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A docking station... without the dock.
Packaged along with the iR800 remote control is an unexpected yet usually welcome inclusion: what appears to be a nifty docking station. Woo hoo! What isn’t nearly as thrilling is the realization that the docking station’s sole purpose is to keep the remote vertical... and/or act as a contemporary paperweight. The sturdily constructed “display stand” measures 3.6” wide, 3.5” deep and 5.2” high (9.2cm by 8.9cm by 13.3cm) and is made out of 10 parts including moulded black plastic, stamped steel, cast aluminum and a chromed wire loop.
At one point it looks like the stand might have been intended for recharging the remote – Sunwave’s “Crisp Solutions UC-616” (see our review) used a similar vertical arrangement. But, in this case, the stand is merely added manufacturing expense that could have been applied to better effect elsewhere. Though it can still be called the nicest superfluous feature ever!
Pushing its buttons...
The iR800 is a speedy little remote control. Device switching is very quick and screens change nearly as fast (the explanation behind this speed difference is that the iR800 switches to a new device when you PUSH the button, but changes to the next page only when you RELEASE the button). Hard buttons are swift to respond with little lag time, and I found the LCD screen’s touch sensitivity to be good. Changing pages with the small [SETUP/PAGE] button proved straightforward, and I found working with the “banks of devices” concept surprisingly intuitive.
The case feels solid with minimal lateral twisting possible; however during testing I noticed that a thin strip of silver-colored plastic that runs along the left side of the screen tended to bulge slightly outwards. It could be snapped back into place, but doing so caused the LCD to lose contrast and as soon as the remote was gripped firmly, the piece would pop out again.
Making some tough choices.
Although the iR800 sports up to 46 in-device functions – nearly the same as many as other popular remote controls – concerns arise with the particular labels that were chosen. For instance, in terms of hard buttons one is forced to pick between placing menu, channel/volume, or transport controls on the center keys. The only one of those three function groups duplicated on the LCD screen is menu controls, so it’s likely that users will opt to use something other than that on the hard buttons – making the center “OK” key redundant.
Since there are no other keys with the right labels, that places transport controls on the hard buttons (plus the LCD for pause and fast forward/rewind)... leaving one with nowhere to put volume up/down. Indeed, having keys labelled with three common functions isn’t especially intuitive to folks unfamiliar with how the remote was originally programmed.
There are four groups of functions that should always be available at all times: menu controls, transport controls, volume/channel controls and a numerical keypad. These four categories are each mandatory on so many of today’s devices that it’s crippling to DVD, VCR or TiVo/ReplayTV owners to have to leave one of them out. This same design concern has been present on prior Sunwave models.