Hands On: Savant Pro Remote as Universal Remote and Home Automation Controller
Jason Griffing, host of HomeTech.fm, offers first impressions of Savant Pro Remote: Nice form factor, simple configuration, iffy voice control and caveats on home automation.
Savant, a leading home automation and multiroom A/V manufacturer, recently released its first new handheld remote control in a very long time -- the Savant Pro Remote. The wand-style device with a touchscreen and hard buttons works with Savant's $1,499* Smart Host. And while the Host (the home automation hub in IoT parlance) is built for whole-home control, the Pro Remote is billed as a single-room controller.
Jason Griffing, an integrator and host of the weekly HomeTech.fm podcast, has tried the new remote in his showroom and provides CE Pro with some first impressions of the product.
The Pro Remote should not be confused with the new Savant Remote ($499 including "Host" control hub), a DIY product that begins shipping this week. All pre-orders (except for the Savant IP Lamp Control) should be fulfilled by May 26, with new orders being filled on a first-come, first-served basis. - Editors
First Impressions: Savant Pro Remote
Industrial Design / “Handfeel”
Industrial design is the first thing that jumped out at me when I held the remote back on the CEDIA show floor last October. The industrial design is top notch. The remote’s compact size feels just right, allowing me to easily operate it with one hand. The touchscreen is gorgeous and fluid, void of the jerky feel that is so common when swiping around on comparably priced touchscreen remotes.
Overall the physical button layout is highly satisfactory. My only complaint here is that I wish the volume and channel buttons were slightly more pronounced. I find my thumb drifting a bit trying to locate them, and have to look down at the remote periodically to make sure I’m pressing in the right location. This is a very minor drawback and will surely be a non-issue once muscle memory begins to kick in with repeated use.
Savant Pro Remote
- Beautiful design
- Great “handfeel”
- Snappy response
- Fluid touchscreen
- Easy to program
- Voice control can struggle in excessively noisy environments
- Integration with Savant Music needs some work
- Scene control has the potential to confuse end-users
'Retail' Price: $700 for remote; requires Smart Host controller, $1,499 (corrected 5/18)
Availability: Now, authorized dealers only
Overall Programming / Use
Overall my experience with the remote has been overwhelmingly positive. Our programmer had the remote up and operational very quickly. The response has been reliable and very snappy. Control of our Lutron lighting and shades has worked brilliantly. And when used in its primary role (as a single-room TV remote) I have zero complaints.
There are two areas where I can see room for improvement. Control of our Savant Music [media management and streaming] system works great, so long as the media server has already been turned on from the app. Trying to trigger Savant Music on the remote, when the service is in an off state, has yielded mixed results. (We don’t currently have Sonos setup at our showroom, so I can’t speak to that integration.)
The other area where I can see potential for client confusion has to do with scenes. The user has the ability to trigger scenes from the remote. Scenes, by nature, have the ability to execute commands in multiple rooms. But, because the remote is designed to be a single-room solution, you then have no way to turn off any services triggered in other parts of the house. For that, you'll have to open up the Savant app on an idevice.
This could cause problems if, for example, you inadvertently hit a party scene when what you really meant to hit was movie night to enjoy a quiet evening and glass of wine with your spouse while the kids were finally sleeping.
We will work around this in programming to limit access to available scenes on the remote, and by continually reinforcing the message to our clients that this remote should be thought of as a single-room solution, with the app serving broader, whole-home functions. And In Savant’s defense, they’ve said from the start that this remote is designed with single-room use cases in mind. And I’ve always felt strongly that handheld remotes in general should be viewed in that light.
My experience with the voice control thus far has been a mixed bag. Take this with a small grain of salt, as my hands-on use of the remote has all taken place in our showroom, which can get pretty noisy. My default test command has been, “Watch ESPN”.
At times when the room is relatively quiet it’s worked brilliantly, allowing me to see the true promise that voice control holds. Other times I’ve had the same verbal command cue the shades to lower or Savant Music to turn on.
These sort of unpredictable results have the potential to rapidly demotivate end-users. Using voice control still feels very awkward to most people, so without flawless performance they will quickly revert back to pushing buttons. I’ll be continually experimenting with this feature in order to further evaluate, and recommend best practices to my clients.
From a Business Perspective
As a long time Savant dealer I can say that this remote was overdue, and I’m not just referring to the delayed ship date. We’ve been hurting for a handheld remote that lives up to the sleek and modern experience of Savant’s current app offering. Savant’s decision to release a DIY version [the Savant Remote] hasn’t been received well by some dealers. Personally I fall into the camp who sees opportunity in the increased awareness this decision will bring. Both the Pro and DIY versions are products I am proud to present to my clients.
*The price of the Smart Host was originally reported as $999, but the new model that includes Savant Music Server powered by Autonomic is $1,499 "retail".
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Jason Griffing is the Partner Development Manager at OneVision Resources. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
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