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Lintronic IR converter review - FlatpanelsHD

Lintronic IR converter review


By Torben Rasmussen (@flatpanels)
04 May 2009




Most have heard about them – many already own one. This review is about universal remotes, but not in the common sense you would usually be presented with in an electronics outlet. I will be looking closer at the IR-converter TT455-RT-328 from Lintronic. Due to the numerous possibilities offered by this product this will not be a full blown review, but more of a small insight of an alternative method of controlling your AV-units.


You have, without a doubt, experienced something similar: Your new TV-shrine is installed, your Blu-Ray player is hooked up, and the vast amount of wirering of your surround setup has been tucked away in 40 m of cable hider. The only thing remaining should be to enjoy the large collection of transistors and power supplies that constitutes your home entertainment center. Sadly, your coffee table is now marred with a considerable pile of plastic, which represents your total collection of remote controls.



The alternative universal remote


There are a large number of different solutions available today, that will aid you to limit the pile of separate remote controls, such as Logitech Harmony, Philips Pronto or SR-series, One for All, Nevo, NEC and so on. If you, as I, have been used to a life with Bang and Olufsen TV, it suddenly becomes very difficult to settle for the mediocre plastic quality these universal remote controls represents. Granted – improvements have been made to the quality and it is possible to get a universal remote that is crafted in metal. There is, however, a special feel to a Beolink 4 (Beo4) and the sense of quality you get when grasping it.



The solution comes from a small Danish company called Lintronic, who has developed a device making remote control of virtually any IR-based device possible using the Beo4 unit.



Lintronic TT455-RT-238 (without lid). Measures: 10x7x4 cm [WxDxH].


The device, so elegantly named TT455-RT-238, is a so-called IR-converter, which is capable of receiving IR signals from a wide range of remote controls (Beo-remotes being among them), converting these signals to any other chosen IR-signal, and re-emitting it. The animation below shows how the Beo4-remote emits an IR signal (which corresponds to the “GO” button in the “DVD” control setting) that is registered by either the build-in IR eye of the TT455, or an external IR eye connected to the TT455. The received signal is now translated inside the TT455 box to whatever function you desire (here I have chosen the “Play” function of a Sony S550 Blu-Ray player), and the IR code for this function is re-emitted by the TT455 box. In the animation the TT455 box Is placed beneath the TV, which means that IR beams must reflect on furniture or walls before they hit their final target – the Sony S550 player. The placement of the TT455 is, of course, completely up to you.




















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The technical details


As you might have guessed, the convertion of IR signals does not happen by magic, but through a fast microprocessor inside the TT455 box. The more precise specifications can be found in the table below.





























































































Physical dimensions
[HxWxD]

4 x 10 x 7 cm
Power supply 9-15 Volts. Minimum 300 mA

Processor

ATMEL mega128 microprocessor


IR receiver B&O: 455 kHz
Others: 36-40 kHz

IR transmitter

High-power, wide-angle
Range up to 10 metres


Outputs Low-power IR output (for extra IR dioder)
Programmable digital output
RS232 and RS485-2 interface
2-way X10 Power Line interface


Inputs Power
External IR input
External data input
RS232 and RS485-2


Supported input-remotes Beo4, Beo5, Apple, Bose, LogiTech, Keyspan, NEC, Nevo, Philips Pronto etc.



Number of programmable commands 250 actions (memory spaces). Macro-commandsr take up one action for each performed item.


Weight 215 grams


Accessories 455 kHz B&O IR receiver, plasma shielded
455 kHz IR receiver, non-plasma shielded
3-way low-power infrarřd emitter (for hidden installations)
IR-distributor for hooking up an additional 10 IR emitters
Power adapter(9-12 V)
RS232 cable and RS232->USB converter




The TT455 box will be tested with the following components:

Pioneer LX5090 TV, Sony S350 Blu-Ray player, Apple Remote Universal Dock, Beosound 9000, 3 pcs. RAone Smartdimmer, Beolink 4 (Beo4).



For this test an external IR eye has been used with active filtration of the IR-noise emitted by plasma-TV’s. This unit is supplied by B&O, but is also distributed by Lintronic. It is an absolute must to have this additional shielded IR eye if you plan on using a plasma-TV, as the TT455 box would otherwise be incapable of distinguishing the IR signals from the Beo4 remote. This is valid regardless of the placement of the TT455 box – the IR noise from a plasma-TV will find its way to it! In addition, a power adapter (bought separately) and an extra pair of low-power IR emitters, used for hidden installations, is used. For the actual programming of the box a RS232 cable and a RS232->USB adapter is used.


