. (Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Soccer Channel and GolTV, for the record.) As soon as you turn on the remote there they are, ready to be touched. That there’s a built-in logo for Fox Soccer Channel is pretty amazing, considering how few people even know the channel exists. You can also add your own custom logos using the included USB connection and the Internets, if one of your favorites happen to be so obscure that it’s not already present. What could be more obscure than FSC, though, I wonder?

As far as complaints go, well, you can’t program the remote from your PC; all programming must be done from the remote itself. That may be an issue for some of you, but believe me when I say it takes only a few seconds to get your Blu-ray player (or whatever) up and running with the remote, the GUI is that clean and whole process is that painless. The fact that the number buttons aren’t physical buttons may also upset some of you, but, like it or not, this is the iPhone generation; physical buttons are no longer fashionable. Do you lose functionality by not having physical buttons? I’m inclined to say no, especially since you can so easily program your favorite channels so that they’re only one touchscreen tap away. Besides, we’re all using digital cable/DirecTV/Dish Network now, it’s not like your randomly entering numbers to go from channel to channel. That’s why we have a channel guide! “Oh, look, TLC is showing ‘Annoying Wife and Emotionally Crushed Husband’ again, let’s watch!” Let’s watch, indeed, America!

Like I said before, I was never a “remote control guy”—turn TV on, change channel, move on—and I don’t know that this remote has caused me any sort of “OH MY GOD THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN MISSING” feeling; I’m a simple man of simple means with even simpler pleasures. (Which makes it sorta ironic that I write about cool tech stuff every day—life is quixotic!) But it is a good remote, so if you’re even remotely (oh, pun!) into fancy remote controls then you shouldn’t have any problems with this. Besides, all the people I know/knew who were “into” fancy, multi-device remote controls were well monied and tend/ed to collect these things like a regular bloke would collect stamps.

So yeah, the remote is currently shipping and has an MSRP of $249. I see that not even Amazon has it yet, so a bit of patience may be required before you can walk into Best Buy to buy one.

All in all, not bad at all. And, again, regular readers know that I’m Mr. Jaded (with a Masters of Arts in Cynicism), so that’s high praise from me.

And apologies for the video, which, at some points, really stinks; I don’t know why there’s a border around the video either! That didn’t happen last time! I also don’t have a tripod or any real “talent” to speak of, so it’s amazing that that came out the way it did.

[PSGallery=33ee36eh010]

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