This is the second touchscreen remote that I’ve had a chance to play with and I must admit there are some major advantages to this technology. Today’s home theater setups are becoming more and more complex with multiple components … each with a myriad of features. The result … millions and millions of buttons to push. Today’s universal remotes can contain more than 50 buttons. And they’re getting smaller and smaller (the buttons that is). With a touchscreen … you can scroll through a series of screens … each with a few buttons … to control the equipment. While this is not ideal … yet … it does improve the situation drastically.

Marantz’s RC5000 has a very different look than other remotes … it’s gold for one thing and looks more like a palm pad than a remote. It’s not designed for 1 hand operation but fits nicely in the palm of one hand while the other navigates and pushes the buttons. The touchscreen is very responsive and clear (with easy contrast adjustment and backlighting). One very nice feature is that this remote comes with a rechargeable battery pack and it sits on the charger (a bit like a portable telephone). You can use batteries if you like … but why would you?

Simply Brilliant UPB Dimming
There are 7 hard buttons on the top of the remote. Mute / Channel + / Channel – / Volume + / Volume – and 2 at the bottom who’s function varies with each active screen (these functions are programmable). These buttons can be programmed to always operate the same component or different components depending on the current screen. There is also a light sensor on the top which is used by the remote to determine whether or not the backlight is necessary. Thoughtful feature. On the side is a contrast adjustment, manual backlight button and serial port plug. The front of the unit has a nice large IR emitter and on the back is the learning IR receiver.

Activate the unit by touching anywhere on the screen. The home menu opens with a series of buttons corresponding to your devices as well as a few other icons which facilitate macro’s, setup, screen scrolling, operating modes and home. Setup lets you see the state of the battery as well as allowing adjustment of the touchscreen and various lighting durations etc. I found this key screen to be clear, un-crowded and well laid out right out of the box. The unit comes preprogrammed with IR codes for all Marantz devices.

Touch a device button … the unit beeps and the first control screen for that device comes up. As I said … each device can have a series of control screens (scroll buttons navigate these) so similar functions can be set up on each screen. For example the TV could have:

* Screen 1 – On / Off and channel number buttons.
* Screen 2 – Guide and menu scrolling buttons.
* Screen 3 – Picture in Picture controls
* Etc.

Now comes the tough part (as always with equipment control) … setting up the remote to operate your equipment. Be prepared to spend a bit of time on this task … and a bit of thought as well. Marantz has chosen not to include any preprogrammed IR codes. This is a learning remote only so you must have all of the individual device remotes and be prepared to teach every button function to the RC5000. This can be an arduous task with complex equipment … but once it’s done … it’s done. You’ll probably even discover some features that you didn’t even know your existing components had in the process.

One thing the RC5000 does have built in is a comprehensive series of control screen templates for most if not all devices available today. To teach it simply put the remote in “Learn” mode, scroll to the screen that contains the device buttons that you want to program, press the button that you want to program and then aim the device remote at the tail end of the RC5000 and push the button being programmed until the RC5000 beeps and says OK. Now, if you want to remove extra buttons (that aren’t relevant to your equipment) just enter DEL mode … select the button and delete it. You can also change the wording on the buttons.

Macro programming is as simple as selecting a button on the macro screen, entering record mode and pressing the buttons you want the macro to use. After saving the macro you can label the button and away you go.

If you want to customize your screens or program the remote using your computer there is software available on the Marantz website to do this. In fact, you can also download the manual in PDF format from the same site. This is handy if you want to know the details before you buy this remote.

Using the software is pretty straight forward. Plug the remote into your serial port (cable supplied with remote) and upload the existing setup (assuming you’ve already done some of the work). From here you can modify the screen layouts, add and delete screens and buttons etc. and program devices and button functions. Double clicking on a button brings up it’s properties screen which allows you to program actions and control how the button looks and acts. There is an IR database but at this point in time it only contains Philips equipment codes (which by the way are the default functions programmed into the remote when you receive it). By the way … in case this unit looks familiar to you … it is similar to the Philips Pronto Remote. It has the same chassis but the Philips is preprogrammed to function as a universal learning remote and the RC5000 is preprogrammed to function as a system controller.

All in all … I liked this remote a bunch. I found it easy to learn and handy to operate. Navigating between devices is easy and in many cases you could put most of the normally used buttons for each device on one screen. Learning remotes take a long time to set up if your entertainment system is complex. It would have been a bit of a timesaver if Marantz / Philips had chosen to provide a database of common devices with their IR codes.

With a retail price of around $500 (including the recharging module), this is not a toy for everyone. If you have an extensive rack of home entertainment devices that need to be controlled however, this unit may be what you’re looking for. Once you learn to operate it and teach it all your devices … just sit back and enjoy. By the way … my better half asked that I make note of the fact that this is the first remote control she’s ever picked up and known how to turn on the TV without assistance. I’ll leave you to judge that comment on your own 🙂