The setup prior to installing the TT455 box can be seen in the animation below, where the Blu-Ray player is hidden in the TV-unit.




















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Installation


The TT455 box needs to be plugged into a 12 V power adapter, after which it is basically ready to go. AT this point it has, however, not yet been configured and the additional IR receiver and transmitters have not yet been attached. On the back of the unit you find all connectors, where the IR receiver from B&O plugs into an ordinary jack-socket, as does the IR diodes for the hidden installation.




Back of the TT455-box. From the right: Power, IR output, RS232, X10, IR input


The setup of TT455 is done through a RS232 interface, which my own PC is not equipped with. A RS232->USB adapter was hence necessary to communicate with the unit. After this the configuration software must be downloaded from Lintronic’s homepage. The installation of the software is pretty straight forward and no problems were encountered. It is a prerequisite that your PC has an available COM port (in the range between port 1 and 16), which mine did not, due to multiple attached USB and Bluetooth accessories, but after some manipulation of my devices the “Lintronic Configurator” program finally connected to the TT455. On the upside the program was very swift to detect the presence of the TT455 once this obstacle was out of the way.


If you have previously made the acquaintance with software for e.g. Logitech Harmony, you are used to smooth looking interfaces with extensive guidance through the setup. You should not expect such features from the Configurator program, which should, on the other hand, satisfy even the most technically gifted user. The main menu of the program can be seen below.





Main menu in the configurator program


Programming of the TT455 is done in two steps: First you choose which device you which to control. This is done though the “Command List” option, where you can download IR commands for a huge number of hardware through a web connection to a Lintronic managed database. Through a list of suppliers you choose which type of apparatus you have in your household, e.g. a Blu-Ray player or a TV, and then you narrow it down to a specific model number. In my case neither the LX5090 nor the S350 player was represented on the list, but instead I found the previous models of both units, the 508XD and the S300 respectively, and downloaded the command set for these.


From the Configurator program you are now presented with a list of IR codes, from which each individual command can be tested to see if they perform the expected command. By selecting the signal part of the code (everything in front of the “=” sign) and press “Test” button on the right. TT455 then emits that specific IR signal and you can verify if your hardware responds accordingly. Pretty nifty as it saves you the time to go through actually assigning commands to the Beo4 before even knowing if it is indeed the correct code.





A series of commands have been downloaded for a set-top-box and these can now be tested individually


If you have an odd piece of hardware, which is not represented in the database, a tab allows you to copy commands from another remote control. Simply point your existing original remote towards the TT455 and press the key you wish to transfer.


In the second and final step you need to assign your chosen master remote (the Beo4 in my case) the desired functions. From the main menu “Memory map” is opened, in which all programming of the TT455 takes place. There are three options to be filled out for each command in the Beo4 setup:

  • Mode: The input shown on the top display of the Beo4. E.g. “TV” or “DVD”.

  • Trigger: Which button you want to assign commands to on the Beo4.

  • Commands: The actual command you want performed when pressing the chosen Beo4 button.

  • A dropdown menu lets you select which list of commands you want to select from (I have lists for my LX5090, the S350 and my Apple dock saved), and then you can either select which Beo4 button you wish to assign a command to or you can simply press the button on your remote. The signal is automatically picked up by TT455 and a suggestion is added to the command field. Once you are satisfied with the result you add the specific combination of mode, trigger, and command to the memory map, which is the TT455’s internal memory storage having a total of 250 available spots. To complete the programming you press “Save to TT455-RT-238” at the bottom and the memory map is uploaded to the TT455 – then you are set to go.





    Assigning the commands for the Beo4


    The picture below shows my own map of commands for the “DVD” setting of the Beo4. Once the remote is in “DVD”-mode my Sony S350 Blu-Ray player can be operated with the Beo4. I have chosen to control the sound on the TV with the volume buttons, but this might as well have been the volume of my Beosound 9000 if the S350 was hooked up to this. I could also have taken things a step further and assigned a macro that initially turned on my TV (if turned off), turned on my S350, dimmed the light in remote light dimmers (e.g. after a 10 second pause), set my TV for HDMI 1 input, and turned on my stereo on the input connected to the S350. As long as you can keep your total number of assigned commands (for all units) below 250 anything goes.





