Hands on: Philips uWand review

In use, we found the positioning was accurate and easy to do and selecting and dragging with the OK button are both completely intuitive too, but the gestures make it more powerful.

Use a uWand with Windows 7 and you'll get the two key touch gestures – rotate and zoom. Rotate is easy; you point at a picture (we tried this out with Cyberlink'sPowerCinema 7 software, which is optimised to work with the uWand) and the cursor changes when you're over it. Hold down the home button and twist the uWand and the picture rotates to match.

Philips uwand

POINT TO START: Point at an image in PowerCinema and the cursor changes, showing that you can drag or start a gesture

To zoom in, you hold down the home button and pull the uWand towards you. This takes a little more getting used to and the temptation is to hold the remote out and make exaggerated movements but it works much better if you sit down, lean back and hold it like a normal remote control.

Philips uwand

QUICK MOVE: We've just dragged an image down to make it part of a slideshow; try doing that with a traditional remote control

The Windows 7 interface – especially the Media Center interface – is easier to use with touch gestures than previous versions of Windows.

You'll be able to play the Windows 7 Touch Pack games with a uWand, which will be fun on a large-screen TV. But once you start using applications, many controls and buttons are too small to use comfortably with a finger or the uWand.

More touch-aware software will come out when Windows 7 arrives; Corel's recent Digital Studio 2010 software has large buttons designed to be used with touch that would work well with the uWand.

Cyberlink will be bringing out a new version of PowerCinema later this year or early in 2010 with larger controls designed for touch, bundled with a uWand and optimised for the expected 'nettop' PCs designed to plug into TVs.

Buying a uWand

Philips isn't suggesting how much uWand devices might cost because it won't be selling the uWand itself; it's licencing the software to OEMs, including one partner who is making a Media Center remote control – complete with the all-important green button.

That device will probably come with new PCs, but another partner plans to offer a uWand control you can use with any PC by plugging in a small receiver.

Intel is another partner; uWand will work with the Widget Channel that Intel and Yahoo are putting onto TVs, DVD players and set-top boxes to offer internet widgets like Flickr photos and weather updates – assuming the hardware manufacturer builds in the receiver.

How popular the uWand proves to be will definitely depend on the price, as well as how much software gets an interface that works for touch. But it's far less fiddly than most mouse replacements aimed at the big-screen, ten-foot experience and we'd be delighted to see it bundled with an entertainment PC.

Philips uwand


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.