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How Many Remotes Do You Have On Your Coffee Table?

One of the greatest put-offs for anyone trying to watch television or play a home theater system, especially non-technical family members, is figuring out how to use it. Even a simple system that just utilizes the TV speakers is likely to require at least three remotes: one for the cable box, one for the Blu-ray or DVD player, one for the TV. You've got to juggle remotes, cycling through inputs with one, adjusting channels or changing tracks with another, then picking the first one back up to adjust's a miracle some of us even bother. Universal remotes are supposed to solve that problem for day to day use, but don't always do everything we need them to do, either by insufficient design or poor programming. The result is a stack of factory remotes kept close at hand.

Today's poll question, then, is this: how many active remotes do you currently have on your coffee table that you end up having to pick up at least once a week?

How Many Remotes Do You Have On Your Coffee Table?

shutyertrap's picture

I have 3 remotes that I actively use. My Dish remote which can control some of my receiver, my receiver remote which can do most of the Dish remote (but my wife doesn't know all the buttons I assigned), and my PS3 remote which is Blu-Tooth and cannot control anything else, and nothing else can control the PS3!

I also have a laserdisc remote, a VCR remote, a remote for my component video switcher, and my TV remote, which except for the latter, all the rest are hidden away without any batteries.

The problem I find is that there is always some function on each remote that you actually use a lot, but is not mappable to the universal remote. Granted, I have not payed for something like a Logitech Harmony, let alone a touch screen which would be awesome. Do any universal remotes deal in Blu-Tooth? Cause that might be a tipping factor for me.

jes182's picture

You can map ANY button from your universal remote via the database or learned to ANY button on the Harmony. The custom touch screen is very handy for those odd buttons. Logitech also sells a PS3 adapter which converts the IR commands into bluetooth so it works flawlessly with the console.

trynberg's picture

I'm stunned by the results! A URC (or even a Harmony) remote will handle everything and isn't that expensive.

techguy378's picture

I need a learning universal remote that can connect to the internet through a computer and speak to anything that has an IR input. This includes things that would never, ever be in a home theater system. The last universal remote I found that could speak to anything with an IR port was an old Sony touchscreen remote but it couldn't connect to the internet and it wasn't very customizable.

thx2468's picture

Since all my equipment is Sony ES, the remote(s) on the tablet is an excellent help. It learns all other brands of audio equipment and room illumination.

applebyter's picture

I have a few Squeezeboxes (Touch and Duets) and a Boxee Box. They work on wireless networks, so no universal remote can control them properly. At least the Boxee can have an infra-red receiver plugged into it and I can control it mostly from a universal remote. As more components go to IP control the worse this will become. We'll need universal remotes that communicate via infra-red, blutooth and wireless IP.

trynberg's picture

I hear spite of what I wrote above, I do not have control over my PS3. However, I only use it for Rock Band so I do not need remote capability for it.

The boxes that work on wireless networks do present a problem but that is easily addressed by the manufacturers providing a full set of IR controls and an IR port/receiver.

mweston's picture

I have a Roomie remote system that uses my Iphone and a future Ipad
at the same time time. It controls by newer IP address electronics via ethernet or wifi, IR control box via ethernet or wifi, or serial control box via ethernet or wifi. Roomie has thousands of electronics codes for IP control, IR, or serial. Roomie has a box that will control projection screens, drapes or lighting. It is a very good solution to multiple remotes.

Steve Caliendo's picture

...does it all. What else do you need?

Billy's picture

I don't think I could count all the remotes around here, in use and otherwise. The real problem is the missus, she gets frustrated. I think a tablet might solve this, simple with a good macro. One with an IR blaster is realy a good idea. Simpler then a Harmony One,or so I think. What do you guys think? For about $250 I can get a Samsung that is seven inches in size, might be about right. Plus it solves that nasty problem of not having remotes backlite. Why don't more companies give us backlite remotes? My pitch black theater demands it, bet yours does too.

literarymayhem's picture

I have seven total remotes and don't mind. I don't want anyone touching my system anyways so the more difficult it is for anyone else the better. I have no kids and my girlfriend has no interest in learning how to use my system.

I did buy a Harmony One a while back and hated it. I spent hours setting it up correctly, mostly because it never seemed to remember the settings I gave it and it would never work correctly. It would not turn on the right equipment for my different settings. I gave up after a couple of weeks, sent it back and am far happier using the remotes I have.

ca1ore's picture

I have a pretty complex system, with components that have some features that don't seem to lend themsleves to a universal remote. I have tried a number of universals, but always end up reaching for the original remote eventually - so why bother with the universal.

