Review: Sonic Screwdriver Programmable TV Remote

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The awesome folks at ThinkGeek were kind enough to send me one of their new 11th Doctor Sonic Screwdrivers for a test drive. Designed after the Mark VII sonic screwdriver, this universal remote can be trained to transmit any IR commands and with 3 banks of 13 gestures it should be able to control most if not all of your AV equipment.

Initial impressions of the remote are great. The instruction manual is designed like a large blueprint and both entertaining and easy to follow. The screwdriver itself is solidly built out of die-cast metal with a durable copper plating. Even without the remote functions, this is a very nice prop and would be a great addition to anyone sporting a bow-tie and fez this Halloween. ThinkGeek even has the licensed plaid pleated jacket if you want to really complete the outfit.

The remote must be trained using an existing remote, but the process is quick and you’ll have the basic functions set up in a few minutes. I set mine up to control the volume and power on the TV, and most of the navigational buttons on the Xbox media remote. My daughter affectionately called me a dork while I demonstrated how to use the remote to fire up Netflix and navigate to Doctor Who. We were just getting to season 5 so the timing was perfect.

Use of the remote takes some practice. Overall the experience was similar to the Harry Potter wand remotes. The screwdriver is heavier than the wands and while the extra inertia helped with stability, it could become heavy quickly for smaller kids.

The remote has five different modes, all accessible through the single push button on the back. Practice, Program, Control, Silent, and FX modes all do pretty much exactly what you’d think they do. Practice mode is very useful as it gives verbal response to your gestures without actually controlling your devices. As I mentioned before, practice is necessary to provide a smooth experience. The family was less than happy the first day when I managed to turn off the Xbox instead of turning up the volume.

Any true fans will know that a sonic screwdriver’s most useful function is to unlock or open things, anything. To that end, I’ve been slowly working up a list of things to open. The most obvious, and easiest to implement was my desktop PC, but other items in line for some sonic persuasion are the front door, the garage door, a remote control Dalek, and a TARDIS liquor cabinet. I don’t have the latter two, but plans are already in the works.

The screwdriver is available from ThinkGeek for $100 and is a great gift idea for any Doctor Who fan.

Wired: A real working sonic screwdriver. Well, as working as it gets with today’s tech. Easy to program.

Tired: Takes practice to use effectively. Not cheap, but in line with the price of good quality replicas.

Leave some comments below if you have any great ideas of what to control, unlock, or open with the sonic screwdriver remote.

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