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(Pocket-lint) - OneForAll have been at the centre of universal remotes for many years, but with increasing competition from various angles, including the likes of the Philips Prestigo range, they’ve had to raise their game. Enter Xsight Touch a universal remote featuring a touch display. But is this enough to get us excited?

The remote itself is relatively large (220 x 56 x 18mm) but does give over a couple of inches to the LCD screen on the top. The remote then features a fairly intuitive scattering of buttons, with large volume and channel changers lying in the centre of the remote falling naturally under your thumb when you pick it up, along with the four-way control and OK buttons. They also have a rubberised feel, so are easy to find in the dark.

That said, the entire remote is backlit and once you press a key the whole thing is illuminated, including the screen jumping into life. This backlighting is a pleasant blue, although obviously emanates from two LEDs behind the keys as bright spots are evident: it’s not equally dispersed which detracts from the overall effect.

The bottom of the remote is given over to the number keys, which are a little on the small side and as they are plastic, don’t the nice tactile feel that rubber keys do. Above these are the play controls for your media player (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS, etc.) and a line of coloured text buttons. Other menu AND guide controls lie below the screen, covering most, but not all, of your most common button options.

All the buttons have a distinct click to them and apart from the central band of rubberised keys already mentioned, all the keys are hard plastic, so combined with that click, it does feel a little primitive. Whilst you don’t expect much from a remote control in terms of design, you can’t help feel that it is a little bland: a straight slab, with very little by the way of colour (although a colour variant is available).

But moving on, the screen is probably where your attention will be drawn. Touch is limited to that screen, so it isn’t a complete touch device – you can’t do everything on the screen, you still have to use the buttons as you would with most other remotes.

The screen basically divides itself into sections into a number of options, allowing you to select your programmed devices, favourites, activities and settings. Rather than cram all the options onto one screen, a touch slider below the screen lets you switch screens, which becomes more useful when you have a number of favourites.

The screen itself isn’t of blinding quality – more akin to mobile phone screens of 7 or 8 years ago, rather than the high resolution devices you find these days. The icons are of a good size however, so easy to press what you want, even with big fingers, and it is sensitive so reacts quickly.

A universal remote is only as good as its setup and thankfully OneForAll have had plenty of experience to refine the process. You can use the display to pick your manufacturer and then work through the options to find a button set that matches your device, but bar far the easiest way is to hook-up the remote to your PC and program it via the enclosed EZ-RC software.

A quick install identifies your remote (as well as finding and applying firmware updates) and you are off into the EZ-RC website wizards to set-up your remote. Here you can search for your devices through manufacturers and then down into model numbers which makes things really easy. We had our TV programmed in seconds. The DVD player took a little longer, but was quickly found. It really is that easy: you step through the process, guided onscreen, and once you have all your devices selected, you update the controller and away you go.

The only complaint we had with EZ-RC software is that adds itself to startup, as though it is the most important thing you own, when in reality you don’t need it running all the time, if at all once you have everything set-up.

With all the devices we tried, we had no problems accessing all the normal functions, but you’ll find that some of the advanced features then appear on the screen. For example, on our Samsung TV, options to change the aspect ratio and picture-in-picture modes where here as icons, and thankfully, so too were connected inputs, so we could go direct to Component or HDMI inputs at the press of a button.

However some devices lose options. For example with our upscaling DVD player we tested you get a remote option switch through different output resolutions, something that was lost on the Xsight. This isn’t too much of a problem, however, as there is a learning function which will allow you to add in anything that is missing, either as a hard button, or onscreen, and you can name your new controls on the screen which makes things tidy.

The remote will support up to 18 devices, so you should be able to cover your entire home cinema rig and any home automation too, if you’ve gone down the path of having remote curtains or lights.

With respect to home cinema functions, you can program in Activities using the EZ-RC software. This will allow you to set-up anything that usually takes a number of button presses. You might want to have a single button for movie nights, switching input on your TV, changing the amp over, dimming the lights or whatever.

These activities are really easy to setup, including putting in delays, or alternating devices so things happen in sequence. You will also be able to set-up profiles so each user will be able to customise the remote to their liking – i.e., with your favourites – but this features won’t be available until April, so we could test it.

Favourites is simple enough to set-up too and you get the option of selecting which device does the channel changing and the format, so Sky users will have no problem. You do have to put in the channel numbers manually however as you go through, and we found that not all the icons were available, something that the Philips Prestigo 8015 had.

To recap

A powerful and usable device, slight marred by poor aesthetics

Writing by Chris Hall.
Sections TV