When listening to music, I can get away with a single remote (Meridian MSR+) augmented regularly with my iPad. Watching a movie requires three or four more (bluray, projector and scaler; sometimes anamorphic lens).

ednaz's picture

It seems that the definition of the word "universal" used by remote manufacturers is radically different than the definition of the root word, "universe", by physicists. Our universe would consist of a couple of stars, all of the red giants, and no middling or small stars like the one that we live by.

I recently abandoned my fifth universal remote adventure in frustration. Because I don't own massive market share gear, many of my items aren't on the list of known products, and the "teaching" modes are woefully out of sync with the remotes for my audio and video gear.

Here's my universal universal remote experience. My Pioneer TV, Samsung BlueRay, hunky dory. My cable company converter, not so hunky dory, but at least it works reliably to turn things off and on, and gives me one reliable channel changing mode. Now things get dicey. My Peachtree dac? Five buttons on the remote, total. Zero success. Two of the universal remotes insist on calling it a household appliance, with a picture of a blender (remote controlled blenders????) or microwave attached. My Krell integrated amp? Anthem integrated? Well, "off" and "on" is reliable... and there it ends. My Logitech Transporter? Irony of ironies, neither Logitech universal I've tried can reliably turn it on, and on to the internet radio station we listen to.

In my photo studio, I have a Peachtree iNova, along with NAD tuner/pre (bypassing the pre) and amp. No joy... the universals insist my tuner isn't a tuner (but it does have some tuner functions on the menu... go figure.) I'll allow for the NAD gear being quite old, but then again... what's this programmable idea all about then?

Never mind the subwoofers... because the remote companies seem to nevermind them. And the new AV receiver... well, I gave up on the universals before I got it, and until I see some kind of huge light in the sky and showers of angels singing about a REAL universal remote, I'm staying given up.

mishuk3's picture

All of my components starting with tape deck, vcr, graphic equalizer, laser disc player, cd player, dvd player, blu ray player, PS2 US version, PS2 Slim JAP version, PS3 Original 60GB and the receiver are all from Sony and each of them has its own remote control. Besides that, I have the remote control for Scientic Atlanta Explorer 8300C DVR and for the original Xbox. So that makes the total count to 13! Yes, it is an unlucky number to have so many remotes. But, you know what, I am perfectly happy and I have a big space next to my bed where all the remotes are neatly arranged. Since I am the only one using and controlling my home theater components, I don't see the need for using a universal remote for simplicity or programming macro commands. Personally, I think there is no such thing as universal remote. I still have yet to see a remote that can truly issue any commands found in the original remote from any manufacturer's device or components.

shutyertrap's picture

Here's an example of why I have both my Dish remote and receiver remote (which can be mapped) always out. My Dish remote has skip forward and back clearly labeled, as well as a 'live' TV button. There's the info button, and the guide button, all clearly labeled. Now I can map all these onto my receiver's remote, but the problem is there's no labels. So I tried to map them in a similar location to how they are laid out on the Dish remote, all the while being careful not to map over a button that needs to retain its intended function. Then there's the odd buttons that I use, like screen ratio, that I never remember at all where I've mapped it!

I just now looked at the Harmony One, and while it says it can do everything, looking at the button layout, it looks like I'd be in the exact same situation, either trying to remember where certain buttons are, or having to hit extra buttons to get the screen to show me a function that shoulda been a one button push. Maybe I'm wrong, an actual user could clear that up. But it's those kind of buttons, the skip forward 30 seconds, the dvr menu button, the info button, those things I use everyday that are specific to the Dish remote but barely thought of on a universal remotes layout, those are what keep me having multiple remotes out.

plainretab's picture

My experience with the Logitech Harmony 890 Universal was so bad, I've never tried another. Then the IR emitters went out immediately after the warranty expired. Absolutely, positively the worst gadget I've ever purchased. And one of the few devices I wish I had never seen, touched or heard of.

I just keep a box on the coffee table with all the remotes.

Rob Sabin's picture
The 890, though Harmony's top of the line for quite a while, was really an early attempt at what Logitech eventually did more successfully with the 900 touchscreen model. I installed a great many of those in my install business when I ran it, and they are all still operating today with nary a glitch. When something does go wrong and I get a call, more often than not it's an IR bug that has come loose over time and is no longer properly firing the component. I always swapped out the supplied megablasters with individual IR bugs mounted to the front of each component, though this required splicing them together and splitting them between the receiver's two IR outputs. My only real complaint is that the transmitter in the remote isn't nearly robust enough to honor the 100 foot range spec, and in some situations where there's a lot of 2.4 GHz radio frequency activity in the area (WiFi, cordless phones, nearby commercial establishments, etc) the weakend signal can be a real problem. Think Superman in the vicinity of Kryptonite.

