Crestron, a leader in home automation, is coming out with a slick hard-button remote, the $400 HR 310. No touchscreen. Nothing terribly sexy.
And yet, it is. Sexy.
I love hard buttons. I don’t like touchscreens. I despise having to looking down at an itty bitty display to make selections. And believe me, when you get to be my age, those displays get ittier and bittier by the day.
Plus, my fingers aren’t as dexterous as they used to be. When I’m watching TV – and I’m a power watcher – just give me my buttons. For everything else, I can use an on-screen display (OSD), dedicated touchscreen, or mobile device.
I’ve actually always been a touchscreen girl, even 17 years ago when I had a Crestron system with a big fat, beautiful (very expensive) touchscreen on the end table. Couch-bound with eyes glued to the TV, all I used was that hideous-looking wand with something like 32 color-coded configurable buttons.
The most-used TV buttons were blue. The home-automation scenes were red. The lighting controls were yellow. If I did have to look down, it was only for a moment.
Now, some 20 years later, Crestron has built a better hard-button remote, the HR 310, expected to ship this year.
An Insult to the 1980s
Two weeks ago Troy Morgan of PanTech Design, a system design and engineering firm, posted an image of the remote on Linkedin, along with an enthusiastic, “The new Crestron Electronics remote in my hand!”
I shared the enthusiasm in a comment, to which a home-tech vendor responded: “still using that flip phone?”
Offended, I noted that I graduated from a flip phone several years ago (unlike my mother, for example), but admitted I still use the alarm clock I got for high-school graduation – the one that gains about three minutes every month.
And then came this comment from yet another home-tech vendor: “1980's radio shack called, they want their remote back…”
Heck, if the HR 310 harkens back to track suits, velour, Rubik’s cube, The Blue Lagoon and Thriller, take me back to the 1980s!
It can be harder to design a simple hard-button remote than it is a controller with a multi-layer touchscreen onboard, especially nowadays given all the things you can control. But every TV and attached device has an OSD these days, so you can get by with just some basic well-positioned TV transport buttons, preferably with backlighting.
The Crestron HR 310 has all of that.
For everything else, Crestron provides nine configurable hard buttons. They can be used for home-automation scenes, sources, lighting controls, whatever can be configured in Crestron. So … anything.
Some Hard-Button Innovations
I haven’t even seen the new product in person but already I love what it offers.
Those nine configurable buttons? They’re easy to replace by popping off a front panel. The downside of that approach is that the panel could pop loose if you drop the remote, with all the buttons spilling out. To avert the calamity, Crestron provides a locking mechanism for this portion of the remote.
There are two other very cool design features. First is a raised button for both pause and then number 5, so you can quickly get to pause by feel, but also orient your thumb for no-look-down control.
The other innovation is a double-duty navigation wheel with white LEDs for each position – left, right, up, down.
You know those four color buttons that almost no one uses but every manufacturer feels compelled to include on their remote controls?
They’re absent on the Crestron remote … until you press the wheel, and the white LEDs temporarily turn to red, green, yellow and blue.
Poof, say goodbye to four superfluous buttons.
Granted, a company like Crestron can get away with a no-screen remote because it has so much going on in the back end, controlling sources and home-automation gear and the like.
But maybe the elegance of the HR 310 can inspire other remote-control makers – OEM or otherwise – to up their hard-button game, and improve their software to make such a remote so … sexy.