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UNIVERSAL REMOTE & ACCESSORY REVIEWS

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Kim Wilson Posted: Aug 21, 2012 5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $70 At a Glance: Universal remote control system for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch • Controls all IR devices in multiple rooms • Extensive customization

The VooMote Zapper from zero1.tv is another universal remote control app/hardware solution for the iPhone. It’s unique among a batch of such apps as it doesn’t require an external device that you have to place near your A/V gear. Instead, there’s a small dongle that plugs into the iPhone’s 30-pin port. The dongle costs $70, a full $30 less than most other iPhone universal control systems, and it interfaces with a free app that you can download from the iTunes App Store.

David Vaughn Posted: Jul 05, 2012 0 comments
Do wireless HDMI kits really work? We test three to find out.

In late 2003, HDMI-equipped consumer-electronic devices started to appear on the market. Unfortunately, the transition to digital has been anything but smooth. Although HDMI was a vast improvement over DVI (Digital Visual Interface) in its ability to carry both audio and video in one cable, it came with its own set of issues.

Bob Ankosko Posted: May 29, 2012 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $129 At a Glance: Turns any HDTV into a videophone • Easy-to-use onscreen interface • Simple set-up—usually

Don’t be fooled by the name and calligraphic logo. You won’t find this Biscotti at Starbucks or the local pastry shop, but it does pop up on Amazon.com when you search “Biscotti TV Phone” (“Biscotti” alone leads you to an excellent selection of the scrumptious Italian biscuits). Although video chatting on computers has been around for years, business-style video conferencing on a big screen is still rare among everyday consumers—something Biscotti Inc. hopes to change with its tiny Biscotti-shaped TV phone.

Kim Wilson Posted: Apr 30, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $99 At A Glance: Control A/V gear from an iOS device or Android smartphones • Access to Logitech Harmony’s vast database of IR codes • Simplified setup of complex macro commands • Exclusive iPad feature offers logo-based TV guide

There are plenty of universal remotes to choose from, but my favorite has always been the Harmony line of remotes from Logitech. Their seamless integration with an online database offers fast and simple end-user programming. Knowing this, I was really looking forward to reviewing the Harmony Link, which provides the same simple programming as all other Harmony remotes. The big difference: Instead of programming an actual remote, the Harmony Link accesses your home Wi-Fi network to allow control of your A/V gear with an iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later) or Android smartphone (running OS 2.0 to 2.3.4; not tablets, yet).

Kim Wilson Posted: Mar 08, 2011 1 comments
Apps for the home theater enthusiast.

I’m still amused by the naysayers who said the iPad was inconsequential: a product with limited use that no one asked for. Fast-forward to 2011, and it’s one of the hottest mobile devices ever, creating a new product category much in the way Apple did with the iPod and iPhone. It’s more than a giant iPhone, as some like to call it. In fact, many of the things you liked about the iPhone, you’ll appreciate more with the iPad. One such category is A/V control apps. Many manufacturers have adopted the Apple iOS platform—first the iPhone and now the iPad—with dedicated interfaces for controlling their products and systems.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,499 At A Glance: 6.4-inch diagonal color touchscreen • Motion sensor • Built-in IR, RF, and Wi-Fi • Kicks all other remotes controls’ butts

My Remote Can Beat Up Your Remote

If you like car analogies (I don’t, but I’ll use one here anyway), RTI’s T4 is the Hummer of universal remote controls. At a little more than 9 by 6 inches (not to mention over 2.5 inches thick), it’s a monster that will dwarf nearly everything else sitting on your coffee table. It weighs 2 pounds. It sports an LCD touchscreen that by itself is larger than most other remote controls. At this point, you’re probably thinking that the prime consumer demographic for the T4 is the guy who feels the need to make up for some, shall we say, inadequacy in his personal life.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Access to news, sports, weather, and Amazon Top 10 lists • Many components are not available in the built-in database • Electronic Program Guide updates via home Wi-Fi network

High Wi-Fi (Not Wifey)

Acceptance Factor
From the waist down, Acoustic Research’s ARRU449 looks like the stereotypical universal remote control with a symmetrically arranged layout of small, backlit buttons. From the waist up, though, there’s a bright and colorful LCD screen that quickly catches your attention. Invisible to the eye is the remote’s other distinguishing feature: Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows the remote to access the Internet through your wireless network in order to download Electronic Program Guide (EPG) information along with news and weather highlights. In addition, the ARRU449 can periodically download software updates as they become available. Even though the ARRU449 can access the Internet, it doesn’t include a Web browser. That means you can’t go online directly. Instead, the remote uses something called click365 technology to download the EPG and other data—including news, weather, and sports stories—in the background.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $1,199 At A Glance: No motion sensing • Great form factor • Z-Wave and Wi-Fi communication