That said, this is by FAR the most sophisticated and elegant touchscreen remote you can buy and program yourself for less than $300. Similar capabilities from one of the custom install brands would run well over $500 with programming if not more.

cbono's picture

I am a HUGE fan of the Sony RV-VL610 (now several years old) and its current replacement the Sony RM-VLZ620. This is simply the best most cost effect learning remote availble. EVERY key is programmable, and there are more than enough to go around and handle every function of a satellite DVR or a blu-ray player. You can program anything you have the original remote for. If you don't have the original remote, the code for it must be among the devices which can be programed by a device code. Up to 8 components can be programmed, but you really can program more if you have to because there will be enough spare keys to share. You can also overwrite any individual key from a pre-programmed device. All this to say - IT'S AS VERSITILE AS CAN BE!!! I've found this remote ideal to handle my high-end audio equipment which noone has codes for. It also has 4 (stand-alone) + 8 (component mode) macros. I use then to switch my Pass pre-amp inputs, control the aspect ratio of my Dish DVR and to enable/disable closed captioning - all otherwise tedious functions within my setup. This is NOT the remote control for you if you have trouble following sometimes cryptic specific directions - otherwise everything works as advertised in the manual. The Sony RMVLZ620 costs less than $20 on Amazon today.

HardBoiled's picture

I think some people are just having a hard time programming the universal remote. Some of them work great, they just need to be set up properly.

AVtheaterguy's picture

So I know that a good universal remote system is a lot of money, but its completely worth it if you want to downsize from the collection of 13 or more remotes (as someone has posted already).

Here's a few tips...

1. If all you want is a UNIVERSAL REMOTE... Then go get yourself a URC brand remote (URC = Universal Remote Contorl)

2. Get one with a color screen that has a 6 button display.

3. Don't get one that YOU can program. If you have a lot of remotes and want to get all the functionality from each device, you will absolutely want a professional certified programmer to copy all of the necessary buttons to either the hard buttons on the remote or the assignable 6 button LCD screen. Most of these remotes will provide multiple PAGES of screens, so if there are more than 6 commands you can just "PAGE OVER" for the next set of 6 commands.

4. Find someone that is a GREAT programmer. Special macro commands, AV gear IR sensitivity, and RF programming with device assignment are all aspects to a fantastic Universal Remote, and for those of you who happen to own fantastic gear, or just have a lot of it, but are not necessarily the most knowledgeable on the equipment will want someone who is a great programmer to make the remote EASY to use, and provide all the functionality you could want.

5. If you want to put the AV gear "behind the wood cabinet", just get an RF base-station and skip the old school IR repeater kit.

6. The more gear you own, the more intense of a command system you will need. Most RF base-stations or IR repeater kits will be able to control between 4-8 devices. Ex. TV, Cable/Sat, BD/DVD, AV Receiver. If you have more devices and demand RF control than you'll need to purchase MULTIPLE RF stations to control the gear. With a URC brand remote you can assign multiple base-stations to control more devices. These base-stations must be the same brand as the remote for them to work with the brand (i'm sure there is probably an exception to that last point but I haven't found a 3rd party unit that will work with branded remotes successfully).

7. Here's a great starting point for a good universal remote system.

URC brand MX-780 remote (6 button color screen remote with AA battery, no Lithium rechargeable) $300 MSRP

URC brand MRF-260 RF base-station (4 device RF controller to send commands to 4 devices) $150 MSRP

URC programming - $250-$300 pretty standard programming fee for an open architecture Universal remote with RF control and a page or two of favorite channels.

If you have more devices and would like a rechargeable battery remote, step up to the URC MX-980 ($600 msrp), and MRF-350 base-station ($250 msrp and 6 device control).

A GOOD universal remote isn't cheap by any means, but they will last for YEARS! I'm now replacing clients universals that were purchased back in 2002-2005 time periods. I personally use an MX-880 (MSRP $500) with a MRF-350 and a MRF-260 RF base-stations to control my system.

Hope this helps people who still believe Harmony's are the way to go. For what its worth, I made the change to URC from Harmony after my Harmony 880 and 890 both died, and my parents Harmony 880 died. I said NEVER again to a Logitech remote.

msardo's picture

I have 10 - 6 that I use often.

He who has the most buttons, wins!