Pronto Review: Great For Cable TV, But Falls Short Elsewhere

As portable a device as I've seen come across my desk in some time, Pronto intends to make a home on my mantle, next to my TV. Or maybe 30 feet away! This little rectangular box of plastic wants to control all my living room (or bedroom) devices via Bluetooth, and allow me to control it via an app on my iPhone. Part universal remote, part new-look TV interface on the phone, Pronto definitely sounds the part, but does it stack up? Let's find out.

Hardware

Pronto is light, easily portable, and plastic. It's not a high-quality plastic, either — it's plastic as you might find it on any small peripheral. All black, you'll see a tiny red LED when you plug the batteries in, but that's it. After then, it's just sitting there in the shadows, waiting for you.

The entire top is an IR blaster, which needs line-of-sight with your devices to power them. There's an IR extension cable included in the box, too, should you like to hide your Pronto away. The cable looks a bit cheesy unless you cleverly route it from visibility, in my opinion.

Software

The gift and curse of many hardware peripherals we test is the software. Pronto is no different.

Set-up was a bit clumsy, which is directly related to app navigation. With a little tweaking on the back end, those problems will go away. Search for your TV make, and the keyboard and search bar don't respond once you've selected the right one (go away, FirstResponder).

Once I found my way through their weird (and easily fixable) software issues and got things set up, Pronto shined. Its best served as a TV/Cable conduit, where your cable company channels are displayed in n easier format than you will likely find on the TV itself. From there, Pronto finds what's on, and tells you all about it.

The actual "remote control" portion of the app is basic. Really basic. It's volume, channel, and power control. That's quite literally it, so any clever controls you might find on your physical remote probably won't be here.

Issues

Though Pronto is really good when its a TV/Cable controller, it trips over itself many other times.

In my bedroom, there is no cable box. The first part of setup is choosing your cable provider, so setting it up in a room without cable is useless. You can feign TV set-up, but it then defaults to cable TV. Setting up the Roku wasn't really a "set-up" at all. I selected that I had a Roku, and it added a new screen option for the remote. There was no real pairing or set-up, and it worked with Roku intermittently.

Though it's good as a Cable controller, my experience showed me Pronto thought I wanted to watch on-demand TV a lot. In trying to watch Family Guy, I selected the show, then "watch". It natively directed me to some odd Comcast on-demand screen I've never seen. Once I selected the show and then the channel I wanted from the dedicated show screen (seen above), things were fine.

Pronto is iOS-only, at least for now. Their FAQ page suggest Android support is coming in mid-2015. Beyond that, the Pronto team has no plans for other platforms.

Pros of Pronto

Pronto is battery powered, so it's portable. You can set up multiple rooms, and transport it as needed. Four AA batteries should get you close to a full years' use, too. Selecting new rooms is a bit of a kluge via the app, but it's not difficult. I was dragging Pronto all over the house with ease.

When it comes to show discovery via cable, Pronto is a powerhouse. So long as you follow the method described above for viewing shows, Pronto shines. I found it intuitive once I began customizing the app to display the content I liked, too.

Its that customization with content discovery that really kept me coming back to Pronto. Once you take the time to organize your favorite channels and type of content you like, Pronto is as personal as Cable TV gets.

Several different users can pair to one Pronto, too. That's handy for families with multiple iOS devices and one main TV.

Conclusion

Pronto is a great device for doing something simple, and doing it well. As a TV/Cable remote, Pronto is good. Beyond that, it needs help.

It wouldn't reliably work with Roku for some reason, and forces a cable decision ahead of any kind of setup or other viewing option. The remote screens are also a bit too basic.

Not yet on sale, Pronto is planning to hit store shelves in the US for $49.99 very soon. At that price, its a great option for the cable TV-equipped monitor(s) in your home.

With a little work on the software side, Pronto could quickly become one of those must-have devices. Unfortunately, the app is not as smooth as it could be, and it's easy to envision less tech-savvy users getting frustrated and returning Pronto due to the app.