Universal Remote Control KP-900 Universal Remote Control
Looks Good and Feels Good
At first glance, you might wonder why the diminutive KP-900 from Universal Remote Control (there’s no doubt about what that company does, is there?) warrants a $599 price tag. It’s about 2 inches shorter than the average paperback book and maybe half as thick. The relatively large buttons are backlit, but there aren’t that many of them. Also, although you can adjust the LCD screen’s backlight color and brightness, the screen can’t display any of the nice graphics and logos that other remotes can. By the way, did I mention that the KP-900 doesn’t have a touchscreen, either?
Of course, dwelling on the KP-900’s seeming lack of features misses the point. These deficits are a big part of what makes the remote so useful and desirable. For starters, my fingers have always appreciated large buttons on any remote control; but now that my eyes don’t like small lines of text, the KP-900’s big button caps are especially welcome. Fewer buttons allows for a smaller remote overall, and without a power-hungry touchscreen, the KP-900 runs perfectly well on four AAA batteries. That means there’s no need for a charging cradle. Also, since the LCD screen can continually display information with minimal power drain, it doesn’t need a built-in motion sensor to wake up the remote, either.
The lack of a charging cradle makes the KP-900 perfectly suited for wall-mounting applications. Wall-mounting is a simple project that requires only a screwdriver and four (included) screws. The back of the remote is magnetic, and it forcefully clings to metal inserts mounted on the back of the bracket. As a result, it’s easy to grab the KP-900 and head for the couch to use it in the traditional handheld method. (URC also includes four small round covers for the screws so the bracket has a clean look when you remove the remote.) Since the magnets are in the remote itself, it’ll cling to any metal surface. I don’t know why, but it was very cool seeing the KP-900 attached to my refrigerator door.
In addition to emitting IR, the KP-900 also includes a built-in narrow-band RF transmitter that sends commands to URC’s optional MRF-350 RF Base Station or MSC-400 Master System Controller. This feature makes it an ideal remote to use for systems with hidden components or multiroom applications (remember the refrigerator?). Just as exciting (for me, anyway) is the fact that the RF transmitter is also compatible with URC’s line of lighting components. To use the KP-900 as a basic lighting controller, simply add the appropriate dimmers and switches. Although I haven’t done it myself, I’ve watched the process. It’s surprisingly quick to program multiple lighting scenes for a home theater room.
In lieu of a touchscreen, the KP-900 uses a bank of six soft keys next to the LCD screen on the left side of the remote. Since you can program 255 pages of commands into the KP-900, it’s unlikely that you’ll run out of memory—even if you have an extensive system.
Dealer or No Dealer
You can program the KP-900 using URC’s Windows-based KP-900 Editor software. While it isn’t nearly as intuitive or graphically beautiful as Harmony’s programming software, URC’s Editor uses a relatively straightforward drag-and-drop method that’s not that difficult to master if you’re willing to spend a bit of time to conquer the learning curve. However, URC only distributes the KP-900 through custom installation dealers, so the dealer will more than likely be the one who does the programming. Needless to say, if you’re handy with a computer (and you have a copy of the software), it won’t be too difficult to update or reprogram the remote at a later date if you have a falling out with your local installer.
I do wish the LCD on the KP-900 could display more characters, since you’re limited to five when you enter titles for the soft keys on the LCD screen. I was forced, for example, to label my Sunfire Theater Grand III surround processor as TGIII, which isn’t as easy for my family to recognize as the label “Sunfire” would have been. (“SUNFI” didn’t work too well, either.)
Hand It Over
I must say I was surprised by how much I liked the feel of the KP-900. Because of its width, it generally takes two hands to operate anything other than the directional pad. But it was no more cumbersome to use—perhaps even less so—than a longer, narrower remote where you have to slide your hand up and down in order to reach all the buttons. And since the buttons are nice and big, it’s easy to use a thumb on any of them without worrying about pressing an adjacent button by mistake.
The backlighting level for the hard keys is darn near perfect. With some remotes, the backlighting can blind you when it comes on while you’re watching a movie in a darkened theater. Not so with the KP-900. Another nice touch is that the Off button located in the top right corner of the remote glows with an amber color to distinguish it from the rest of the blue-colored buttons.
All in all, I really like the KP-900, despite the fact that I’m such a pushover for touchscreens. But many of the features that come from not having a touchscreen, or even a big LCD screen, make this a better, more versatile remote control for lots of applications. And I think the lighting control capability really adds to the KP-900’s allure. Then, of course, there’s the $599 price tag, which originally looked a little high but now appears to be a steal.