Remote Wonder Plus: One Step Forward, One Step Backward or Error Correction?
The All-In-Wonder X1800 XL is equipped with a new remote control system, Remote Wonder Plus. It is not a third revision of the system and is even inferior to the Remote Wonder II in some aspects, at least in our eyes:
The new control is smaller and more ergonomic in terms of the layout and shape of the buttons. It has got shorter and thinner than the previous version, but lost the AUX buttons that used to choose the plug-in that would receive the commands even if the controlled application was not in the OS’s focus. So, the functionality of the Remote Wonder Plus is somewhat worse than that of the Remote Wonder II here, but this is in fact the only drawback of the new remote control which is well compensated for with a number of positive features.
The Remote Wonder II control was often and justly criticized for its very small buttons, especially the numeric and navigational, as well as for the position of the playback control buttons. Although Play, Stop, Pause, Rewind and Forward are probably the most frequently used, they were at the very bottom of the control. ATI’s designers corrected that problem in the new control and moved the main buttons to the middle where it is much easier to access them.
The navigational field is once again round, with an OK button in its center, while the rather rarely used numeric buttons are at the bottom now. As for the cursor-controlling device, it has remained almost intact. Like in the Remote Wonder II, it is a rubber hemisphere with a groove for your thumb in the center. The new version of that pointing device is less sensitive and can now be fixed when pressed down. It depends on your particular tastes if it is going to be convenient to you. Some people might better like the supersensitive “pointer” of the Remote Wonder II which would react even when you just blow at it strongly enough, but others would be satisfied with the stiffer controller of the Remote Wonder Plus which is going to pardon your controlling errors.
The new remote control has become more economical and now requires only two AAA batteries (the Remote Wonder I and II used to require four and three such batteries, respectively). The range of the control is the same as that of the Remote Wonder II, i.e. stable operation is possible within a range of up to 18 meters to the receiver. The carrier frequency has remained the same (433MHz), too. We tested the system in our lab and it responded normally to commands from a distance of 9-10 meters (we couldn’t check longer ranges due to the size of our lab). We couldn’t learn the battery life time, but we guess it is over a year at least. The case of the control is made of colored plastic, and not painted gray as in the previous version, so there will never be worn-out spots on it.
One of the reasons the Remote Wonder Plus can be considered a step backwards is the receiver. It has become much alike to the receiver from the first version of the Remote Wonder – a small box with a wire that acts as an antenna on one side and with a USB cable on the other side. What’s more, the LED indicator that used to report the receiver’s activity is now missing. Contrary to that, the receiver from the Remote Wonder II is a massive plastic disc with a projection that conceals the antenna. It can be placed on the PC case or on any other flat surface and you can always see if the receiver is working as the LED indicator is seen through the translucent top of the disc. Moreover, that receiver can theoretically control infrared transmitters and extend the Remote Wonder II system on home appliances that are controlled in the infrared range. The receiver of the Remote Wonder Plus can do none of that. You don’t even get a sticker to fasten it on the rear panel of the system case. In most cases the receiver will probably just lie on the floor. The piece of wire that acts as an antenna looks shoddy and reminds one of cheap FM receivers that don’t have a telescopic antenna.
So, the Remote Wonder Plus has improved in some aspects since the previous version of the remote control system, but has regressed in some others. Yet we think its advantages outnumber its drawbacks. The new remote control is not supplied separately, but is enclosed with All-In-Wonder X800 GT, X800 XL and X1800 XL multimedia cards.
The next section of the review is about software that transforms the AIW X1800 XT into a complete entertainment center.