Denon AVR-5800 Digital Surround Receiver Page 4

The biggest feature news, though, is the Aktis RC-8000 remote control, a touchscreen handset about the size of an over-fed personal digital assistant. Accompanying the handset is a battery-charger/radio-frequency (RF) base station, which you can use to operate the remote from anywhere in the home - through walls and floors.

This is a "deep" and powerful controller with a lot of capabilities. Once you "wake" the screen by touching it, or by hitting the Light key, it shows a palette of "soft keys" appropriate to the device the remote is currently set to command. You select components by pushing in the joystick to call up a menu bar. You can add up to a total of 23 devices, which can include multiples of a single type, such as two CD players. The preprogrammed categories include almost any A/V component you can name.

The remote comes with a modest library of code-sets for major-brand TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, VCRs, CD players and recorders, and satellite receivers (137 code sets in all). And any soft or hard button can "learn" any source codes via the time-honored, labor-intensive end-to-end cloning routine (up to about 200 learned codes). Each add-on device can be associated with up to four screen "pages" of soft keys (the AVR-5800 itself has five), for a total of up to 60 commands per device. Programming and customizing is exceptionally easy since LCD readouts prompt you through the routines.

Almost More Remote Control Than Humanly Possible

You're not going to learn how to operate all of this remote's features overnight, or even in a week, but it clearly has enormous potential. It also has some weaknesses, most of which are common to nearly all "paged" touchscreen remotes.

First, you can't really use the Aktis by feel - the screen is perfectly flat. Second, although each of the various screen redraws takes only 2 seconds or less, the response can actually seem sluggish after awhile. Third, readability is excellent in both dim and bright light, but reflections can be annoying in medium lighting (this is true of all LCDs). Fourth, navigating from one command set to another can be cumbersome. For example, if you were playing a DVD and wanted to change the receiver's surround mode, you'd have to issue four commands (including waking up the screen) just to get to the right page. All of that aside, the Aktis is a powerful remote that lets you control a full home theater system without having to remember shift-key functions or unlabeled commands.

Denon's AVR-5800 is a great receiver for anyone with a high-end budget who prefers not to bother with separate components. My only real quarrel is with its price, and even here, given the high quality of its hardware, software, and construction, and considering that it isn't even the most expensive receiver on the market, I'll willingly concede that it's well worth what it costs.