RTI T4 Universal System Controller
My Remote Can Beat Up Your Remote
If you like car analogies (I don’t, but I’ll use one here anyway), RTI’s T4 is the Hummer of universal remote controls. At a little more than 9 by 6 inches (not to mention over 2.5 inches thick), it’s a monster that will dwarf nearly everything else sitting on your coffee table. It weighs 2 pounds. It sports an LCD touchscreen that by itself is larger than most other remote controls. At this point, you’re probably thinking that the prime consumer demographic for the T4 is the guy who feels the need to make up for some, shall we say, inadequacy in his personal life.
Of course, there are some people who’ll want a T4 just for the awe it will inspire. To those with $2,500 to spend solely for that reason, I say great. Why not buy a six-pack of them and flex your gadget muscles in more than one room? Fortunately, there are better, saner reasons to shell out the equivalent of a 200-plus-year subscription to this magazine on a single remote control.
For starters, there’s the 6.4-inch diagonal, high-resolution (640 by 480) color touchscreen. While that’s small for a laptop computer, it’s absolutely huge when it comes to a remote control. A programmer can take one of two approaches with all those pixels. He can design page sets with very detailed, highly personalized graphics. Or he can make simpler personalized screens with large, easy-to-read buttons for a user who feels that less is more when it comes to electronics. Regardless of the visual style, the end goal is to make it so that you’ll use and enjoy your system more. (That sounds like an ad for a male enhancement product, which, as I’ve mentioned, the T4 sometimes is.)
Even more impressive than the size of the touchscreen is the power and flexibility of the T4’s programmable capabilities. A programmer or installer probably has yet to max out the T4’s full potential. The T4 can output IR and RF signals simultaneously. With the addition of some of RTI’s two-way RF accessories, it can control stacks of gear (via power/video sensing, RS-232, and additional IR blasters) no matter where it’s located. Wi-Fi connectivity also gives the T4 the ability to control some IP devices.
And there’s more. The T4 can wirelessly access motion JPEG video and Websites and display them in full-screen mode or in an adjustable window. I’m not normally a big fan of having Internet access in the middle of my home theater, but the fact that you can do it on such a large screen makes it a bit more appealing.
Might Makes It Right
With great power comes great responsibility, so RTI only sells the T4 through custom installation dealers. I’m sure you could sweet-talk your installer into letting you have a copy of RTI’s Integration Designer software. But unless you’re a micromanager from hell
or suffer from a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to your home theater, I’d let the installer do the programming. There’s so much potential in terms of what you can do in appearances alone—including adding animation and sounds to accompany different button presses and system states, for example—that in most cases, you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice by trying to design it all yourself.
That being said, I found RTI’s Integration Designer software a great program to work with. It includes a wide variety of templates that needed little, if any, modification to make the T4 look and operate in a way that was quite satisfactory.
Put Me Behind the Wheel
As I’ve mentioned, the T4 is bulky and heavy. This means that unless you’re Andre the Giant, you definitely won’t be able to operate it using only one hand. I found it very comfortable to use with two hands, but I think most people will simply leave the T4 sitting in its charging cradle on a coffee or side table. The cradle holds the T4 upright at a 45-degree angle. That’s a perfect alignment for most of the things you’ll do with the remote. You won’t want to search the Internet or watch a video feed with the T4 sitting like that, but that’s what your lap is for. The internal tilt sensor is very sensitive, so all it takes is a little tap to bring it back to life. In fact, it’s so sensitive that there was a time when the bass in the movie I was watching was enough to wake it up.
Although I had little doubt about the T4’s impressive capabilities before I test-drove it, I did have some major reservations about its size. After all, I’m used to dropping a remote control two or three times until I’ve finally held on long enough to change the channel. And I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to clean spilled soda from between the keys of a particularly mistreated remote. I think it stems from the subconscious belief that a remote control is a necessary evil designed to annoy as much as to help. Now that I’ve used the T4, I see that it has a capability not listed in the instruction manual. It can prevent your home theater/home automation system from becoming your adversary rather than your friend. If you have the bucks to spend on it, that’s an inadequacy definitely worth overcoming.