A few weeks back I bought myself a Sony PS3 Bluetooth remote control for my PS3. For those wondering what this is, the PS3 is not just a games machine, it is also a media centre. In particular it is a great upscaling DVD player, and a brilliant Blu-ray player. However, unlike your usual DVD player, it doesn’t come with a remote.
Without a remote you can still control the PS3’s media centre, but it isn’t that comfortable. You need to use a game controller, so there isn’t your usual reverse/fast forward/play/pause layout.
Now the PS3 doesn’t have an Infrared sensor, but it does have bluetooth. So Sony have used bluetooth for the remote. This has the advantage that you don’t need to point the controller at the PS3 to control it. And the disadvantage that Infrared based universal controllers won’t work with the PS3 (and it chews up batteries a bit).
There have been plenty of complaints on the net about the lack of IR. Personally I’m not fussed – I was always surprised Apple didn’t use Bluetooth for remote control on their Macs and instead went with IR – usually Apple go for the latest technologies. And using new technologies gives companies an opportunity to release better universal remotes – no one yet has come out with an IR/Bluetooth universal remote.
So, the PS3 remote. Yes, it makes a huge difference for me when watching movies. It works well. And if you are still reading this, and you’ve read my blog before, you’d know there is a massive whinge coming.
The remote has 3 big problems as I see it:
1. No backlight/glow-in-the-dark buttons
2. Any button switches the PS3 on
3. No off button
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
First, no backlight or glow-in-the-dark buttons. The remote is basically for media centre control. You use it for watching movies. And usually you watch movies either in the dark or in low light conditions. So what genius designs a remote that is totally black so you can’t see what buttons you are pushing in a dark room?
I mean, how much more would it have cost to add some glow in the dark buttons or a backlight button? The remote wasn’t cheap (AU$49).
Turning on the PS3
Any button you press turns on the PS3.
Now, when you first think about this this might sound fine. Press play – PS3 comes on. What’s wrong with that? I mean, the remote on my TV turns on the TV if I press a button. Why not the PS3?
Well, if you own a PS3 you’ll know exactly why this isn’t good. Because a PS3 isn’t an instant on device like a TV generally is. It takes a little while to boot up. And then you need to take some action to do something, like choose music or a game, or a movie to watch off the hard drive. So ideally, you don’t want the PS3 booting up when you accidently touch a button while picking up the remote.
But the main problem with this feature is because of problem number 3.
Turning off the PS3
There is no button to turn off the PS3.
Well, that isn’t totally correct. There is a button. In the centre of the remote is a “PlayStation” button. Pressing and holding that button for a couple of seconds brings up a dialog asking if you want to turn off the PS3. If you choose yes (via Enter or X), it then asks are you sure and you must once again respond with Enter or X.
So, say you are watching TV. You accidently touch a button on the PS3 remote (I’ve done it before). The PS3 boots up. At this point, you need to stop watching TV, so you can switch over to the PS3, wait for it to boot, then hold down the PS button, wait for it to ask if you want to turn the PS3 off, hit Enter or X, then when asked if you are sure, hit Enter or X, then go back to watching TV.
OR you have to keep watching TV, wait a minute for the PS3 to boot (lights on it show disk activity, so you wait for the disk activity to stop), press and hold the PS button for a couple of seconds, hope that you held it long enough, and press Enter followed by Enter, and wait to see if you did that right (blindly) and the PS3 shuts down.
It’s just stupid. Why not have just one button (the PS button perhaps) turn on the PS3, and that same button, when held for a second or more, turn off the PS3. Or have a dedicated on/off button?
There are other minor issues – like the fact that the controllers are rechargeable via a USB cable to the PS3, while the remote requires AA batteries. Yes, the controllers cost twice the price, but then they also have rechargeable via USB batteries, a vibrating function for games, analogue sticks, motion sensors and LED indicators. The remote has basic push buttons (more of them of course), and nothing more.
I would have paid a little more for some glow in the dark buttons and a dedicated on/off button. I’m sure it wouldn’t have cost much more to add those. Rechargeable batteries built-in like the controllers would have also been nice and would make it feel like an integrated solution rather than a cheap add-on.
I’m assuming that the on/off issue can’t be fixed with an update to the firmware, since the remote has been out for quite some time and nothing has come through from Sony. In the end though, the remote is good. Just not great. I find I treat it with kid gloves – not because I’m scared I’ll break it, just that I’m scared I’ll turn the PS3 on accidently while I’m cleaning or something and have to go through the pain of turning the damn thing off.