THESE DAYS remote controls can power every-thing from your TV, VCR and DVD player to your fireplace, lights and air conditioning. But with all those remotes clogging your coffee table, the problem of picking the correct one and fumbling with the buttons is enough to make the most determined couch potato cringe.
The answer is a universal remote control, the best of which can consolidate a legion of remotes into a single unit. Most models come preprogrammed with codes for virtually every brand of equipment. “Learning” remotes let you customize the setup and create extra buttons by punching in codes—a sometimes tedious task. Non-learning remotes are a cinch to program because you stick with the codes that are already set, but you risk having some buttons that won’t operate as you’d like.
Products such as the Philips Pronto (list price, $399) and Marantz RC5000 ($500) even eliminate the buttons: You just touch a screen to select the device you want to control. Only the options for that particular piece of equipment will appear on the screen. (Both are learning remotes.)
Universal Remote Control’s Home Theater Master SL-9000 ($129) has bright button illumination perfect for your darkened home theater. You can choose from more than 1,000 pre-programmed codes, or it can be taught up to 376 functions.
Depending on your equipment and interest in gadgets, an expensive model may not be worth it. Computer consultant Rob Crowe used a variety of remotes, including the Pronto, before settling on the 6-in-1 Smart A/V Remote ($40 at Radio Shack) because of its functional, no-frills design. He admits that the control has limited programming memory (even though it’s considered a learning remote), but it operates six pieces of equipment, including a DVD player and home-automation system. If you do choose to go with a high-end learning model, be sure to check out Web sites such as RemoteCentral.com, which have message boards where consumers trade advice and even codes. You’ll save by shopping via discount Web sites such as Home Theater World and Etronixs.com, whose customer-service representatives will help you pick a remote compatible with your equipment (call 219- 477-2572). Finally, don’t forget the other members of your family, especiaially the kids and the elderly, when selecting the perfect control. For example, touch screens with small buttons may be too complex for children and hard to read in dim light.
K Reporter: COURTNEY McGRATH
Taken from the January 2001 issue of Kiplinger's magazine.
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