Product Review (May 2007)
RTI Remote Technologies Inc.
T4 Wireless Remote Controller

By Kevin Nakano


Controlling a home entertainment system is no easy task with the number of components installed in most of today's systems. Seamless integration is an art and requires a good installer that not only knows the system components and how they interact with one another, but also how to command them from a single handheld controller. Real world issues such as components hidden behind cabinet doors and multiple locations make controlling the complex electronics more challenging. Conventional IR remotes (including universal remotes) require clear line-of-sight to the components, but often this is not practical from the user's seating location. Remote Technologies, Incorporated (RTI) addresses all of these issues and offers a series of advanced control products designed to simplify a complex entertainment system. We have had previous experience with their T3 Color Remote Controller, a unit we reviewed last year and came to the conclusion that their product is an installer's dream. RTI didn't stop there and have released a much more powerful device.

RTI's latest entry is their flagship T4 wireless controller, capable of operating audio/video components, lights, and even browsing the web. The T4 features a large 6.4" color touchscreen with full VGA (640x480) resolution, a powerful 400MHz 32-bit MCU, 32MB of flash memory, stereo speakers, and an expandable architecture. The product represents a culmination of many years of engineering and design experience and it shows with the new T4 design. The sophisticated look and style adds an elegant touch to any high-end home theater. The T4 supports direct IR control for complete stand-alone operation or the RF output can be used with RTI's RM-433 RF receiver and RP-6 advanced control processor. The T4 also supports Wi-Fi for IP control and internet access with hardwired Ethernet and analog video input options. RTI also offers power sensing cables and RS232 interfaces for advanced control when using the RP-6. Four rubber pads located on the bottom of the controller keep it from sliding on a flat surface.

While the T4 has fully customizable buttons on the touch screen there are several dedicated buttons on the front that are used for common functions. The upper left side has buttons for Channel +/- and Volume +/-. A Mute and Jump button are also located here. The upper right side has a set of navigation buttons (Left, Right, Up, Down and Enter) along with a Menu and Exit button. The built-in speakers provide audible feedback when a button is pressed.

The Cradle
The T4 rests nicely in the cradle where four contacts are used to charge the internal Lithium Polymer battery. It is important that the contacts stay clean to ensure the unit charges properly when placed on the stand. The front LED indicator on the docking base illuminates orange when the unit is charging and then turns green once the battery is fully charged. The T4 is fairly heavy and must be properly placed in the base to make good contact with the electrical contacts.

Removing the rear cover of the T4 reveals the USB connector and the unit's power switch. The USB cable is a standard connector compatible with generic USB cables designed for smaller portable devices. The 7.2V 4000mAH Lithium-Polymer battery offers the T4 a large power reserve. The powerful processor and large screen demand quite a bit of power, justifying the need for a battery almost the size of a small laptop battery. It appears to be fairly easy to change the battery pack in the event it needs to be replaced in the future. Under normal conditions, the customer will never have to remove the rear cover since the unit sits in a recharging cradle.

T4 Control Panels
The T4 has a series of Control Panels that can be accessed by pressing and holding the touchscreen while sliding the power switch from OFF position to the ON position. These screens can also be accessed by assigning a Control Panel page link to a button using the TheaterTouch™ Designer software.

The following images are the control panels within the T4 Controller. Each of the parameters can be defined by the installer to suite the needs of the customer.

Programming the T4 is made simple with RTI's Windows-based TheaterTouch™ Designer software. The software is powerful and offers installers amazing flexibility for their customers. Time invested into learning the software is quickly rewarded and can serve as the foundation for a large database used for future customers. RTI offers training for their installers through the ACU (Advanced Control University) to rapidly educate them on the capabilities of their product line. Best yet, the classes are CEDIA accredited. RTI offers an extensive assortment of accessories designed specifically for their product line. The USB connector on the back of the unit connects to a standard USB cable provided with the remote and is used to interface to a PC.

Software
TheaterTouch™ Designer is a powerful, yet easy-to-use Windows application that supports the entire RTI line of products including the remote controllers, processors and IR reader. The application allows complete control and flexibility in the design of the controller screens and command functions enabling the user to fully customize the look of the remote. RTI includes a bitmap library with several different professionally designed skins/GUI’s and a number of predefined button shapes. In addition, a set of editing tools are provided for creating custom graphics for the display. Infrared codes can be added to any button by a simple drag-and-drop process. The Macro Editor provides a simple interface that allows any button in the system to launch complex multi-step actions. Periodic firmware and software updates are available to installers to support new features and products.

When selecting a new remote from the database, the software keeps a list of the last set of remotes used at the top of the queue. This makes it convenient for the installer to recall the most commonly used remotes that have been recently accessed. Once the installer completes the system configuration for the customer, the software can generate a comprehensive TheaterTouch System Configuration Report which provides the configuration details for each of the devices installed in the system.

