PDA-ir – Review

The PDA-ir. Small package, Big fun

Weak IR
For many of us, the PocketPC seemed like the perfect instrument to use as a universal remote control. A great colour screen, easily useable with your fingers, small and lightweigh, where’s the catch? Well, the catch is range. The PPC, like the Palm before if, suffers from a wheezy IR transmitter. In fairness it was never designed to beam across a room to turn your telly up. There’s been no real hardware solution to this problem, until now that is.

So, enter the PDA-ir. This little device promises to change all that. It will liberate your PPC, giving it the power a light saber! (well, nearly). The electronics for the PDA-ir are totally enclosed in the tiny CF card form factor. Instantly the IR strength of the iPAQ is transformed. Even though this is a development prototype I can operate my home cinema from a range of around 10 meters (and that’s as far away from my equipment as I can get!). I’m told the production unit should be fitted with a more powerful IR LED for an even greater operating range!

I initially had a problem getting the unit to work. I was using it with a CF to PCMCIA adaptor in my iPAQ PCMCIA sleeve. Laser confirm that the device isn’t currently working in either the single or dual PC card sleeves. Apparently the data line is different on the PCMCIA slot and they are working on a fix. I borrowed a CF sleeve for this review.

The other problem I have is perhaps a perceived one rather than a reality. I recon the IR LED looks a bit vulnerable sticking out of the front like that. I brought my review sample back from London in my briefcase and it came out looking a bit bent. I was easily pulled back into shape again but I’m not sure how many times the legs would take this kind of bending before breaking off.

Close-up of the LED that sticks out from the CF card

While this is really a review of the hardware and not the “TV Remote” software, it’s worth pointing out a few things. The latest version now includes CCF support. This means you can use the power of the Philips ProntoEdit software to create professional looking screens. It also means you can use the enormous library of codes on RemoteCentral.com. This takes a lot of the work out of setting up your remote, as you no longer need to learn the codes from your existing remotes. Of course, if you already have a Pronto or ProntoPro you can simply copy your CCF file to the iPAQ and Roberts your father’s brother! (Tip – the CCF has to be in the My Documents folder). The iPAQ doesn’t have the animation when moving between panels like the Pronto, but the lack of pose factor is more than made up for by the increased speed moving between screens.

iPAQ running a ProntoPro file
The setting for internal/external IR
ProntoPro and iPAQ size comparison

The Future
Laser will also offer a combined IR and RF module in the future. It’s still unclear what exactly this will offer though, but keep an eye here for more details as soon as we have them. The dual IR/RF unit is predicted to cost under £55.

The iPAQ running the same colour CCF as the ProntoPro!

It’s hoped this mini-marvel will be available by the end of June 2002. So, if you have a compatible PocketPC already, you can pretty much turn it into a ProntoPro for under £45. Two words. No brainer!!

**UPDATE 12 JUNE 2002**
The PDAir is now available from Laser! They have also posted this updated info on their site about the PCMCIA problem.

“Please note that the PDA-IR module currently does not work in the iPAQ PC Card sleeve with a PC Card adaptor. This is due to a technical issue with the PDAwin TV Remote Controller software. PDAwin is aware of the problem and is working on rectifying it.”

Available From Laser Business Systems
Price £27.03

Available From PDA Win TV Remote
(The PDA-Win shareware costs 19.95 US Dollars to register)

CCF Files
Available From Remotecentral

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