Niles iC2 Installation & Operation, Conclusion
Installation and Operation
The iC2 is designed to be installed by dealers. In order to program and upload to the MSU, an IR-CS (IR Capture Station) is required. The programming interface is wizard-based, and is much simpler than the original software. It is an interview-style system that asks questions about what you want to accomplish. This cuts down on install time, saving the consumer money and the installer time. The programming software is dumbed down for the rookie installer, but is capable of taking the veteran as deep as he needs to go. Niles has an amazing library of remote codes, but the IR-CS allows for learning of any codes not in the library. As will be the case with most installers, Ken arrived with some of the programming already done, based on our earlier conversations and a list of my components that I had emailed him. We only had a couple of codes that we needed to "teach" the system once he arrived.
We started by mounting the MSU on the wall, and then Ken began the tedious task of running IR flashers, RS-232 cables, and video sync cables to the components in my rack. We were able to use RS-232 on my Emotiva Pre/Pro, and used IR for the other components. This was probably the most time consuming part of the installation. While Ken routed the cables, I labeled the Master Keys. For my setup, I chose to label my buttons with the following: DirecTV, List (for the now playing list of the DirecTV DVR), Cable, Now Playing (for the cable DVR), DVD, HD DVD, CD, and NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
Once everything was labeled, programmed and wired up, I hit the DirecTV master key and the fun began. Everything just worked. And I had hard, clickable buttons (on one remote) to control all of my gear! After checking to make sure everything was working properly, we decided to try something a little deeper. Since I am huge NFL fan, I spend most Sunday afternoons watching NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV. With the Sunday Ticket package, about a dozen channels become active (on Sunday) that carry all of the NFL games. Throughout the rest of the week, these channels are not active and I don't want to have to scroll through them in my regular channel guide, so I have set up a custom guide just for these channels. So the challenge was for us to figure out a way for the iC2 to get me to the custom channel guide, then back to my normal channel guide. After much discussion and thought, Ken came up with a solution that was acceptable. We had programmed a master key (labeled NFL SUNDAY TICKET) to start up the system as per the normal DirecTV routines. But in this Master Key mode, the A and C buttons acted as macro triggers. Pressing the C button brings up the channel guide menu and selects NFL SUNDAY TICKET channel guide that I have created. Hitting the A button returns the system to my standard channel guide. So the routine works out like this: I hit the NFL SUNDAY TICKET button (turns on the the projector, pre/pro and DirecTV DVR) and then hit the C button, which changes the DVR program guide to my NFL channels. Once I am done for the day, before turning off the system I hit the A button, which changes the DVR back to my standard program guide (which does not include the NFL game channels). Then I can hit the power off button to power everything down.
This example is a great illustration of the pros/cons of the iC2. Some will argue that it is too complicated to have to remember how to get to this macro we created. On a touchscreen, you could custom label some buttons to make it easier, but you would be drilling down into pages on your screen to get there. With the iC2, it is more like the car stereo example, of learning what a few unlabeled buttons do. It's a tradeoff I am willing to make in order to have a simple remote. For most day-to-day use, the remote is completely self-explanatory to anyone using it, which is what I like so much about it.
Overall, the usability of the iC2 has been very good over the past couple of months. I typically get about a weeks worth of normal use out of the battery before it needs recharging. The unit comes with a typical power block adapter similar to that of your laptop computer. I would prefer a charging dock that I could put on the top of my rack, but instead I am left with a stray wire that plugs into the back of the iC2. The buttons require a fairly solid push. There have been times where I did not press firmly enough to get a response, especially on larger buttons such as "Play." The backlighting is a cool blue that makes the labeled buttons as well as the transport buttons easy to read in the dark.
The Niles iC2 tabletop remote does not disappoint. In fact, it is the new permanent remote for the Audioholics Reference System 5. For a simple, easy to understand remote that won't get lost in your couch, it is hard to beat. The best feature of the iC2 is the same one I experienced with the original IntelliControl - you don't have to explain it to people. My wife and kids, babysitters, and even in-laws can all pick it up and figure out how to watch TV or a DVD in my theater, and that is the best feature I could ask for.
One feature of the iC2 that I really like is the video sync feature. That makes programming rock solid macros much easier for components that lack discrete on/off commands (which are far too common). In order to get that functionality with URC one much purchase the MSC-400 [universalremote.com].