Updating
The screen shot shown here represents a portion of the user interface controls we setup for our Dish Network ViP622 high-definition DVR. This DVR is fantastic and having the ability to control it with the T4 makes a good thing even better. A single button push can send a four digit channel number to the set-top box without needing clear line-of-sight to the component. Navigating through the various menus is completely user defined and can have as many layers as desired (only limited by memory, which is large). We needed about 5 screens to fully control our DVR with a single menu for all frequently used controls.

Once the remote design and setup is complete, a single button in the TheaterTouch™ Designer software sends the latest configuration data to the remote. A second button sends the data to the controller (in our case the RP-6). Both units are updated using the included USB cables. The process only takes seconds and the installer can quickly check to see if the operation of the system is working correctly. It is easy to spend a long time customizing every aspect of the system into the remote since the environment allows an enormous amount of flexibility and control. .

RP-6
The RP-6 is an advanced control processor that is designed to interface to a variety of external devices. RTI remotes can transmit RF commands to the RP-6 through the external RM-433 RF antenna/receiver. The RP-6 then sends IR or RS232 commands directly to the connected components. We have several IR repeaters in our setup that transmit IR commands directly to the components. Sometimes it is better to use a wired RS232 interface for better reliability if the component supports it. Currently our video projector, Parasound AVC-2500 processor, video switchers and other components make use of wired CM-232 interfaces to the RP-6.

CM-232
IR repeaters have limitation and some installers will opt for wired serial control of components for better reliability. Controlling devices through RS232 interfaces can also increase options. In our case, we can command our Parasound preamplifier with specific on and off commands instead of the power toggle command used on the IR remote. RS232 control is made easy with RTI's CM-232 communication module cable and the RP-6 Remote Control Processor. The CM-232 is designed to provide an RS232 connection to virtually any RS232 compatible product. It is designed to be attached to an RTI control system on one end, and a standard DB-9 serial port connector on the other end. The CM-232 can transmit data, but cannot receive any. The four conductor plug mates directly to the RP-6 ports. The TheaterTouch™ Designer software allows serial messages to be sent as hex data or ASCII data and can be directed to any or all of the six ports. The character strings, parity, bit structure as well as software-selectable data rates (up to 115.2K baud) are accessible through the button properties window in the software.

VPS-1
There are some applications where power sensing is needed to notify the system that a component has powered on or has triggered an output. While not all systems would need such an interface, RTI does allow the use of such a device. RTI's VPS-1 (Voltage Power Sensor) is designed to monitor components and provide the power status to a connected controller such as the RP-6. The VPS-1 detects the voltage supplied from the component which can be between 3VDC and 24VDC or 9VAC to 30VAC peak-to-peak. Since it is designed to sense power, no power supply is required for the VPS-1. An LED located on the module illuminates to indicate power is detected. The sense cable is 3-feet and the control cable is 12-feet in length. The control cable can be as long as 500 feet if required. The VPS-1 also has an IR emitter output jack that is compatible with industry standard repeaters and offers up to 100mA of current drive. The electronics is housed in a compact, rugged ABS enclosure for durability.

SPS-1
Another useful accessory for the RTI system is the SPS-1 Video Sync Power Sensor. Designed to monitor the on and off status of almost any video component by detecting the video signal, the SPS-1 provides power status information to RTI control systems such as the RP-6 Remote Control Processor. Since it is difficult to detect when a unit is powered on, the SPS-1 detects the video output of a component. This happens to work well because most televisions and video source equipment output a video signal or at least a blue screen when powered on. Using the vertical sync detect circuit, the SPS-1 can determine the presence of a video signal, whether it is NTSC, PAL or SECAM.

Using the TheaterTouch Designer software, the installer can assign each of the six ports with unique names as well as enable or disable IR passthrough capability. The RP-6 can receive IR commands and repeat them to multiple output ports. These four-conductor output ports are designed to work with RTI modules and are fully compatible with industry-standard IR flashers. The TheaterTouch Designer software is used to update the firmware in the RP-6 as well as program the unit. Three relay outputs are rated for 3 amps @ 30 VDC and can be triggered and set for normally-open or normally-closed operation. The RP-6 can be used with multiple RM-433 RF receivers to create a large coverage area in the installation, allowing customers to have more freedom and reliability with their entertainment system.

Conclusion
RTI has again produced a powerful handheld controller capable of releasing the true potential of your system that is only limited by one's imagination. The new T4 is not small (6" high and 9.5" wide) and weighs 2 pounds. Yet the VGA resolution (640x480) screen is pleasing to look at and offers the user with full control of their entertainment system. The fully customizable T4 color screen is excellent and gives installers the potential to really please their customers.