    Layout for the Beo4 when "DVD"is chosen (sorry, it is in Danish - yes I am too lacy to redo it...)


    When setting up your system it is good practice to verify if your hardware supports discrete commands for on/off. Discrete commands allow you to transmit only “on” or “off”, opposed to a general “Power” command (that would both be able to turn on or off a device). This allows you to assign multiple commands in a macro including turning on a device (but not off, it the device should already be turned on). If your hardware can be turned on by pushing something else than the power button, the device most likely support discrete on/off.


    Setup


    With the TT455 fully programmed, the small external shielded IR eye, the additional IR diode, and the TT455 itself can be placed in the final setup. I have collected some images from my own installation below.



     


    B&O IR-eye, shielded for plasma radiation





    IR-diode for hidden installations. Controls Sony S350 BluRay





    TT455 box placed in the bottom of my TV unit





    Complete setup. The iPod-dock can be seen on the shelf beneath the TV





    Close-up of all the units. The IR-eye is mounted on a bracket and the TT455 is in the bottom


    In use


    After all these initial exercises we have finally arrived at the thing this is all about: How does it work in practice? Overall I am pretty satisfied. The IR reception of the TT455 is as sensitive as original B&O hardware, which will be a relief to existing B&O customers. This is, to a large extend, promoted by the large angle of IR emission from the Beo4.


    I do have to comment on the IR noise from the LX5090, though. Even with the shielded IR receiver provided by B&O themselves, I do experience difficulties in the reception when my LX5090 is turned on. Having to actually point my remote towards something is new to me and will be to anyone accustomed to B&O products. This is by no means the fault of the TT455, but I merely want to stress out that the sensitivity of your setup will drop if you use a plasma TV. The brighter the picture, the lower sensitivity.


    The keen reader will probably have asked him-/herself: Doesn’t all this signaling back and forth introduce tremendous delay from a button is pressed to something actually happens in your hardware? Well, luckily – not really. Compared to controlling your devices with the original remotes you might experience delay in the order of a few millisecond (or ten). Most of my hardware is pretty slow as it is, even with the original remote, so I rarely noticed any lag. The most noticeable delay probably occurs when using text-TV on my LX5090 (which I never do…). From time to time, differences in response times have been noticed (the TT455 has a small diode that flashes when a signal is re-emitted), but one should also note that macro functions cause greater delay as more commands are executed.


    Looking at the functionality compared to the original remote controls, the limitation is not in the TT455 but in the amount of buttons available on the Beo4. As the illustration of my map on the Beo4 showed, a relatively small amount of buttons are actually at your disposal if you subtract the input-selectors at the top of the remote. This might hinder the implementation of certain custom commands, which ultimately has to be a compromise – can you spare anything? In my case I sacrificed the navigation wheel from the LX5090 remote, as it only controls the OSD. My S350 player on the other hand, has far too many buttons for them to be fully mapped onto the Beo4. I did, however, realize that I had never actually used the numbers 0-9 on the original remote, so these buttons have now been reserved for other functions such as “sub-titles” and “OSD info”.


    Of course everything is not “happy days” when replacing an original remote with something universal – you are bound to experience certain shortcomings. Typically there will be a certain amount of functionality that you cannot replicate perfectly, but the severity of these shortcomings will vary depending on your specific setup. In my case I have been used to a Bang & Olufsen TV, which is tailored to the Beo4. This means that every button interacts perfectly with the TV and serves a specific purpose. You should not expect your new setup to play along quite so nicely unless your new TV miraculously has the exact same buttons on its remote. Again – this is not a shortcoming of the TT455, but merely an reminder of the mismatch you’re bound to run into at some point.


