It is not unusual to be deluged with remotes, given all the boxes hooked up to today's television sets. Owning a DVD player, an old VCR, a cable box, a TiVo, a sound system and perhaps a new Blu-ray player can easily produce half a dozen remotes on the coffee table—or more likely, scattered across the room and lost behind seat cushions and under stacks of magazines. Maybe, you should try a universal remote.
But what universal remotes give in terms of reducing clutter, they often take away with increasing complexity. Simple tasks often take more concentration. Let’s take a look at two new remotes.
Philips Prestigo SRU8015
The Philips unit uses a mechanical scroll wheel that borrows its concept from the circular touch pad on Apple's iPod. The scroll wheel turns to navigate among component brands during set-up and to select activities once the unit is configured.
You don't need to know the model numbers of the various devices to set up the Philips; you simply select the brand of the component, and the remote automatically tries a series of configurations until it hits on the right one.
The company chose a scroll wheel because “80 million people can't be wrong," said Andre Lalande, a Philips marketing manager.
When setting up the remote, you may need to scroll through a large list of choices to get the right one; in some set-up routines, there is not always a quick way to jump through the alphabet or scroll through it in reverse.
The manual's instructions on how to customize the control of several components simultaneously were not that clear. A call to customer support went unanswered for 15 minutes. And the company's support website did not fully address that issue. Furthermore, the support website asks for your country of residence, but the US is not one of the options.
At a $20 street price, this remote provides one of the best values among the new remotes. The unit can control up to eight devices, including the standard television, DVD, satellite and cable boxes, as well as tape decks, amplifiers and air conditioners.
The manual was well-written; the set-up instructions were clear and simple.
You configure the remote by entering codes that match the manufacturer of each component. There was no code for a Vizio plasma TV, for instance, but a quickly answered call to customer service provided an answer: Use the Samsung codes instead. The Sony lets you set up four different macros, or system configurations, to turn on several components simultaneously. As with other brands, you can also teach the remote certain commands.
If you like it big and simple, the $20 Big Button is for you. This oversize remote is perfect for the elderly and people with impaired vision or less-than-agile fingers. The giant buttons are simple to push, and the lighted keypad is helpful in darkened rooms.
Don't look for fancy macros or learning abilities with this unit. But, if you are simply looking for an easy way to watch a DVD without holding a remote in each hand, this works. Will a universal remote let you chuck all the other remotes cluttering up your house? Perhaps.
©2008/The New York Times