This is for all you couch potatoes who yearn to get rid of the clutter of remotes in your living room. From your TV set, the DVD player, the amplifier and the hi-fi system to the PlayStation, it is no easy task dealing with a multi-button menace.
Despair not, for there is help at hand now. Just invest in a universal remote control and sail through effortlessly every time you have to switch between the TV set and the computer or the DVD player.
These clever gadgets carry out the functions of many remotes, and are only getting more exotic by the day, with colour displays and touch-sensitive screens.
The more sophisticated ones these days even resemble hand-held computers, some of them combining infrared technology with radio frequency signals to control gadgets from other rooms or even those that are hidden.
There are basically two types of universal remote controls: the wand and the tablet. Wands, which resemble traditional remotes, are lighter, longer, and can easily be used with one hand. Simple remotes, these have a collection of buttons and can control only a limited number of devices. Tablets, the fancier ones, are wider and capable of working with a large number of devices. Some of these even have a touch screen, and instead of having real buttons, the screen gives you a “virtual control” of all the devices you have tagged to it. Yes, you guessed it right: These cost a bundle.
Mint takes a look at a few options available in the market.
Logitech Harmony 1000
Draw up a list of things you want your universal remote to control and then go buy the Logitech Harmony. Remember, it doesn’t come cheap. But the sheer extent to which it can be programmed will leave you baffled.
The tablet style of the remote adds to the weight. And, therefore, the learning curve: Since it is not a wand-style remote which you can simply aim and shoot, it will take some time for you to get used to holding it like a book. Interestingly, the remote can also be programmed through the Web on your Windows or Mac and control all the devices you want it to.
The icons on the 3.5-inch colour display screen of the remote let you choose a range of activities, such as “Watch TV”, “Watch a Movie” and “Listen to Music”, depending on the devices it is controlling. Once you have chosen an activity, you are led into the menu and, depending on the depth of control, there are pages (changing screens) of menus that can be associated with a particular feature.
Useful though it is, this page-scrolling feature can be quite unnerving and confusing for most users since it requires you to learn a whole new device. While basic function buttons remain constant, it is the navigating for device-specific buttons within the menu that can scare some users. Still, this is not a difficult device to master and is definitely better than having to juggle three or four different remote controls.
You can also set up the Harmony online: An intuitive set-up wizard takes you through the process where you start by entering the component’s model number.
The information is automatically matched to the characteristics, discrete codes and infrared commands of the more than 175,000 devices from more than 5,000 manufacturers contained in Logitech’s online database. The wizard then helps you define the various entertainment activities and identify the entertainment components used for each activity. Believe us, this is simpler than it sounds and is a whole lot better than having to program every button on your remote in case of a device not being identified by the remote.
Logitech Harmony 890
That Logitech is a leader in the universal remote category is further emphasized by the Harmony 890 wand-style unit. One of the highest-rated remote controls on user forums across the Net, Harmony 890 incorporates infrared and radio frequency signal- learning capability to control your devices. One of the major advantages of using radio frequency over infrared is that the remote is not restricted by line of vision, therefore increasing its range and ease of use.
Harmony 890 also includes a docking station for charging the rechargeable lithium-ion battery: You simply need to put the remote in its cradle and the charging begins. Even programming the Harmony range is very easy, thanks to the Web interface.
But it also means that you need to be Net savvy and know the product codes for all your devices. Thankfully, the helpful Web interface makes things a little easier.
One dampener, however, could be the number of buttons on the remote. All that intense programming can take some memorizing before you plunge into using your new harmonious 890.
Philips Pronto TSU9600
If you think you need more choice in the tablet-style universal remote category, try the Philips Pronto TSU9600. The Pronto range from Philips is scheduled for an India launch next month, but it is not yet clear whether the TSU9600 would be part of this.
Among its many claims to fame, the TSU9600 sports an exceptional design and boasts arguably the best on-screen graphics among all remote controls in the category. Another interesting innovation in the remote is that it works with “activities” instead of devices. So, if you want to watch a movie, you choose that, and the right device (or devices) are activated. The 3.7-inch touch screen has a full VGA (640x480) display and an exceptionally wide viewing angle for ease of use.
There’s more to Pronto than just controlling entertainment devices remotely. You can also program it to set the lights in your house according to your preference. Other devices in this category are TSU7500 (Rs25,000) and RU990: Both are similar to a PDA in size and design and much easier to learn. Of course, they cost much less as well.
Philips Prestigo SRU9600
Sleek, black and part-touch screen, this remote can control a wide range of devices.
It is also very easy to program, all you need to do is choose the device and point the remote at it. Once detected, all the functions for the device are available through the universal remote.
When we tried it at home, the Prestigo did well with a Samsung TV set and LG DVD player, but didn’t read a set-top box (STB). This, despite the manufacturer’s name being listed in the remote’s database. This could be quite cumbersome, since every button on the STB remote had to be programmed manually and even then, it didn’t quite work as per plan.
The remote feels solid in your hand. In fact, it is solid to the extent of being almost heavy. The length of the remote, however, left us a little disappointed since it required a lot of work on our part to use the touch screen (top part) and the common buttons for volume and channel choice.
This remote will be launched in India next month and is expected to retail for about Rs6,990 and at that price, is an outstanding buy.
Be sure to check whether your product is supported or get someone more than who can do it for you. It’s easier that way.
XBox 360 Universal Media Remote
Apart from being a gaming console, the Xbox is also a media centre. Microsoft has even launched a universal media remote to work with the Xbox. It is sold separately and can be programmed to work with your TV set. It can also replace the Xbox game controller for basic functions such as navigating through the Xbox menus.
It supports progressive-scan for DVD playback, controls universal TV and console functions, including volume and mute buttons, and up-and-down channel changing.
Fairly basic, it works well if the Xbox is going to be the epicentre of your media world.
Until recently, this remote retailed forRs2,500 (approx.) but is now bundled with the Xbox360