A positive feedback after a week-end of hard work
Patrick Jeff Raphael As many users, I reported several times my frustrations concerning the poor customization of the NEEO UI and the limited automation capabilities.
It is time for me share my positive feedback after a week-end of hard work to get that amazing device configured with an acceptable UI/UX for home users, after one year to wait for firmware improvements.
All users of older universal remotes such as Philips Pronto, Logitech Harmony, Nevo SL/S70, RTI or URC expect customizing deeply the UI and getting a total control over IR assignment on their remote.
NEEO focuses on innovative wizard-setup experience and bidirectional integration but forsakes IR management and customization of the UI: the team should not forget that IR remains the most common protocol for AV devices and should keep in mind that first impression one gets from a remote is its UI.
Advantage of the wizard is that usable slides are setup on the NEEO in much less time than on older remotes if devices "salad" is standard.
Drawback is that you cannot do much to adjust the UI to your needs or taste: first comment of my home memnbers was "why did you set so small icons and text and why didn't you use the entire screen?"... well, ask NEEO's team...
Some improvements I would expect for the UI:
- Widget and button blocks should be clickable all around and not only on the tiny buttons.
- Spacing to the screen borders could be reduced for better touchscreen experience.
- A haptic feedback is missing (we will have to wait the next hardware version...)
- Localization of text is missing (hey we are in 2019: translation support is a must...)
- Shortcuts icons and captions should be configurable to avoid those ugly meaningless buttons with an unreadable wrapping text which wastes space on the screen.
- Hard-buttons assignments should be configurable and accept long-press mapping.
- Switching off should be done with a confirmation step (like on a smartphone) to avoid mistakes. A drawer for the power banners would achieve this and save space on the remote screen.
- Layout of pages should give the choice to organize slides per activity or per room. If I want to control different rooms, I will more likely add a 2nd remote/brain for the other rooms. My current Neeo is for the living-room and if it happens to control the lights of the office, the bedrooms or the kitchen, I will do it through secondary slides in the "Lights" activity.
My groups of activities are Kodi (TV/movie/music), Light control, Comfort (other home automation) and Settings (to fine-tune some devices like channel levels of AVR, delays, subwoofer level, projector setup)
Depending on the activity, the Kodi slides should differ slightly: I want direct access to music rating while playing music but I prefer access to advanced subtitle or audio stream selection while watching a movie and I want my favorite channels while watching TV.
To do so, I had to duplicate the Microsoft MCE driver to configure the slides according to the activity. And to get different icons per activity, I added virtual ON/OFF devices (TV/Movie/Music). These devices were created and exposed from OpenHAB integration binding. Last, I added the Microsoft MCE advanced driver to get some functions. So, yes: 7 devices just for Kodi...
The 3 virtual devices also control the audio output. All the logic is scripted in OpenHAB because NEEO recipes are far from capable of handling this because my setup is quite specific.
My system has 1 single source (a HTPC running Kodi) but 3 audio modes relying on 2 preamplifiers: "TV" sets the AVR to output the HDMI audio to stereo on the rear speakers, "multichannel" sets the AVR to output HDMI audio to 5.1/7.1 speakers and "audiophile" by-passes the AVR and sends USB audio to a vacuum-tube stereo DAC/preamplifier which has a 45secs preheating delay. Switching between modes without sound interruption and swapping between modes without wait (typically before the preheating is completed) is tricky and necessary for the remote not to undergo users impatience.
Anyway, by having these virtual devices alternatively ON, I get the right "power banner" showing on the remote and I take advantage of bidirectional communication of the NEEO: when I ask Alexa to switch on the TV, OpenHAB proceeds with the script of the audio mode, turns on the virtual TV device and the remote displays instantly the TV "power banner".
IR is smooth (no stuttering in transmission of volume control) and has a great range: my brain is nearly out of view, 2m aside the AV devices, 3m away from the HTPC and 7m from the projector.
Without the need of the Kodi driver, the OpenHAB NEEO binding can report playing media from Amazon Echo devices or Kodi or any exposed device (light, sensors, automatic doors) in OpenHAB and display it all on the NEEO remote. Bidirectional control is great and reliable with the NEEO remote.
Despite missing UI customization, the NEEO remote provides smooth and lean usability. I relied on external tricks to set it up to my needs but core hardware features are superior to what I had on my prior remotes: reliability and speed of IR transmission, bidirectional communication and handling.
For the first time since last year, I don't look at my NEEO remote as if I had wasted my money. My old Nevo S70 has now retired and the NEEO was instantly adopted at home.
And I am impatient to test the new features that will come with the future firmwares: browsing Kodi media, handling cameras, improved light control and UI customization 🤐.