If you have not used one of these 'universal' programmable remote control devices for a while then prepare yourself for a shock of stellar proportions: this thing is really easy to use. No, I mean it, really easy. One For All rightly claims that it is just a three button process. The first of those buttons is quite aptly labelled 'magic' because that's exactly what appears to happen.
Press the 'magic' button, select the type of device you want to control (TV, Set Top Box, DVD, AMP, MP3 or Games Console) and then enter the appropriate generic code for your device. Hold on a moment, I hear you screaming, so nothing has changed then. In the bad old days these things used different codes for every model of TV a manufacturer made, codes which often didn't work. The SmartControl takes a different approach to coding by using generic brand codes that cover most models they make and, amazingly, seem to just work. Magic, device, code and use: it really is as simple as that! I programmed a Sony Bravia HDTV and Sky HD set top box with just six button presses and, are you ready for this, in less than 60 seconds. What's more, both devices worked perfectly reliably with the remote control afterwards. Of course, the whole point of the SmartControl PS3 is that it can do something that other Infrared (IR) remotes cannot: it can control your Sony PlayStation 3 games console. The reason that other IR remotes cannot do this, in case you wondered, is simply because the PS3 does not use IR but rather Bluetooth for it's remote commands. You can of course, and I did soon after taking delivery of my PS3 on launch day, purchase a dedicated Sony PS3 Bluetooth remote control handset. These will cost you around £18 (UKP) which is pretty good value, and a basic One For All SmartControl remote handset can be had for £25. So why, you may be asking, does the SmartControl PS3 cost a stonking great £50?
The answer is in the way that it overcomes the Infrared to Bluetooth divide, a small but clever adapter that acts as a bridge between the PS3 and your remote control. Not only does it 'just work' and despite being about the size of a pack of playing cards remain surprisingly unobtrusive in use, but it's also updatable so if anything ever changes at the PS3 end you'll still be able to use it. Talking of the adapter being clever, you can download a little bit of software from the One For All site that allows the more adventurous of users to program macros into the thing to enable your SmartControl to perform multiple PS3 related tasks with a single press. Sure, this does detract a little from my 'dead simple to use' statement but it's a nice extra for those willing to tweak. By default, the PS3 adapter comes pre-programmed with a macro that allows you turn the PS3 off with a single remote press which is cool.
And talking of pre-programming, the PS3 codes are already present in the SmartControl so setting it all up is just a matter of pairing the adapter with your PS3 (follow the on screen PS3 instructions for registering a Bluetooth device) and that's it. As the adapter requires a couple of AA batteries which will run down in use, I took the route of connecting it via a mini-USB cable which takes over and supplies the power instead. Once running it translates all IR signals into Bluetooth commands that the PS3 understands, enabling full control of the games console. The most obvious application, to be honest, being when using your PS3 to watch Blu-ray movies.
because the PS3 control is allocated to the 'Games' button on the SmartControl handset, and only one device can be allocated to each button, you might think that hardcore gamers will have to choose between PS3 or Xbox remote control but that's not strictly true. It is fairly easy, as you would expect from this remote I have to say, to reassign device buttons so the 'Amp' or 'DVD' button gets remapped as a second 'Game' one instead.
Forget the adding of specific PS3 macros, when it comes to programming macros for day to day control of everything else the SmartControl is a breeze. Indeed, macros can be created with such little fuss that even my totally tech-retarded mother-in-law could manage without the need of my expert advice. Want to power down your Blu-ray player, amp and then turn off the TV? No problem.
When it comes to look and feel I have to say I was expecting to be totally underwhelmed by what it, at the end of the day, a budget end of the market universal remote handset. How wrong could I have been? Erm, very wrong indeed is the honest answer. Not only does it look good, in a black plastic and fake chrome kind of a way, but more importantly feels like a much more expensive remote control in the hand. The buttons provide the right amount of tactile feedback, the blue backlighting when you press anything is cool, and the button layout is simple enough so as not to be confusing while intelligent enough to cover most control requirement bases. Compared to the Sky HD remote control, for example, it has the feel of a handset which will last a lot longer.
All in all, the One For All SmartControl makes for an ideal gadget gift this holiday season. It has been in constant use here for the last week, replacing a whole bunch of other remotes that have now been despatched to the spares drawer. The mainstream kit we tried it with presented no problems, the codes from the supplied booklet all worked first time. Which just leaves the value for money thing, which is where the SmartControl PS3 falls down somewhat. I love the ease of use and control consolidation it brings, but it brings it at too high a price for many I suspect - especially when compared against the cost of the handset without the PS3 adapter.