AMX MVP 7500 Touch Screen Remote 
Home Theater Remotes & System Control Remotes & System Control
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Wednesday, 01 December 2004

There comes a time in every man’s life when he completely loses control. It happened to me at the early age of 30 and it was nothing short of embarrassing. Despite being fortunate enough to have a rack full of the coolest audio/video gear in the world, I could no longer effectively manage the operation of my system. I had 11 – count ‘em – 11 remote controls for everything from my projector to my SACD player to my VCR to my HDTV tuner to my TiVo and so on. The process of watching a movie or even listening to music had become a pathetic display of flailing remotes, missed commands and overall system failure. Something had to be done.

The solution was to invest in a big-time remote control system. The two most prominent players in the market are AMX and Crestron. I chose AMX for a number of reasons, including the fact that they offered a better size-of-screen-to-price proposition at the time. I also liked their hardware a bit better in terms of physicality. While there are some philosophical and technical differences between the two brands, both are excellent. What makes one remote system vastly different than another is programming, a topic I will discuss at length later.

The idea of a desirable large-scale remote system includes a nice big touch screen remote. I opted for an AMX MVP 7500 with the kickstand option, which retails for about $3,200. In addition to that, one needs a control unit for hardwiring the system. In my case, this was an AMX NI3000, which retails for about $2,500. Power supplies for the control unit and the remote itself are additional, as is a wireless network from a player like Linksys for under $100. There are all sorts of options you can add to such a system, including a docking base for recharging that has a keyboard for Internet access. As my system is configured, it cost about $6,000 in raw parts.

When considering an upgrade from a universal remote or no remote system at all, the idea of a control unit like the NI3000 might seem excessive. However, it is this hub that affords you the system stability that you and your system engineer are seeking. Most of the best components today can be controlled via RS232 connections. This method of wiring a system is similar to how you might connect a video monitor, complete with hard wire connections that screw into place. It is very stable. Unfortunately, not all components even today have RS232 connection ports; therefore, the need for IR controls is still a reality. My VCR, my high-definition TiVo and my SACD player have IR emitters glued to their fronts, which are then connected to the back of the NI3000. While it is no fault of the AMX system, these less than perfect connections using IR emitters have already failed a number of times. In the future, all components will connect in a way that is physically and electronically stable. Until then, IR is a necessary evil, but when these are installed well, there shouldn’t be too much trouble. In my system, where review gear comes in and out pretty frequently, things are always under construction, a situation that is tough on those little wires sometimes.

Touch Screen Remotes
The star of the show is the AMX MVP 7500 7.5-inch LCD touch screen remote. It is built very solidly and requires two hands for use. It can be operated as a main system remote or can be installed seamlessly into a wall for comprehensive whole-home control of an incredible list of convergent technology. The MVP 7500 talks with the control system via wireless 802.11B wireless Internet connectivity. As mentioned earlier, the MVP 7500 can be docked into a station (retail price $2,400) that allows Internet access from your wireless network on your screen or in your theater. I have an Apple iMac right around the corner from my theater, so the additional expense wasn’t worth it for me. However, the base is a more efficient way to dock the MVP 7500 for recharging than my cell phone-like power supply for my touch screen.

The AMX MVP 7500 boasts AMX’s G4 graphics engine for pretty sophisticated images, graphics and animation that can spin, morph or flip with the help of a clever programmer. The screen is a 640x480 pixel resolution touch screen LCD unit that has a 20:1 contrast ratio. While 20:1 might not be state of the art for a $30,000 projector, the image on the AMX VP 7500 looks strikingly bright and resolute in your hands or resting on a table. The MVP 7500 has anti-glare features to make it work fantastically in a well-lit room, as well as in a darkened dedicated theater room. There are a number of hard buttons on the AMX MVP 7500, including four vertically integrated buttons on the left side of the remote and a square button similar to what you might see on a satellite or cable remote located on the right side of the remote. The exact programming of these buttons can be configured to your tastes. I specified the top two buttons on the left to always be volume and the bottom two buttons to always be lights up and down for my Lutron Grafik Eye controller. The hard button on the right is synched to my DirecTV HD TiVo, but those features are also on my screen for that source and I find myself using the onscreen buttons more often for the TiVo. However, I use the hard buttons for volume almost exclusively.

The most important point I can make regarding touch screen remote systems is the importance of programming. A number of years ago, my father hired a so-called high-end design firm (no longer in business) to install a simple theater for his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, that included a DVD player, a cable box, a Sony receiver and a Sony XBR television. I encouraged him to use a touch screen remote to make things operate flawlessly, for which an older, smaller, black and white Crestron system was purchased. To be completely clear, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Crestron system physically. What was wrong was the way the remote was programmed for such a simple installation. The images looked blotchy. The buttons were set to be either barely responsive or way too sensitive. My father finally obtained a simple Philips Pronto remote and gained the needed control of his system. This is a classic example of a good remote programmed poorly – something you must avoid, thus the need for you to hire a top design firm for your theater.

My AMX system was implemented by a pro in Oliver Pemberton, who is the head programmer for the Beverly Hills-based Simply Home Entertainment. Pemberton is proficient with both Crestron and AMX and has many of the coolest programming tricks already completely worked out and ready to install into your remote system. It is important before you hire a firm to install your theater or to do a whole-home automation system that you play with a sample remote system. If you don’t like the look, the feel or the implementation, I would look to hire someone else to do your system. In the case of Pemberton, his screen layouts are modern, sleek, colorful and intuitive – which is quite a compliment from this Mac user. I have been able to go to other Simply Home Entertainment job sites and sit down with the remotes (even the big 18-inch, hardwired remotes) and make the systems jump through hoops in mere seconds. Make no mistake, it is this level of simplicity and reliability that you are paying for. For a control freak, the AMX MVP 7500 is the ultimate weapon needed to tame your out of control home theater system.

