Which remote is right for me?
With so many devices making up our audio-visual systems these days, which remote is the right one for you?
I got involved in a thread on the discussion forums here on StereoNET recently about the extent of automation that consumers have in their homes. Beyond the answer of 'none', the most popular answer solution appears to be a universal remote that controls various devices connected to the TV.
Of course there are many options out there when it comes to universal remotes, so I thought an introductory guide to various remotes was in order. This won’t be an exhaustive list of all brands, but two of the more popular end-user programmable remotes, and two of the popular brands that will require a professional to program for you.
You might be wondering “Why do I even need a universal remote?”. Well, if either of the following resonates with you then you just might make your life that little bit easier.
Do you hate having to use multiple remotes to watch TV? Pick up the TV remote turn it on, put it down while the TV warms up, pick up the DVD remote turn it on, pick up the AV receiver remote turn it on, and it goes on and on and on.
Like me, are you constantly losing remotes? You know it’s right there under a cushion or even in plain sight, but it will still take at least 10 minutes to find. Throwing things around in a fit of rage can be a thing of the past.
All of these remotes will allow one button presses to do everything that you need. For example, you press a button that says “Watch Foxtel”, and it will turn the TV, Foxtel box, AV receiver etc. on, then it will turn the TV to the proper HDMI input and the same for the AV receiver if you have one.
For Universal remote control, Control4 and Remote Technologies Incorporated, the prices listed are for the remotes only. They will need other items to make them work to their full potential. The Control4 and Remote Technologies Incorporated remote will also require professional programming on top of the extra purchases.
The following is in order of my preference from low to high. That preference isn’t necessarily the best or easiest option for you, it’s just my personal rating based on experience.
The Harmony Touch 640
From $49.95 to $500 RRP depending on model and features.
This is the simplest of the end-user programmable remotes. You simply connect the remote to your computer and use the online software to program. You tell the software what components you have in the room from the TV, AV receiver, blu-ray player etc and the exact brand and model. It configures the buttons to work for those devices. It shoots an infrared beam out of the front of the remote, so for long sequences you have to hold it forward for several seconds until it’s finished.
For anybody looking for a simple solution to control an areas TV or projector room this is definitely the way to go.
Universal Remote Control
The URC MX-890 remote
From $550 to $1,600 RRP
URC has a bit more flexibility in the options present for it. I will only be covering the Complete Control products which don’t require an actual installer to program. The remote control has an IR output on the front just like the harmony remote and you can program it all to work from there, but an extra feature is that it has RF capabilities.
This means that instead using the Infrared (IR) output on the remote, it uses the inbuilt radio frequency output. That goes to a box that receives the signal and converts that signal to infrared. You plug an IR emitter into the output and connect a light over the IR input on the device.
This can be handy for people that keep some of the equipment in another room, or a purpose built AV cabinet where the AV receiver and other equipment is housed so that you don’t see it in the main room.
Overall the universal remote controls are more suited for people who still want to do everything themselves, but have a bit more time and patience to get used to the programming.
The Control4 SR260
From $299 to $499 RRP**
The Control4 remote is a great looking remote that has all the features of the above plus more. It can control just about anything the programmer would like, from the TV to the lighting to the air conditioning.
The most important part of this remote is actually the programmer themself. The remote can only be as intuitive and easy to use, as the programmer makes it. The possibilities really are endless.
Remote Technologies Incorporated
The RTI T3X
From $290 to $1,900 RRP
My favourite of all the remotes. In my eyes it’s the best looking by far. It can output infrared from the remote, has RF capabilities and also has WiFi connectivity. The touchscreen area is 3.5” which is as big as you could possibly fit on a remote control, and the picture is amazing.
Not only does it allow you to display nice graphics for the touchscreen area but display feedback and cover art. For example, you have a volume bar that displays the volume level in the room or poster art of the movie you are currently watching.
In the works is also the ability for various intercoms to connect to the remote with full audio and video. You don’t even need to leave the room to know who is there, and you can even open the door from the remote if it's somebody that you know.+
This option is for those who want the very best in their house. For anybody looking to simplify the use of all the gadgets that now reside in a house, I hope the guide can be of use for your particular needs.
** Prices correct at May 2015
Discuss Remote Controls and more in the Home Automation Discussion Forum.