UEI NevoSL Universal Controller
What distinguishes a good universal remote from a great one? A good remote controls all of your components the way you need it to; a great one controls those components the way you want it to. Customization and advanced functionality are the keys, and UEI's NevoSL universal controller has both. The NevoSL's software-based programming and UEI's extensive code database combine to produce an excellent home theater controller, but this product's real strength lies in its ability not just to control but to create a converged home.
The NevoSL's simple appearance belies the advanced functionality within. The front face consists of a 3.5-inch-diagonal color LCD touchscreen and 17 hard buttons to handle common volume, channel, and navigation commands. On the right side panel are a light button and a scroll wheel to navigate the LCD's many potential pages; on the left are a Home Page button and a USB 1.1 connection that links the NevoSL to your PC.
The remote isn't limited to a certain number of devices, macros, or rooms; its only limitation is a file size of 13 megabytes. The NevoStudio 2.0 design software allows you to create multiple touchscreens, each specifically tailored to suit any task your system demands. The software includes a wide assortment of templates, themes, and buttons to choose from, and you can further personalize the remote with photo files—be it a simple addition, such as the use of network logos for your favorite TV channels, or a more advanced function, like a clever animation when you select a certain DVD or CD.
I know what you're thinking. With all of that functionality, the NevoSL must be hard to program. Luckily, that isn't your concern. The NevoSL is only available through specialty dealers, which means that the programming and customization are the custom installer's responsibility. You can locate a dealer through the www.mynevo.com Website.
UPnP Devices of the Home, Unite
The secret to the NevoSL's success in the converged home is its built-in Wi-Fi ability. You can't surf the Internet, check e-mail, or download TV listings with the NevoSL. What you can do, if you have a wireless home network in place, is stream digital music, photos, and videos between multiple Windows XP computers, HTPCs, and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)–compliant digital media systems, such as an Escient media server, as well as a Roku or Sonos media player—with complete control of the files in the palm of your hand.
Once your custom installer loads the NevoMedia Manager software onto your Windows XP–enabled computer(s) and adds the controller to your wireless network, the NevoSL can unite all of your UPnP devices into a single control interface called Media Zones. This interface goes beyond the basic ability to start, stop, and pause a media player. It mimics the Windows XP layout, with My Music, My Pictures, and My Video folders, and allows you to view photo slide shows and album art on the remote's screen, as well as select and control videos for playback on a display. Each time you boot up your computers, the NevoMedia Manager software launches automatically and updates the media files. However, as with most media players, a computer must be turned on in order for you to access its files.
The remote's Wi-Fi ability serves other purposes, as well. The NevoSL uses IR to control your components. Instead of developing an RF add-on to expand its communication range, UEI created the $200 NevoLink, an IP-addressable bridge that allows the remote to communicate over Wi-Fi with equipment in a separate room or cabinet. Wi-Fi allows for two-way communication, and you can add the NevoLink to your network via Cat-5 or an Ethernet-over-power-line bridge like Netgear's XE102.
Don't Forget About Your Home Theater
Even if you haven't embraced convergence, the NevoSL is still an excellent universal remote. I was quite happy with the intelligent control it provided for my home theater system, which includes an Epson projector, a Pioneer Elite A/V receiver, a Sony DVD player, an Onkyo universal disc player, and a Motorola HD DVR. UEI's code database contains discrete power on/off codes that my original remotes lack, which made it easier to set up smart on/off macros that never turn on equipment when I want my system off.
I loved having the flexibility to set up device pages that only contained buttons I actually use, in a layout that makes sense to me. I also appreciated the inclusion of hard buttons. They allow you to perform common operations without having to wake up the screen, and they provide tactile feedback and consistent response. Responsiveness is a concern with touchscreen remotes, and I occasionally had to press a button several times before the NevoSL would respond. UEI has included a handy PDA-type stylus that allows for more consistent touchscreen operation.
The NevoSL forgoes the tablet-style design in favor of traditional one-handed operation. It was a bit too wide to sit comfortably in my small hands, but I was still able to perform most functions using just one hand. The curvaceous base doubles as a charging station for the lithium-ion battery. A full charge took me through two days of heavy DVR use and channel surfing, and Wi-Fi consumes even more battery power, so I recommend that you place the remote in its charging base every night. I'd love to see an option to wake up the LCD screen when you pick up the remote, instead of by having to press the light button.
For the Pros
While programming specifics are less relevant here than with a consumer remote, I'd be remiss not to offer at least a few words about the NevoSL's setup procedure for our loyal custom installers and hard-core remote enthusiasts (remote-o-philes?). Armed with the NevoSL's software and the frighteningly long programming manual, I programmed the NevoSL to control my home theater setup, macros and all, in an afternoon—with many refining tweaks to follow. Perhaps my brain functions differently than a custom installer's (I guarantee it does), but I didn't feel that the 204-page manual was laid out in an intuitive manner. However, once I figured out the basics—acquiring device codes, setting up and linking pages, and customizing screens—I found the configuration process to be logical and user-friendly. Installers will have the benefit of UEI training, and I confess that, at the end of my review session, I brought in a trained installer to highlight the remote's more advanced features.
The software includes many time-saving features sure to please a busy custom installer. SuperFast Device Swapping lets you quickly exchange old codes for new ones when a client buys a new product. The Emulator lets you test the remote's functionality on the PC before you download the file to the product. The Media Zones interface is pre-configured, macros are extremely easy to set up, the software automatically resizes photos to fit the desired buttons, and you can quickly convert a Philips Pronto file for use on the NevoSL.
The NevoSL's Wi-Fi ability provides practical applications for the installer, as well. You can upload files to the remote without the USB cable, and, if the user has a wireless home network, you can make revisions to the remote without having to physically come to the house. You simply upload the revised file to the www.mynevo.com server, and the user's NevoSL automatically downloads the new file when the remote is reset, saving the installer time and the user money—a win-win.
At $999 plus the price of programming, the NevoSL bridges the gap between high-end consumer remotes and entry-level touchpanels, with enough customization and control options to please both camps. Whether you want smart control of your digital media or a more intuitive home theater experience, the NevoSL is definitely worth a look.
• Lets you stream digital media around the home
• Thoroughly customizable touchscreens
• Built-in Wi-Fi