To Have and to Hold

To say I’ve found and fallen in love with the perfect universal remote control wouldn’t be 100-percent correct. After all, the NevoS70 certainly has its flaws. But then so do I, and yet my wife loves me anyway. In the case of Universal Electronics’ NevoS70, there are so many good features, it’s hard to remember any that might not be so good. First and foremost, the NevoS70’s shape is a great fit for the average person’s hand (a.k.a. my hand). Because of the way the back of the remote control’s case curves and where the unit’s center of gravity is located, the most comfortable and natural way to hold the remote puts the most-used keys (volume, channel, and directional keypad) within easy reach of your thumb. From there, it’s not much of a stretch to reach the touchscreen. A small scroll wheel for navigation is mounted on the right side of the remote (I’m sure not coincidentally), which is exactly where your thumb rests when it’s not pressing the keys on the front. Should you need or want it, the right side of the remote’s casing also stores a standard PDA-type stylus.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $599 At A Glance: Can control URC lighting dimmers wirelessly • Wall mountable • Uses AAA batteries

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?

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $250 At A Glance: Exceptionally intuitive • Web-based setup procedure • Help function uses questions and answers to fix system problems • Programmable power-on, inter-key, inter-device delays

Pretty and Pretty Smart

I don’t know what they put in the water cooler at Logitech, but I want to start drinking it. The Harmony One is another in its long list of affordable universal remote controls. It looks great, is easy to program, and is sweetly simple to use. The Harmony One is as narrow as most single-device remotes, but it’s thinner and surprisingly light. It’s even easier to hold and use. At the business end is a bright 1.25-by-1.5-inch color touchscreen with enough resolution that you can easily recognize the tiny DVD logo on the DVD player icon. The backlit hard keys are distinctly grouped together by function (transport, numeric keypad, etc.). Although the individual keys are only slightly larger than those on an average remote, each has its own unique shape and is spaced far enough apart so that you can easily use the remote for basic operations without looking at it. The Harmony One includes a built-in motion sensor that’s supposed to wake the remote when you pick it up. It’s not super sensitive, though, so sometimes you’ll need to give the remote a quick shake to bring it to life. To recharge the battery, just place the remote in its horizontal charging cradle. My older Harmony 890 is sometimes finicky and refuses to make contact—and therefore doesn’t charge—when resting in its cradle. This one has a deeper well that ensures a solid connection between the contact points on the remote and the charging cradle. By the way, the rechargeable battery is removable and replaceable, much like a cordless phone’s battery. This makes it environmentally friendly, and it won’t force you to buy a new remote when the battery finally expires.

David Vaughn Posted: Dec 29, 2008 0 comments

Who needs a universal remote? As far as I'm concerned, just about anyone with a media system, even as simple as a DVD player connected to a TV. Almost every piece of A/V equipment sold today offers its own remote with "universal" functionality, but these are cumbersome and offer limited programmability compared to third-party remotes.

Scott Wilkinson Posted: May 27, 2008 2 comments

Perhaps the most important aspect of any home-entertainment system is how you control it. What good is a pristine picture and sublime sound if members of your family—or even you—can't easily enjoy it? Each device has its own remote control with a different layout, making it nearly impossible for anyone to operate the system effectively.

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Mar 10, 2008 0 comments
Lighting control for cowards.

When selecting products to review, I like to tackle new categories. Every new genre I explore provides the opportunity to better understand the industry as a whole. There is, however, one category that I've avoided like the plague: lighting systems. Why? Because my mama taught me never to stick fingers, screwdrivers, or any other conductive material into a wall socket. I have a healthy fear of my mama and an even healthier fear of performing any task that might lead to electrocution, fire, or total protonic reversal.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 08, 2007 0 comments

HDMI connections, combined with a pristine source and a great display, can produce beautiful images, perhaps the best ever available to consumers. But the format has not been trouble free. Even if we ignore consideration of which version of HDMI we're dealing with, and the length limitations of the connections, more than a few videophiles have had problems getting HDMI some combinations of source, display, and switcher to work together.

Joel Brinkley Posted: Jun 17, 2007 0 comments

Like many of you, I assume, a welter of remotes sits on the table next to my TV watching chair. Among them are remotes for the TV, the preamp/processor, the DVR, three DVD players, a CD player ... nine in all.

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