As far as remote controls are concerned, the Philips Prestigo SRU8015 is a big one. It's chunky and quite long. But unlike some, you won't need two hands to use it.
The remote's most striking feature is the 2-inch, 220x175-pixel LCD screen, but unlike some rivals it's not a touchscreen, and worse still the on-screen icons don't always correspond to the most logical buttons.
Next in line is the large wheel in the centre of the device. While not a click-wheel it's certainly modelled on one while the outside ring is notched and moves easily. It's designed to make navigating long menus easier, but it can get tiresome after 10 revolutions or so.
While everything is neatly ordered and within easy grasp, we were a little disappointed to find that the transport buttons (Play, etc.) are rather small and all the same shape — even the record button. The Harmony One handles this better with its distinctively shaped buttons, but at least the Philips is also backlit.
Universal remotes are usually a pain to set-up — especially if you have a lot of equipment — but the Philips has taken a different tack. Choosing to go the "less-is-more" route, the Prestigo doesn't need either a PC or even the original remote (in most cases) to program it. You simply point the remote at your equipment, it sends out a bunch of codes and you tell the remote once the equipment has turned off. Fairly simple.
If you have a large set-up you'll be glad to know that the remote can control up to 15 home entertainment devices. To this end, the Philips comes with an extensive database on-board and even has a set of station logos set up for cable channel favourites and some local FTA channels. While we easily found "Ten", we had to do a good search for several variants of Nine (9, Nine) until we found it under "Channel Nine".
As soon as you put the batteries in you get a menu asking which language you want to use, followed by a set-up guide that walks you through your devices. Unfortunately, for those used to the Harmony's Web-based programming you need to be in front of your home theatre to do it. First step was "Make Sure Your TV is turned on".
Philips breaks up its commands into Keys (the hard buttons like "volume"), Functions (software buttons for specific functions you can't assign to a key), and Activities (macros). Getting your head around this terminology can be a little confusing at first.
We tried a gaggle of different devices — from cheap fans to the Creative Xdock and most of the time it worked great. Most products were found within 10 seconds or so. Only when it came across a device it didn't recognise would it give you the option of doing a full search or learning the functions. For crikey's sake please choose "learn functions" — otherwise you'll be stuck holding down a button for half an hour while it searches its entire database. Crampy.
The only other problem with learning Functions at this first stage is that you can't name them at the time. You need to remember, for example, that the button you chose for "Brightness" in the list of options it gave you is actually called "Ambisound" so you can change it later. However, if you go back into the menu and choose Functions later it lets you rename them — not very consistent or user-friendly.
It's also sometimes difficult to give up if you can't program in the command you want, as you may have to wait several minutes until it times out.
Also a pain is adding "Activities", with obtuse obstructions like "Select the device where the key is located or choose a delay". The key to the what now? You then get a list of your devices and it's not clear what to do then. For example, how do we tell it that we need to press AV three times to "Watch A DVD". The Harmony remotes make this much easier.
Overall, this is a decent remote if you don't want to fiddle around with Web interfaces or go poring through pages and pages of manufacturer's codes. When it works, it's great ... but things become unhinged when the remote comes across a device it doesn't recognise, or if asked to do any sort of advanced programming. If given the choice, we'd definitely plump for the Logitech Harmony One instead.