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How to Find the Perfect Universal Remote Control

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As stubborn as it was, winter is finally over. For a while there it seemed as if the cold weather wasn’t quite ready to bid its farewell, but literally like clockwork, along comes spring and, with it, our desire to tidy things up a bit. As we let more sunlight into homes and bask in the delight of warmer weather, it’s only natural that we look around and begin to visualize a neater and more organized way of life, at least for the next few months. Sure, you could put a fresh coat of paint on your walls, pack away your winter clothes, or build a new shelf for your hats, but where’s the fun it that? Let’s start with something a little easier; you don’t have to look beyond your coffee table to find an opportunity to spruce up the joint. You can begin your spring cleaning with those multiple remote controls many of us have lying around, eating up valuable potato-chip real estate. With their many shapes, sizes, and battery requirements, perhaps this opportunity is overdue. Thankfully, it’s also easy to execute.

When it comes to home entertainment, the remote control is often a forgotten accessory. Rather than just another add-on, I believe a legitimate argument can be made that having a competent remote control is essential to your enjoyment. Obvious advantages aside for a minute, some universal remotes offer features not found on many of the standard remotes that come with your A/V gear, features such as backlit keys, learning capabilities, and computer connectivity. Even if none of these features appeal to you, there’s no denying the convenience of turning multiple remote controls into one. Furthermore, you don’t need a rack full of A/V gear to enjoy the full potential of a universal remote; even cord-cutters who take a minimalist approach can now ditch their separate TV, streaming device, and stereo remote in favor of a single, streamlined device. Even better, remote controls are easier to program and operate than people think—with a little patience and the push of a few buttons; you will be well on your well to simplifying your home-entertainment experience.

A simple approach

If you have just a few components and remote control consolidation is your main concern, Sony offers a couple of options that can get the job done with little fuss. The Sony RMVZ220 and RMVZ320 infrared remotes can control four and seven components, respectively, and are a great solution for those looking for function and simplicity. If you’re a Chromecast user or if you have a streaming device that allows you to share media using a computer, smartphone, or tablet, these remotes can act as companions for controlling your other components, such as a cable box and optical disc player.

While Sony is a home entertainment power player that offers a plethora of its own A/V equipment, these universal remote controls support a wide library of preprogrammed codes that allow them to support most major equipment brands. With up to a year of battery life, you won’t have to worry about keeping backstop. And when it’s time to switch batteries, a three-minute memory battery backup allows you to do so without losing your settings. Some remotes may offer more features, but these remotes from Sony allow you to enjoy easy operation and a simple design at friendly prices.

Simple but sophisticated

When it comes to features, Harmony’s 650 remote control offers a bevy of them. In addition to supporting thousands of brands, this universal remote is equipped with glow-in-the-dark buttons, a 1.5" color display, and USB connectivity. The 650 can control up to eight devices and it is equipped with one-click activity buttons that allows it to execute a series of programmed commands automatically, often referred to in the remote-control world as macros. Simply pressing the “Watch a Movie” button makes the remote power-on the correct components and even tunes them to their correct inputs. Similarly, pressing the “All Off” button when you’re finished will completely power-off your system. It’s as simple as that; there’s even a Help button to help the remote get back on track if needed.

If wielding this kind of power sounds intimidating, don’t be alarmed—the 650 simply connects to a PC or Mac via its USB interface while its free downloadable software allows you to customize the remote’s screens and button commands easily; a USB cable is included. It can even learn commands from your existing remote controls, allowing your factory remotes to take an extended hibernation. Like the previously mentioned Sony remotes, the 650 features IR communication, which requires a clear line of sight with your components.  

A high-end solution

If the 650 wasn’t impressive enough, Harmony’s high-end Elite universal remote control is a powerful crowd pleaser that’s ready for even the most demanding A/V systems. With the ability to control up to 15 components, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a device this remote doesn’t support. Like the 650, the Elite offers robust activity control via one-click buttons, but ups the ante by allowing you to see the current operating state of each device. The color screen on this model is a reader-friendly 2.4" and it offers the advantage of touchscreen operation. This remote control even allows you to use motion gestures to perform basic functions such as controlling the volume, fast-forward, rewind, and changing channels—now that’s what we call intuitive.

Additionally, with the free Harmony Elite companion app, you can use your Android or iOS smart device to set up your remote or function as a secondary remote control. While the other remotes we’ve mentioned in this article rely solely on IR communication, the included Harmony Hub allows the Elite to control devices in cabinets and behind doors, thanks to its ability to send Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals.  The Elite doesn’t stop there, however—you can even use it to control Philips Hue, Insteon-connected, and other home automation devices. Have an Xbox One or PS4? No worries, the Elite can control those, too. The battery in the Elite is rechargeable, allowing it to be ready to go when you need it.

Saying goodbye to clutter

Winter will be here again before you know it, but there’s no need to welcome it back with the clutter of seasons past. Whether you’re looking for something simple, sophisticated, or high end, there’s a universal remote control that can accommodate your needs without frustrating you in the process. Sure, you can keep your multiple remotes, technically there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but why should you? If expense is a concern, many remote controls are as affordable as they are convenient. If you’re concerned about a learning curve, remotes like the aforementioned Harmony models allow you to have the customized experience to which we have grown accustomed, thanks to the other smart devices in our lives. Frankly, there’s no good excuse not to make the remote control upgrade that you and your system deserve, and at B&H we offer a variety of options for controlling your A/V gear. If you need help deciding which device is right for you, contact us. We’re here to help you and that coffee table of yours. Now you can do something else with all that extra space—a VR headset perhaps?

5 Comments

Don't forget the ANYMOTE configurable universal remote for Android phones & tablets. If your device has one, it uses the IR blaster, but an even better feature is their hardware PUCK that sits in front of your geat and gets all the remote events from your phone via WiFi, so you can be anywhere in the house. It's also being constantly improved (they're up to about 900,000 codes so far, and new customizability, macros, etc.).

I'm not connected with Anymote in any way, but I really like using my phone (or tab) as a universal remote. 

Thanks for the suggestion, Allen! That's a great idea for IR-equipped smartphones and tablets. 

This article seems to promote old products, that have been discontinued by the manufacturer. So, designed to sell old stock versus help customers get a current solution that will serve well in years to come. Thanks a lot - not. Used to getting better from B&H.

Logitech harmony 1000?

Unfortunately, the Harmony/Logitech H-1000 Advanced Universal Remote Control has been discontinued by the manufacturer, and B&H has since sold out of all stock.  The Harmony/Logitech Harmony Elite Universal Remote System would be the most similar option to that remote.

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