The additional accessories offered by RTI to compliment the remote's capabilities allow users to expand on their system without outgrowing it. The RP-6 advanced control processor and RM-433 RF receiver along with RS232 and power sensing interfaces make the product truly impressive. Installers will become addicted to the user-friendly TheaterTouch Designer software which allows them the flexibility they need to create systems completely customized for each and every client. The best part is time invested into the IR database and screen setup can be used for other customers. I am still finding ways to make improvements on our system using the T4 while this review is being written.

The RTI product line once again comes highly recommended based on the quality and features offered by the company. Once you have experienced the world of high-end controllers there is no going back to the limited capabilities of universal IR remotes. The complexity of our system with all the video and audio switchers and multiple components lends itself well for use with such a controller. RTI products are designed for and sold exclusively to custom installers and the company is committed to its installers. They are now offering extended tech support hours as part of its Committed to Custom (C2C) initiative. The new hours of operation will be from 8am to 6pm CST.

- Kevin Nakano






OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Projector: Mitsubishi HC5000 Full-HD 1080p LCD Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD+ A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Satellite Receiver: Dish Network ViP622 High Definition DVR with HMDI
HD-DVD Player: Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player with HMDI
Blu-ray Player: Sony PlayStation3 Game Console with HDMI
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer

D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable: AudioQuest DV-1 20m DVI-D Cable
HDMI Cable: VizionWare Hi-Wirez 15-meter Active 1080p Cable
HDMI Video Switcher: Radiient Technologies Select-4 HDMI Video Switcher
Power Conditioning: Panamax MAX® 5510 ACRegenerator
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 ISF Certified All-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: ColorFacts PRO with GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Colorphotometer


Review - At a Glance

RTI - T4 Universal Controller

Features

  • Ergonomic design permits effortless operation.
  • Full color TFT LCD to display custom buttons, text, graphics, and animations.
  • Integrated 802.11 WiFi.
  • Integrated high--resolution touchscreen.
  • Powerful 32--bit, 400MHz XScale processor.
  • 32MByte of Flash Memory
  • Tilt switch can automatically turn on backlight when picked up.
  • Extremely bright, backlit display and keys with adjustable brightness.
  • Stereo speakers.
  • Thirteen assignable/programmable keys.
  • Transmits IR and RF (or both -on a single button or within a macro).
  • Optional RF receiver allows you to transmit through walls, cabinets, etc.
  • Includes a Lithium--Polymer Battery and docking station.
  • Completely customizable, programmable, and upgradeable.
  • Extremely wide IR transmitting frequency range.
  • Optional VESA mounting module with Power-Over-Ethernet and analog video inputs.
  • I/O ports support optional RTI Power Sensing and Communication modules.
    • Voltage and Video power sensing modules.
    • Interface for RS-232 controlled equipment.
  • Interchangeable front and back bezel colors. **
  • Programmed using the TheaterTouch™ Designer software. *
  • Non-volatile Flash memory stores your system configuration even if power is lost.
  • Easy--to-use Windows based software for programming and customization
  • Field upgradeable firmware (thru the TheaterTouch Designer Software)
  • USB programming.
* TheaterTouch Designer software only available to authorized RTI dealers.
** Optional bezel colors and EM4 expansion module will be available summer of 2007.


Specifications
Power7.2VDC 4000mAh Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Power ManagementAutomatic On/Off (tilt switch)
Infrared Control Range30 feet (9.1 meters) @ 60 degrees
Infrared Frequency Range15kHz - 460kHz
Radio Frequency Control RangeUp to 100 feet (30.5 meters)
(with optional System Interfaces/Processors)
Radio Frequency Carrier433 MHz
Touchscreen DisplayHigh-brightness color TFT LCD
Full VGA (640x480 pixels) with 65K colors
300:1 contrast ratio
Integrated high-resolution touchscreen
Display Size6.4 in (162mm) diagonal
BacklightDual CCFL, 300nit (Display)
Blue LED (Keypads)
Operating Temperature+32°F to +122°F (0°C to +50°C)
Operating Humidity5% to 95% Non-condensing
Total System Memory32M Bytes Flash (non-volatile) memory
Device CapabilityTotal number of devices is limited only by memory
Macro CapabilityUnlimited steps in a single macro
Total number of macros is limited only by memory
Macro capability on every button
CommunicationsUSB programming port
EnclosureHigh-impact molded ABS plastic
Dimensions (L x W x D)6.2 in (157 mm) x 9.4 in (239 mm) x 2.6 in (66 mm)
Weight2 lbs (0.91 kg)
WarrantyOne Year (Parts & Labor)
90 days on the battery
MSRP$2499

T4 Brochure (PDF, 443k)


Company Information
RTI Corporate Headquarters
7651 Anagram Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
Phone: 952-253-3100
Fax: 952-253-3131

URL: www.rticorp.com




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