When it comes to remotes, the adage “The more, the merrier” does not apply. Whether it’s the World Series or the series finale of The Sopranos at stake, no one wants to fumble through a bunch of electronic devices just to change the channel. Today’s universal remotes can operate all of your audio/video equipment and often more. From installation to control, many of the models are so easy that even your kids can do it. If you can wrap your mind around a few simple specs, you will soon wrap your hands around your perfect controller.
The first spec to check is the remote’s memory. If you plan to program a lot of activities, or “macros,” which allow you to dim the lights, flip on the TV, and fire up the DVD player with one button, you’d better choose a remote that can store those settings and more. And note that any preprogrammed codes that come with the remote will demand some of that space as well.
Preprogrammed remotes come with thousands of codes built into the unit’s memory. With just a few punches, your remote could be up and running. If you want it to do something extra special and can’t work those magic fingers to make it happen, don’t worry. Many of today’s handhelds hook up to your computer, making programming as easy as a few clicks of the mouse.
The question of whether to go infrared (IR) or radio frequency (RF) could make your head spin. To make it a little easier, know that almost every type of remote supports infrared technology. IR has a shorter range, mainly because it requires line of sight—meaning you have to point the remote at the equipment if you expect anything to actually happen.
RF allows you to be on the porch, in the kitchen or lying in bed but still have control over your equipment. This technology works through walls and other obstacles.
Whether you choose IR or RF, you might see that the device is “two-way.” This means that while your remote is zapping out commands, your system is actually sending info back to the remote as well. This could be anything from song and movie details to someday providing web links to direct you to more information about your entertainment content.
Also consider how you want to use the remote. Most remotes still come with the hard buttons that you know and love. Some include one button to turn every piece of equipment on or off or one that handles your TiVo system. Also, many manufacturers have thrown in the “wow” of a touchscreen. Aside from smudgy fingerprints, a touchscreen can display graphics with channel logos, program info and more.
The universal remote is one of the most important pieces of equipment you own. Can you imagine having to get up every time you needed to change the channel? Perish the thought!
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Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.