    One of the things I did miss with the TT455 is that some of the sub-menus found in the “List”-library of the Beo4 are not accessible for mapping in the TT455. This is a shame as it would have compensated somewhat for the minimal amount of buttons on the Beo4. I would, for example, have liked to assign the “Display” item found in the “List”-library to e.g. OSD information, but the TT455 doesn’t recognize this command from the Beo4. Likewise the “Speaker” item, which can also be found through the “List”-menu is considered as a separate mode, which means that you actively have to switch back to whatever input you were using before pressing the “Speaker” button - this in spite that the Beo4 does not indicate that it has left its primary input-selection. The same thing happens if you use the “Text” button to activate text-TV on your TV. You then again have to press “TV” to continue using the TV. This has to do with the way the TT455 operates: It recognizes many functions as separate modes, and does not leave this mode until it receives a new mode (remember a mode to the T455 is e.g. “TV”, “DVD”, or “Text”). Once you get used to this line of command, the problem seems to fade.


    You should refrain from the top input buttons on the Beo4 control any complex functions, besides actually changing input or sending out a discrete on command. This closely relates to what I mentioned above where you actively have to reselect mode when you e.g. leave text-TV, which makes it unfortunate if you also assigned other commands to the “TV”-button.


    My biggest problem so far doesn’t actually involve the TT455 – my retired B&O TV is now sitting in the bedroom and as the Beo4 transmits over a very broad angle I involuntarily turn it on from the living room. The easy quick-fix is of course to close the door...



    All the things I didn’t test


    As mentioned earlier the TT455 has a broad range of functionality that I do not have the equipment to play around with. I have asked Michael Lindgaard from Lintronic to give a short description of all the things I have not mentioned here.


    RELAY 208 and TT455-RT-238 supports the CONTROL and FUNCTION commands of the Beo5, which increases functionality greatly (referring to my comment on the limited buttons on the Beo4).


    For complete control of home cinema, control of curtains and lighting is advancing fast. TT455-RT-238 works in perfect harmony with the Lintronic RELAY 208, just as it supports RS232 commands for control of the greatest lighting suppliers such as Clipsal, Dynalite, Lutron, Luxom, Dali, Helvar, Conson, and Ilight – and more keep emerging.


    RS232 control of monitors, lift motors, and projectors is another rapidly expanding market


    Lintronic has collected all of this, including multi-media control, in a complete HomeAutomation program. At the moment the Lintronic programmers are working on the project and more will follow once the project has been completed.


    TT455-RT238 is often used as a gateway for control of other programs with B&O, Bose, or Logitech remote controls, at the same time allowing the programmer to use TT455-RT-238 as a powerful IR-booster.


    Conclusion


    The acquaintance with Lintronic has been a pleasant one. No, their software is not as user friendly as many others, but in return the limits of the program are virtually non-existing. You can choose freely between commands and macros and how to assign them. In a mail correspondence with Michael Lindgaard, the manager of Lintronic, it also became clear that their primary focus was on functionality, the hardware within the TT455, and the software, and that the user interface was produced according to their best efforts. I think most people can sympathize with this line of thought – in a small business you simply cannot be an expert of both electronics, marketing and graphical design.


    The support had been outstanding (also judging from reviews by other customers). I received swift replies on all inquiries from Michael, and if you feel the need to share (or seek help from other users) you will also find a forum on the homepage. On top of this a feature for online support through a peer-to-peer program can also be found on the support page.


    In my opinion the Beo4 belongs to the absolute “spitzen klasse” when it comes to finish and quality within remotes, which makes the TT455 the next best solution to having 100% B&O compatible equipment in the first place. With the current price setting of B&O TV (and the picture quality they deliver) much can be gained by looking at other brands. I have no trouble giving the TT455 my warmest recommendations – no matter if you only have a TV and a set-top-box or if you have a complete home theater in your living room.


    The price of the used setup amounts to about 3.300 dKr. (443 €) besides the expense for the Beo4 remote. This will, without a doubt, detain many from venturing into the Lintronic-world, but about 500 dKr. (67 €) can be cut from costs if you do not need the shielded IR-eye. A Beo4 retails at 1.695 dKr. (227 €) but can often be found in used-sales adds for a little more than half this price. The remote is sturdy and should last you a great many years (I have two of which the eldest is 7 year – looking brand new). The box alone (without cables, power supply etc.) retails at 1.900 dKr. (255 €).


    If you want a more flexible B&O remote the Beolink 5 (Beo5) can also be used. This remote retails at 4.195 dKr. (563 €). Again you could scavenge the used-adds but the supply is still limited.


    Pricing and further information
    www.lintronic.dk


    Discussion of the review in our forum:
    http://www.flatpanelshd.com/flatforums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=35




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