The Universal Remote Buyers Guide
Ways to Control Your Electronics
Universal Remote Controls, like anything else, can be divided into price ranges. Obviously, the cheapest is the remote that came with your digital cable box. More sophisticated remotes are often included with your Home Theater receiver. Receiver’s Universal Remotes range from pretty good to the usual crap that comes with cheap devices. If you’re spending good money on your Home Theater system, you’ll inevitably end up with many more remotes than your receiver’s stock remote can handle. Once you get into the dedicated Universal Remote device, you’ll see quality and features dramatically increase. Features like macros, computer and direct internet connectivity, and even the ability to provide content to your TV are some of the higher-end features available.
LCD Touch–Screen Remotes
Some advanced Universal Remote controls feature touch-screen LCD. This is a popular option and looks so really cool. However, LCD’s do require a lot of power and will drain batteries relatively quickly. Instead of replacing batteries every so often, you’ll find a lot of the advanced Universal Remotes have rechargeable batteries built right in to the device. Sometimes you’ll have to plug in your remote or dock it into a cradle to receive power from an AC line or USB from your PC.
Rechargeable batteries are a great feature, but if the battery is non-removable/replaceable then you run into a longevity issue for the unit itself. Eventually rechargeable batteries die and re-charging them no longer works. If the battery cannot be replaced, the unit must be replaced or sent in for costly repairs or factory replacement of the batteries. This is most common with lith-io battery packs found in consumer electronics with rechargeable batteries. It’s not that the batteries themselves initially die (which they inevitably do), but that there is a loss of continuity from the battery to the units it powers. The continuity is lost because of the process of oxidation. Oxidation will build up and prevent the voltage from flowing to the parts that need energy to work. You can only slow down this inevitable process by storing the equipment at room temperature in a dry environment. Exposing any rechargeable device to extreme temperature variations will speed up the oxidation process.
A few higher-end receivers will include an LCD touch-screen remote control. The Marantz RC5400 is an example of a higher-quality Universal Remote being included with a high-quality receiver. This remote can control unlimited numbers of devices and includes non-volatile memory and a USB connector.
PC programmable and even wi-fi remotes are fast becoming the latest trend in high-end universal remotes. The ability to download updates is a significant technological advancement that allows unlimited upgradeability to newer devices. The more feature- rich remotes will cost you a pretty penny, ranging in cost from $100 and up. However, for the price you’re able to control an almost unlimited number of devices, set macros that conduct multiple functions against your Home Theater system, and, yes, even set lighting in your house by pressing a button. Using nicer remotes like Nevo or Philips RC 9800i, you can control the graphic interface using themes or program its LCD menu system to behave and respond differently to different people in your house. The best thing about PC programmability is using the desktop to set up complicated macros and other features found on Universal Remotes today. Using the Universal Remote itself to program anything the least bit complex is pure drudgery.
If you think the stock remote that came with your $300 receiver is what a Universal Remote control is all about, think again.