The Short Form
|Price $599 / monstercable.com / 415-840-2000|
|Despite its boxy appearance, this remote fits comfortably in your hand and can be more than "just" another A/V controller.|
|•One-touch control of your A/V systems
•Can operate systems in multiple rooms
•Easy and affordable lighting control
•Fits nicely in the hand
|•Text-based display lacks graphics
•Programming interface a tad tedious
•Key layout can be tricky to master
|•Radio-frequency control with included OmniLink RF receiver
•Controls up to 15 components
•Rechargeable battery with docking cradle
•"Activity-based" system control makes it easy to program and use
•Internet connection required for programming
•Uses modified version of Harmony Remote version 6 programming software
•Offers full lighting control with optional ZWave lighting modules
•Up to 5 OmniLink RFB-100s ($149 each) can be added for RF control in multiple rooms
The AVL300 is fully backlit and features a tilt sensor that lights it up when you move it. Tilt sensors often can be a little sluggish, sometimes requiring you to shake the remote like a rattle to get it to light up. Not so with the Monster: The sensor performed like a champ, dutifully lighting up whenever it was moved, making nighttime operation a cinch. This is a good thing, because most of the buttons are small, identical black-on-black squares right next to each other, making "no-look" operation very difficult. This is especially true of the 0-9 numeric keys, which might give folks with sausage fingers a challenge.
I noticed two huge improvements over the Harmony 890. First, I have installed numerous 890s that repeatedly lost connection between the remote and the RF base station. Reestablishing connection is simple, but it is frustrating and confusing to many users who just want the thing to work. The AVL300 never lost connection while I used it.
Second, the AVL300 includes a detachable power cord on the OmniLink RF station. A simple thing, yes, but since you must update both the remote and the RF station with your computer following any programming changes, it is a convenience feature that is well appreciated. Often the RF station ends up tucked into a rack, its power cord conjoined with a myriad of other cabling, and having to repeatedly plug and unplug it while making updates to the programming is a pill.
LIGHTING CONTROL Finally, what really sets this remote apart is the "Lighting Control" button at its top, which makes it far more than just another A/V controller. The AVL300 can control any ZWave lighting device, but Monster hopes you'll pair it with its own lighting system, which it has given the Disneyesque name "IlluminEssence." Since ZWave creates a mesh network that actually gets stronger as devices are added, multiple switches will make the system more reliable. A ZWave network can support as many as 232 devices (lamp modules, light switches, and dimmers, for example), so unless you live in a shopping mall, you shouldn't have any problem lighting up your world.
Monster sent two of its IWD600S in-wall dimmers ($129 each) and two LD300 lamp dimmers ($99 each) for testing. Installing the lights and pairing them to the remote should be a simple proposition. I say "should" because I had nothing but trouble getting it to work at first. Lights in different rooms responded to the same commands. None of the "scenes" - which allow you to set multiple lights to preset levels with a single command - would work. I totally rebuilt my programming as instructed by Monster - removed all the lighting devices, reset the RF network, added all the devices again - four different times. Finally, Monster had to clone my remote's online account and "force" a fix behind the scenes. Monster says I experienced a rare combination of events, exacerbated by early release of some untested lighting software. This is a new product for Monster, and I'm confident that they will resolve all of these glitches (probably by the time you read this), but to say that my experience was frustrating would be an understatement.
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