Remote Possibilities Page 3

The major advantage of using a learning remote is that, since you have to program each button yourself, you know where everything is on the remote. An even bigger advantage of using a learning remote is that it won't become obsolete as quickly as some universal remotes. It works with all new gear because it doesn't use predetermined codes like a universal remote does—instead, it just interprets the IR codes that a source remote puts out and adopts them.

Touchpanel Remotes and Intelligent Control Systems
A touchpanel remote, which most home theater aficionados lust after, is basically a glorified learning remote. The advantage is that, because you're using a touchscreen display on the remote, you don't have physical buttons to deal with and therefore aren't restricted by much more than your imagination. You can program the buttons onscreen to look and do as you desire. You can even program a different screen for each piece of gear, with certain controls (like a receiver's volume up or mute) appearing on each menu. There are also touchpanels that fall in between the traditional learning and universal remotes. These come with some predesigned screens but can also be customized. Touchpanels usually offer more function controls, more macros, and more features. They also come with fancy LED screens that are inherently backlit.

Some touchpanel systems go a step further and include "intelligent" control systems. The two main companies in this category are AMX and Crestron, although Lexicon and Niles both have interesting additions to this product line. For starters, when learning IR codes, control systems are a cinch because, quite simply, their IR learners are more expensive and more elaborate. They can read and understand a greater variety of IR codes, regardless of the code's frequency, duration, and type. Control systems are rarely tripped up.

Second, even though control systems use the more-robust RF-transmission system, they still offer more control over various types of gear. A Crestron touchpanel, for example, can communicate with IR-controlled devices and generic electric relays, such as drapes, lift motors, and even RS-232-controlled products. This latter control type allows you to directly access any number of commands within a product and can usually offer better control than those functions found on a remote.

One of the biggest advantages of a control system is its intelligence. Smart remotes can be set up to know the state of a product, such as whether or not a device is on or off or has been switched to a particular input. If all you want to do is play a DVD, the typical remote macro just starts spewing out commands, whether they're helpful or not. Sending the DVD player an on/off command when the DVD player is already on may turn it off. A control system can not only figure out if the DVD player is on, but it can decide if it needs to send the command at all. The degree of flexibility with a control system is much greater than with other types of remotes, and the likelihood that a certain command will perform the desired result is very high.

So, whether you want to get as sophisticated as the Crestron touchpanel or keep it simple with a universal or middle-of-the-line learning model, there are many possibilities to consider when buying a remote. Price versus the number of components the remote can control, universal or learning, ease of use, and macro capabilities are all dictated by your own personal comfort and taste. What works best for you is what's most important, and each type of remote has its own merits and demerits. So don't start naming all of your miscellaneous remotes after your in-laws or telling the neighbors how the septuplets on your coffee table are doing just yet—this will only lead to blank stares and perhaps a few calls from a social worker. Get a remote that works for you and alleviate the emotional turmoil of too many remotes.

(317) 267-5000
Dealer Locator Code THM

ST-1550C $1,500
Crestron Electronics
(800) 237-2041
Dealer Locator Code CRE

Zenith Remotes $20 and up
Zenith Electronics
(847) 391-7000
Dealer Locator Code ZEN

RM-AV2000 $180
Sony Electronics
(800) 222-SONY
Dealer Locator Code SNY

SC-590 $28
(800) 732-6866
Dealer Locator Code REC

SL-8000 $79
Universal Remote Control
(800) 901-0800
Dealer Locator Code UNI