Name: GlideTV Navigator
You've set up your HTPC or PS3 to handle all your home theater needs, but now you find yourself in the common conundrum of all tech lovers: how to effectively control and navigate your devices without adding additional peripheral clutter. The GlideTV Navigator aims to replace the functionality of a keyboard, mouse and AV remote in a compact form factor. Does it succeed?
Unboxing/Setup: The GlideTV Navigator starts off a good foot with very simple, but elegant packaging design that presents the ebony remote, face up. Upon quick glance, the remote looks extremely simple in control options, but in fact the combination of directional buttons and a clickable touchpad wides user interface options beyond first impressions.
In hand the GlideTV Navigator feels comfortable, like a medium square polished stone in size and weight with rounded edges. The unit was designed to be easily cupped in an ergonomically comfortable fashion; imagine holding had a tennis ball, and this is roughly the size of the GlideTV (sans fuzz).
Setup is fairly simple, first requiring a short charging period of the base charging station using a USB power adaptor and placing the Navigator into this charging cradle. The unit lights up when properly seated, though we wished it was a little bit easier to lock it into place without twisting it for proper line up between contacts and the Navigator has a auto power management which keeps charges optimized when not in use.
On the other end a USB receiver stick is added to your Home Theater PC (Windows or OS X) or Sony PS3. We hooked up the receiver to the PS3 and no further installation was required except to choose which operating system will be used with the device (device switching is not permitted currently).
Performance: The central feature of the GlideTV Navigator is its touchpad, which should be easy to use for anyone who has operated a laptop in the last decade. The 2"x1.25" touchpad can work in both Relative (similar to a laptop) or Absolute (coordinate specific) modes. The concave touchpad surface is very pleasant to use and a click feature makes choosing an option akin to a reverse mouse click. The touchscreen also allows for scrolling for Windows 7 and OS X users, offering vertical and horizontal navigation.
Now this is where it becomes a little bit tricky: application and remote control functions. Because the GlideTV Navigator does not offer standardized remote functions clearly marked like a typical remote, one has to become acquainted with each of the various buttons that circle around the touch pad. Some are obvious, like the power button, search, mute and directional play buttons. But the optimization of navigating with the GlideTV only becomes evident once you've become acquainted with the function combo key commands, which allows the user to launch/quit specific applications, navigate channels, eject media and various other commands specific to your setup.
For OS X users, further customization is allowable by assigning commands for specific applications by using Appleʼs Keyboard Shortcuts, which is useful for use with El Gato EyeTV and iTunes. A virtual keyboard and GlideTV app allows quick access to four options, Applications, Website, Search the Internet and Settings, which simplifies navigation.
PS3 users such as ourselves may have the easiest, albiet limited, experience with the GlideTV Navigator. The four corner buttons around the touchpad operate as the control buttons found on a PS3 remote (Triangle = top left, Circle = top right, Square = bottom left and X = bottom right); L1/R1 and L3/R3 are mapped onto buttons at the top and bottom of the Navigator. The touchpad can only be used with vertical scroll zones, which makes for easy navigation alongside PS3 Cross Media Bar.
Our experience out of the box navigating the PS3 UI was satisfying, as the GlideTV Navigator works with ease and using the touchpad swipe feature to fast forward or rewind while watching media comes naturally to anyone acquainted with an iPhone or its ilk. We're still learning how use the remote without peeking, but we think in time using it will require less glances. Character input using the GlideTV with a virtual keyboard is as predictably slow as one would expect inputting with a thumb, but it works fair enough with a few words or phrases while navigating online or searching for a file.
Overall the GlideTV Navigator is designed ergonomically, easy to use, fairly easy to set up and the battery life seems very good (we've only charged it once and it's still going 2 weeks later). The question a potential customer must ask themselves is how this device may optimize their overall setup. As the GlideTV Navigator works well with one device, it does introduce an additional remote into the mix. And in a household where we're still trying to wrangle all the remotes (our Logitech universal/programmable unit's volume button died), the addition of yet another piece onto the coffee table doesn't seem ideal. The GlideTV Navigator works well, but does it well enough to justify $149? The form factor and design makes it a novel and intuitive navigation device, but for those looking for a remote to rule them all, this is not it. Perhaps for households where the HTPC or PS3 is the sole component and the device is used often, then this would be a solid addition for long term use. But if you're looking for a remote that does it all, the GlideTV Navigator does not fit the bill. Think of it as an able Robin to a universal remote's Batman.