Universal Remotes: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

If you’re one of the many people who are tired of having several remotes to run your entertainment system, you’ve probably been giving some thought to universal remote controls. Getting a universal remote will definitely save you some space; with the additional benefit of simplifying easy tasks such as changing tracks on a DVD. Here’s the scoop on the good, the bad, and also the ugly side of universal remote systems.

Why Go with a Universal Remote System?

What are your reasons for wanting a universal remote control? Are you sick of needing 4 completely different remotes just to use the basic functions of your home entertainment system? Did you lose or break a remote, and now need a replacement? Whatever your needs are for a universal remote, there is one out there for you! You can even purchase high-end remotes that will start your movie, dim your lights, lock your doors and start a pot of coffee. Now, that’s universal!

Inform Yourself about Universal Remotes

Every company that produces a universal remote will, of course, claim to have the best one. So, do yourself a favor and take a look at consumer review sites not linked to specific products. You may find accurate and helpful reviews that could sway you towards a remote that suits you best. Some of the highest rated remotes that you read about will be brands like Philips and Logitech. Those appear to be two brands thatmost customers are satisfied with.

You will also need to understand the cost of universal remotes. Your basic model will run you about $20. These models tend to be "bare bones" and often do not include features of many other higher end models. This would be great for a remote for a bedroom, for example; or possibly for any other location with fewer devices to control. If all you want to do is replace a single remote, it might be best to go with a cheaper model, depending on the complexity of the device. However, you may want to consider a higher-end model if you need to replace a large amount of remotes for multiple devices. A typical "middle end" model will run you back about $50-$100. Should you desire a remote to control your TV, start your dishwasher and get the popcorn popping in the microwave - all with the press of one button - then you'll have to go with a higher end mode. Personally, I recommend the Logitech Harmony series, which usually cost aroun $300-$400. Automation can come at a high price, but the satisfaction is all worth it.

Decide Which Remote to Buy

So, now that you’ve found the universal remote that best meets your needs and also works with your budget, go ahead and pick one up. It won't be all fun and games, however - you'll have to spend some time programming the remote to work with your setup. Programming your remote can be one of the biggest headaches you've experienced with your home system. The more elaborate the remote, the more time you'll have to spend teaching it what to do. If you’re merely replacing a lost remote that simply changes channels and doesn’t control anything beyond your television set or a single device, expect the programming to take less than an hour. For more complicated models, in which you will be programming codes for multiple devices, it could take the better part of a day or weekend to get it working smoothly.

You should definitely make sure to read through the user manual - it's a treasure trove of useful information. Follow the step-by-step instructions - you could avoid giving yourself a migraine. I would recommend programming the remote in small sections - that way, you won't have to go all the way back if you make a single mistake. More specifically, take the time to stop after each device is programmed to the remote, and see if what you did works properly. This way, you won’t program your TV, DVD player and cable box, only to find out it isn’t working properly at all.

If all goes well (and it usually does,) you’ll discover the benefits of converting to a universal remote system. If there are people other than yourself who will be using the remote, take the time to explain to them how it works. This is especially beneficial if the remote is controlling several elements in your home theater system. It may be easier to write up a diagram of the remote, and show them which buttons to press to control a certain function. This is a great idea for children; it will help them to control the television, and also avoid the pitfall of wanton "button-mashing." That could potentially damage or even reprogram the remote, ruining your hours of hard effort.

Speaking of programming - you should never throw away your user manual! Although unlikely, your remote control could lose its programming. It has happened to me before, and it's always good to be prepared. Accidental loss of programming is one big downside of a universal remote system, and keeping your user manual will help you to reprogram your remotes. You could also take notes on the steps you had taken, to make it easier the second time around.

So, there are some of the benefits and drawbacks of universal remotes. There really isn’t much of a downside associated with these handy little devices, but there can definitely be a great deal of confusion and frustration. Have some patience when you first program them, and take notes if it helps you remember certain functions. Once again, save that manual or you’ll certainly be sorry when you need to look up remote codes.

Enjoy using your universal remote; it’s a little piece of hardware that can make a BIG difference in your electronic lifestyle - and check out these articles for more information on universal remotes:

Using Macros to Simplify the Use of a Home Theater Remote Control

Control your Lights with Your Home Theater Remote

Comments

Hya Cari! a very helpful article-I live in the Uk and you covered my problem which most people will have-I no longer have the problem of five or six remotes about the place and usually, the one you need has vanished down the couch or your puppy has run off and chewed it to bits. My local super market has many offers each month and last month guess what! yes !a Multi remote. It is easy to use and carries10 different items-TV.DVD.TVSAT.PC etc. 10 items in all.  I only use  TV DVD VCR TVSAT and DVD Recorder and the price- £6.99 which is about 12 dollars.

respectfullyderek

kingofswing@talktalk.net

I would have to agree with you if you have a ton of remotes to go along with all of your equipment. I have however ran into a bind when using a universal remote and there is no code available for the different types of equipment you might have. Maybe I missed it but there was no mention of a universal learning remote for those who like the learning types of remotes. I happen to like those but they are a bit pricey. They are a lot easier, at least I think so, to program, reprogram, and to program new devices. I just last week, helped a neighbor set up a universal learning remote control that his son had sent him. It controls 10 devices including menus, features, and adjustments. There was a $49.95 price tag on it. I was a little surprised on the type of remote it was and what it could do for the cost. It was also, to my surprise, an IR as well as a RF type remote. I ordered one online.

Respectfully yours,

Larry Dillon

Two words: Logitech Harmony. Yes, they cost more, but they're easy to set up and can control many thousands of devices.

 

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