Best Universal Remote Control

Make life far easier by replacing your existing remotes with one universal remote controller.

Article by Jim Prior - A bloke who used to have too many remotes!
I decided to write this article to help folks like you if you are considering getting a universal, programmable remote controller.
I'm not trying to sell you anything - this is simply my story and what I chose after much research into the subject.....


Best Programmable Remote Control

This Christmas my wife and I purchased a new TV, Freeview box and 5.1 Surround Sound / DVD Player system. Along with all the other home entertainment system items we owned, we now had 6 remote controls, and my missus was doing her head in!

So I spent pretty much all of Christmas and the first week of 2006 researching the best remote control for my money. My budget was to be a maximum of £100 (US$176), but in fact I spent £88 and that included tax and delivery!

I wanted something that was going to be;

  • easy enough for my family to use,
  • flexible enough to replace all of my remotes,
  • was capable of learning any infra-red commands from my existing remotes,
  • looked good,
  • had legible commands
  • and an LCD screen that helped you along the way.

A Universal Remote Control should be able to control every piece of equipment in your home entertainment system.

For example, to watch TV just one button press will turn the TV on, and the Freeview box, and the Surround Sound system, while also simultaneously setting everything to the required inputs for it all to work correctly.

Changing to a different activity should be just as easy, e.g. to listen to music CD's, it will turn off the TV and Freeview, turn on the CD Player and again adjust the inputs.

From a list of about 50 different remotes I narrowed down my choice to just three that seemed the very best out of the lot, and were in or near my price bracket (wifey holds the purse-strings!). There are many types of universal remotes; ranging from software that you can install into your handheld PDA device (assuming it has an infra-red emitter), to the exceptional Phillips "iPronto" tablet remote, which although being quite awesome in its abilities and is the ultimate in home cinema system luxury, at £1000 its a bit pricey to say the least - but well worth a look though!

Anyway after about 3 weeks and hours and hours of research on forums and user reviews I narrowed it down to the following three units....

Sony RM-AV2500

Looks very cool. A bit more pricey, and rather large. But if you're thinking of having a Sony remote, there have been some bad reviews about some of the other (newer!) models. I would recommend you only go for the RM-AV2500.

Home Theatre Master MX-500

This is basically the "professionals" choice. It is like the industry standard remote of choice. Robust, straightforward, but can be difficult to setup, and has been around for a couple of years now, but still a very good remote.

Logitech Harmony 680

This is the one for me! Its very cool and clever.

It remembers which items of your setup are off or on! The others don't.

It is "activity-based", meaning rather than choosing a button programmed using "macros" like the others, each button has an activity such as "Watch TV", "Watch a DVD", "Listen to CD".

It has a unique "internet" approach to setting it up. You will need a computer and Internet connection to access the Logitech web site, which takes you through setting it up. A cable (supplied) plugs into one end of the remote, and the other into your computer. After making your settings in the web site, it uploads a program with all your settings into the remote, and voila, you can control your system. You just repeat the process if you want to tweak any settings. We found it to be easy to learn and use, and had the unit operating the main components of our entertainment system in 30 minutes.

It also has a Help button to guide you through troubleshooting. My wife is very happy now! She doesn't have to ask me to do everything for her.

More Info on the Logitech Harmony 680 Remote Control

Imagine setting up your home theater system or Media Center PC to watch a DVD movie with full surround sound… listening to your CDs in full stereo… or enjoying your favorite TV shows. How many remote controls would you have to cycle through? Do you remember the button sequences to perform these activities?

With the Logitech Harmony 680 advanced universal remote control, a single button is all it takes. That's right: Just press “My Videos,” “My Music,” or “My TV” on your Harmony 680 and all your equipment turns on and automatically adjusts to the right settings. It´s called Smart State Technology®, and it will put you and your family back in control of your home entertainment system.

Plus, the Harmony 680 lets you seamlessly integrate your Media Center PC with your Home Theater setup. Right out of the box, the Harmony 680 is pre-configured for Windows® XP Media Center Edition. To program the remote to work with the rest of your home entertainment components, simply log on to the Logitech Web site and set up the remote. Once the set up process is complete, everyone from the kids to the babysitter can enjoy the full Media PC entertainment experience.


Where Can You Find More Universal Remote Control Information?

There is a massive amount of choice available, and some very good online reviews and user forums, which is why it took me so long to decide on the best learning remote control I could get for the least (or most sensible) amount of money.

There are many excellent resources available on, simply perform a search for "remote control reviews" or "best universal remote control" and you will find an oasis of useful information.



The Difference Between Universal Remotes and Learning Remotes

Universal remotes come pre-programmed with the codes to operate hundreds of different consumer electronics devices. You select the ones you use and you're done. Some have additional features such as macros, which allow you to store a sequence of button presses onto one key. Universal remotes are a great choice if you've lost or broken your remote control. A universal isn't such a great choice if you have an old or unusual piece of equipment that's not in its pre-programmed memory. But it's great if you've lost or broken your remote -- it already knows how to operate the vast majority of equipment.

Learning remotes receive the infra-red beam from your existing remotes and store the frequency and pulses in its memory. You typically can store any button from any remote on any of the learning remote's keys, and you can do macros as well, so a single button-press can turn on all the relevant equipment, put it in the right mode, and even tune to your favorite station.

Learning remotes are especially useful when you have a table full of remotes and you need to consolidate. The newest ones are specifically adapted to home theater use, with buttons for balancing the sound image.

The great thing about the Logitech Harmony range of remotes is that the "setting up" web site has a database with an absolutely massive list of remotes that they already know about, you simply choose the make and model number for your kit, and yet the Logitech remotes can also learn any infra-red command codes that it doesn't know about. Best of both worlds!



About The Author

James Prior of Prior IT Solutions is your average kind of guy, who likes to get the best bang for his money, and takes his time looking around and researching things properly on before deciding which remote control unit to buy.

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