Review (May 2007)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. .
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.
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
Mitsubishi HC5000 Full-HD 1080p LCD Projector
|Review - At a Glance|
RTI - T4 Universal Controller
** Optional bezel colors and EM4 expansion module will be available summer of 2007.
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