Trickery with Touch Screen Remotes
My system is a very special case because, unlike most installed, large-scale home theater systems, my rig changes pretty often. The goal for Pemberton was to get my main components working flawlessly on the AMX system, so that I could switch others in and out as reviews demanded it. In one day of programming, he was able to get my system to speak fluently with my Meridian 800 and 861 DVD players and AV preamp. Many of my more mainstream sources, like my brand-new HD TiVo from DirecTV, also seemed to be made responsive to commands with simple ease.

The main challenges were the layouts of each of the component pages, because of the unique ways I personally use my system. For example, Tim Duffy, a partner at Simply Home Entertainment, likes to channel-surf on his DirecTV HD TiVo by using the “guide” button, so that he can look at a screen’s worth of channels (over an hour or two of upcoming programming) and then hit “select” when he is ready to settle in for a show. I use a different method that Pemberton was able to custom-program into my remote. Since the DirecTV HD TiVo integrates HD and NTSC signals in one component, I had Pemberton program a page that had the basics of the components’ controls with a bank of presets of my favorite channels, including the full color logos. This way, I can now surf all of the terrestrial and satellite HDTV channels with ease. In the past, if I was watching NTSC video through my Sony SAT-T60 TiVo, I needed to switch the input on my Faroudja NRS video processor to “pass-through” and then start accessing channels on my Sony HD-200 HDTV receiver. Often, if I wanted ABC, I would type in “7.1” but only “7” would go into the HD receiver, leaving me with the NTSC version of the show when I wanted HDTV. With the AMX system, I now get what I want, the way I want it. Thanks to the wireless Internet connection, the remote system knows the commands to send (in my case, there are commands for the projector, screen, lighting, AV preamp, source components and more – all for one system request) and the AMX NI3000 picks up all of the commands and redirects them in a way that simply and reliably works.

Depending on your level of perfectionism and how specific you can be with your programmer before he or she gets started, you might find that your system doesn’t need any tweaking. I made what for me is a big financial investment in my AMX system and I wanted it to really be the showcase of my home theater. To get the most out of my system, for the first month or so, I kept a legal pad in my theater room in order to keep notes of any little changes I wanted to make. Most of the changes were slight, like moving the TiVo fast-forward button to the main page instead of a secondary page, or having a different lighting scene for the “I’m Done” setting, which neatly turns your whole system off.

  In a recent tour of a number of incredible homes and systems completed by Simply Home Entertainment in Beverly Hills, I was able to see AMX remotes perform some mind-boggling feats. In one 25,000-square-foot new construction home in Beverly Hills, I saw an AMX remote in a master bedroom access a Bellagio-like water feature with prancing water jets that squirted synchronously, controlled from hundreds of feet away. In the theater room, I was able to access accurate temperature controls for the home’s 26 HVAC zones. The theater was at 80 degrees, which I was able to quickly drop with ease while we watched the incredible new Sony $30,000 Qualia projector on a 15-foot-wide masking screen. The larger AMX system was able to automate the Stewart Filmscreen’s blackout masking to perfectly frame any number of video aspect ratios, from 4:3 to 16:9 and beyond. The instructions for correct aspect ratios were available for the client right on his screen.

The Downside
When my remote sits all day waiting for me to return from work and crank up my system, there is a delay from the “sleep” state to an active state. This delay can last 20 or 30 seconds, which for this Type-A personality is too long.

While the size of the remote is a definite advantage because you can fit more on each screen, the fact that you can’t really manage the remote with one hand is something of a bummer. My solution is to keep the remote on a table near my theater seating. I recommend to anyone building a dedicated theater that you think about where you want their remote to be placed when you are in the design phase of the theater room. The AMX MVP 7500 with the kick stand option can be flipped down and operates nicely when laying flat. I use the remote this way when watching football games in HDTV or Food Network cooking shows, as it allows me to easily fast-forward through commercials, thereby reducing a 30 minute show to 22 minutes of viewing time.

Cost is never permitted to be a “downside” in Audio Video Revolution reviews, but in this case it is important to at least note that you should expect to pay between $100 and $150 per hour for programming on such a sophisticated system, in addition to the hardware cost. The number of hours of programming needs would be at least eight and could be upwards of many dozen in the case of a whole-home automation system. This is less of a downside and more of a way of setting your expectation for the cost of such an investment. Your touch screen remote system fully programmed will cost as much as one of your best components in a high end home theater – and it is worth it.

With the help of Simply Home Entertainment and Oliver Pemberton, we have successfully tamed the beast. My fairly complicated home theater system jumps through hoops like a champion. Some components were easy to tame and others, like my ReQuest Fusion 250 music server, have taken more effort. I can say, as I have cut the checks, the effort is worth it. My systems is not just more in control, it is more enjoyable. In the past, HDTV was a pain to watch, so I rarely watched it. Thanks to HD TiVo and a killer control page on my AMX MVP 7500 remote, I can move through HD and NTSC channels with ease, so I watch more TV in high definition.

Thanks to my AMX system, my girlfriend can navigate nearly every feature of my system without any fear of “screwing anything up.” If she were somehow to get into trouble or get confused, all she has to do is to hit the “I’m Done” button and start over. Thanks to system stability and excellent programming, it rarely ever comes to that. While my AMX system was an expensive investment, I don’t ever question it. In fact, I wonder how I ever lived without it.
Manufacturer AMX
Model MVP 7500 Touch Screen Remote

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