A universal remote control can make your life much, much easier. Just think what life would be like if you didn't have to locate an extra remote or switch your television settings over to DVD just to watch a movie. Life would be grand! So read on for some of the universal remote features that we think can make your lives even more convenient.
What to Look For in Universal Remotes:
I. Ergonomically Designed Unit
The remote should be easy to grip and comfortable to hold. The buttons should be strategically placed to allow users to seamlessly engage them. This can result in a variety of design models, though the most common one involves an hourglass shape.
Finger rests are also ideal, as they allow you to maintain your position on the remote between tasks, such as changing the channel or skipping through scenes in a movie.
Philips Magnavox PM435S 4-Device Universal Remote Control
One look at this remote and you can see how comfortable its finger rests and buttons are. The buttons are padded, which means they won’t dig into your fingers, and large, so you’ll be able to tell if they have engaged or not.
II. Far-Reaching Radio-frequency (RF) Capabilities
Radio-frequency transmitters allow the remote to beam signals to the appropriate electronics regardless of whether there's an item or two situated between the devices.
This is opposed to an infrared beam, which cannot send signals around people, furniture or other obstructions. Remotes with RF transmitters tend to cost more, but this can be a huge convenience if you have poor dexterity, especially in your fingers, wrists, arms or shoulders.
Most RF transmitters can reach 50 to 100 feet even if these distances are separated by walls or doors. This means you can lower the stereo in the other room from the comfort of your recliner!
Universal Remote MX-650 Omega Remote Control for Audio Video TV
The Omega can reach up to 100 feet. Consumer reviews on this remote are almost all positive, with owners praising how accurate and far-reaching the RF capabilities are. The remote’s sleek design doesn’t hurt, either.
III. High Component Storage
You want your universal remote to take the place of all others, regardless of whether that’s just the television, VCR and DVD player or the DVR, TiVo, DVD recorder, CD player or cable or satellite boxes as well. Although there’s no magic number for how many components your remote should be able to store, that number should be plentiful.
If you really only want to control your TV, VCR and DVD player, buy a remote that can control up to six components. This will give you some leeway in case you decide to add a few devices later on. If you have multiple systems for recording and watching television and movies, however, you want your remote to control as many components as it can. This is usually 20, though there are remotes on the market that can control up to 40.
NXG NX-RM610 20-Component IR/RF Remote Control
Up to 20 different devices can be programmed into the NXG, making it ideal for the home entertainment enthusiast.
IV. Activity-based Remote with Abundant Memory
Even if a remote can control up to 20 devices, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has a large memory. A universal remote’s memory is measured in megahertz, with anything more than 400 considered excellent. In a way, activity-based remotes also measure memory in macros, with each macro accounting for a different activity, such as placing your television on the proper channel in order to engage the DVD player.
These macros can add up, as all devices are synced. They will dilute these long, exhaustive processes into easy, activity-based commands like “Watch TV” or “Watch a DVD.”
An activity-based remote with a large memory will be greatly appreciated by anyone who has to read step-by-step directions every time he wants to switch the television over to video settings. Any remote featuring macro capabilities of up to 230 steps each should suffice.
Universal Remote MX-900 40-Device IR/RF PC Programmable Remote (418 MHz)
You can tell this remote that you want to “Watch a DVD” or “Play Xbox” with just one button and its activity-based macro system will go to work for you. It has more than enough storage space for all your devices, settings and commands.
Your remote doesn’t have to weigh a lot to control multiple devices. This is important if you have problems with dexterity or gripping. A hard and fast rule to remember when looking for lightweight remotes is that the lightest ones will be measured in ounces, while the heavier ones are measured in pounds.
Anything less than 10 ounces is pretty light. Anything weighing more than 1.5 pounds should be avoided, as there are many lighter models on the market that can handle just as many functions with less bulk. This weight should include batteries.
URC MasterControl RF20 Universal Learning Remote w/ RF Capability
The URC MasterControl remote can control 10 components and 453 macros but only weighs slightly more than one pound— and that’s with four AAA Alkaline batteries inside.
VI. Large, Easy to Read Buttons
All the features in the world won’t make your entertainment experience more convenient if you can’t read the buttons. This is why large, well-spaced, clearly labeled, color-contrasted buttons are essential. The fonts should be legible and printed in either white, which will stand out against a black or blue remote, or black, which will stand out against a lighter colored or silver remote.
Philips SRU3004/27 Universal Big Button 4 in 1 Remote (Silver/Black)
The large buttons and color contrasts on this Philips remote will accommodate those with poorer eyesight. The text is almost as big as the buttons, making it easy to locate channels, functions and commands.
VII. Large LCD Touch Screen
If you purchase a higher-end remote it will no doubt come with a backlit LCD screen. These screens reduce the need for dozens of buttons squeezed together with small text. Obviously, the bigger the LCD screen, the bigger the text. So opt for a high-end remote with a screen that’s larger than two inches. This will both produce larger text and also bigger digital buttons, saving you both eye and finger strain.
Philips TSU500 Pronto Neo LCD Universal Touch Screen Remote Control
The main component of this universal remote is the LCD screen, which is a nice departure from other remotes that contain only minimal displays. The buttons on this Philips remote are large enough that they can easily be pressed by fingers or, for those with hand-eye problems, with the erasure of a pencil.
VIII. Easy to Navigate Web-Based Setup with Phone Support
Universal remotes are programmed by inserting your device’s codes into your remote. Some of the more inexpensive remotes require the user to look up the devices' codes and manually input them into the remote via an onscreen command prompt.
This isn’t impossible to do, but it does require time, patience and lots of finger stamina. Those with limited dexterity (or patience) should opt for a remote with a web-based setup.
These remotes come with a USB cord that you plug into your remote and computer. From there you simply visit the manufacturer’s website, answer a few questions and the setup wizard will do the rest. This service should also come with complimentary phone support.
Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote [Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging]
This remote comes with setup software and the help of a live customer support team, should you need it. It's compatible with more than 5,000 brands, so it should easily locate your devices for syncing.