Marantz RC3200 Remote – Review

Submission by Rob Mouser – So why buy a Marantz RC3200 Touchscreen Remote for £160.00 when you can get yourself the trusted and much raved about Philips Pronto for about the same money? A good question! Well, it was driven really by my wife’s total hatred for the Pronto.

OK maybe that’s a bit strong, firstly she disliked the interface, but after 5 re-writes we’re finally at something she finds useable here, but the main dislike is its less than ergonomic design. I have to agree the Pronto is not the prettiest of items and unless you’ve got hands like Geoff Capes it doesn’t exactly fit snugly in the palm of your hand!

So move over Pronto and bring on the Marantz RC3200. Now this one looks like a remote, feels weighty and solid and is fairly good looking to boot.

Overall it has a look and feel of quality you associate with Marantz kit. It’s cool blue back light on the screen and buttons is also good. You have also got the added benefit of some standard Hard Buttons which can be customised dependant on which piece of equipment you controlling. I do like the central cursor as they seem to crop up on most remotes these days.

The RC3200 is the stable mate to the new Pronto Neo and uses the same file format (*.ncf) but how similar they are I don’t know.

OK to the important bit for us Home Automation nuts. How configurable is the interface and does the software work? Well you have some limitations over the Pronto. Firstly you are limited to a pixel resolution of 160×100, which in practice means that anything other than buttons and text are out of the question. Pictures really don’t cut it at this resolution. Although the screen size is smaller, this does not seem to be a limiting factor and as the unit is equipped with up and down hard buttons on the left side of the remote scrolling between the screens is a breeze as can be done using the hand that is holding the remote, unlike a Pronto which is very much a two handed operation. Again the Marantz wins over the Pronto here if simplicity is the key.

The programming software is very similar to the Philips offering with the navigation tree to the left and working window to the right. One noticeable difference though is that the actual screen windows are very small and not the easiest to work within. The default gallery included with the software is also more comprehensive than the Pronto. One major difference here is that there is no ability to learn codes from the unit into the software program. The software only allows you to design the screens and then you have to learn the codes from the unit its self once you’ve downloaded you screens. This in my opinion is a major shortfall as it makes the whole programming process a lot slower.

Another significant difference is that the Marantz software compiles a default home page based upon the devices you have configured every time you save the file. Although you can edit this home page in the software its changes are NOT saved and overwritten every time you save. You can however get a useful utility called NeoHacker from the Remote Central files area that allows you to hack the ncf file allowing you to set any one of your devices as the home page (Note, this is written for the Pronto Neo but does work with the RC3200.). But, as soon as you load that ncf back into the Marantz software and hit save it will override you changes and create its default home page again.

Being a fairly new remote there is not a whole lot of support for it at as yet but I guess this will grow if the unit becomes more popular. One thing I did find is that the Marantz software will not open ncf files written for the Pronto Neo even though Remote Central group them together.

So what’s it like at learning code? – OK so this one is the important bit. What’s the use of a universal remote if it won’t learn your existing kit! Well firstly Marantz have kindly pre-configured the unit with Marantz codes out of the box. Well I only have one piece of Marantz kit, a 5300 AV Amp and out of the box it would not operate ANY one function of the Amp. Not to worry though because you probably want to design your own screens and have a load of other non-Marantz kit you want to use anyway, yes? Well this proves to be non to easy either. The Marantz has a hard act to follow because the Pronto is undoubtedly an accomplished expert at this job. So…you’ve designed your screens and downloaded it to the unit. Just got to learn all those codes! The first downfall is the learning eye is at the same end as the emitter so one of your remotes is going to be upside down, I know its only a small thing but the Pronto arrangement with the learning eye at the bottom is by far a better design. Secondly it just is truly terrible at learning codes, I have spent hours trying to get it to learn various bits of kit and despite quite a bit of effort still can’t get it to learn many of Tivo’s buttons. You get an indication that Marantz know its not that good by the whole page devoted to ‘learning techniques’ in the manual. I think my favourite option recommended by Marantz is entitled ‘The Swoop’, yes you guessed it, you press the key you want to learn while swooping your remote down and across into the field of the learning eye on the RC3200. Marantz even kindly recommend you do it when no one is around in case you get strange looks! And believe me you will be trying every swoop, curve, long press, fast press, under arm, over arm movement under the sun to get this unit to learn codes!

One possible solution is the ProntoToNEO Converter Excel spread sheet, again available from Remote Central. This converts standard Pronto IR codes in to Neo friendly codes, but I have not had time to try this as yet. One thing is certain though, this would be a very time consuming process.

So in summary…….. This remote is definitely better looking than the Pronto and is probably being aimed at the mass market more than the Pronto. Certainly if you want a good looking, quality feel, non-technical learning remote with a fair degree of customisation then this would be a good choice if only the learning function were better.

A summary of its features are:

  • Pre-Programmed Marantz IR codes
  • 1 MB Non-Volatile Flash Memory
  • 160 x 100 Pixel Resolution
  • 4 Grey Scale Levels
  • Digital Contrast Control
  • Blue EL Back-Lighting for LCD and Hard Buttons
  • 3-Wire (RS232) Serial Port Connector
  • Infrared Sending LED and Learning Eye
  • Learning Frequency up to 56 kHz, 455 kHz
  • Macro, Beep and Timer Function

Available from Lets Automate  :  Marantz

UPDATE April 03 – IMPORTANTLY, since I reviewed: the latest software release allows copying and pasting of ProntoEdit 4.0 IR codes into the Marantz software. So downloaded ccfs etc can be raped for their code strings. Or off course you could learn them for him and email him the string or ccf etc.

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