Remote Controls for Less Than $500
After opening the wallet for your home theater, don't skimp on the remote. Here are some "affordable" options.
Best Remote Controls for Less Than $500
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September 12, 2008 by Phil Lozen

With all that in mind, let’s look at some offerings from a couple consumer brands. It’s certainly possible to purchase remotes intended for custom installers and set them up yourself, but for this article we’ll be looking at remotes intended solely for consumer use. Note that all the options below feature learning and macro abilities.

Logitech Harmony (View slide)
The company that popularized the PC-guided remote setup, helping to bring the full-function universal remote into the consumer space. Harmony sells a wide range of remotes, starting at $100 and moving up to $500 for its top of the line, touch screen Harmony 1000.

  • Setup-type – PC-guided wizard.
  • IR/RF signals – Both available, depending on model.
  • Backlighting – Yes.
  • Batteries – Rechargeable and standard available.
  • Featured Remote – The Harmony One, priced at $249, has a full-color touch screen window along with hard buttons and a rechargeable battery. It was awarded Best of Innovations at CES2008 for home theater accessories.

Philips (View slide)
The Prestigo is Philips advanced remote line, currently four models. The Prestigo line, which starts at $80 and tops out at $179, replaces the Pronto line which has moved into the custom install space. They feature a library of channel icons that you can put in the remote’s LCD screens.

  • Setup-type – Pre-programmed wizard walks you through setup without needing codes.
  • IR/RF signals – IR
  • Backlighting – Yes, depending on model.
  • Batteries – Standard.
  • Featured Remote – The Prestigo SRU8015, priced at $179. Features a full-color screen, 400 channel icons and backlighting. Of note is the less feature-rich SRU8010, which was recently listed among CNET’s top universal remotes.

Universal Remote Control (View slide)
The clear winner for most intuitive company name, URC is big in the custom install world but has a robust consumer line as well. Each remote comes with a DVD to help make setup as easy as possible. The consumer line features seven remotes, but home theater buffs are likely to choose one of the three MasterControl models.

  • Setup-type – Three-digit codes.
  • IR/RF signals – Both available, depending on model. All MasterControl series remotes have RF abilities.
  • Backlighting – Yes.
  • Batteries – Standard.
  • Featured Remote – The MasterControl RF30, priced at $149.99. Features a touch screen LCD window along with hard buttons. When paired with the $69.99 PowerBlaster (MRF-100B) RF receiver can send RF signals from up to 100 feet.

Marantz (View slide)
Marantz, known for decades for their audio components, was a pioneer in the programmable touch screen remote field. The company’s line features five remotes (along with an available second zone remote) that starts at $99 and goes all the way up to $1499 for the fully touch screen, Wi-Fi RC9001.

  • Setup-type – PC guided and three-digit codes, depending on model.
  • IR/RF signals – Both available, depending on model.
  • Backlighting – Yes.
  • Batteries – Rechargeable and standard available.
  • Featured Remote – The RC3001, priced at $349.99. This remote includes all the equipment needed for RF use, eliminating the need to buy any add-ons. It uses a PC wizard for setup and features rechargeable batteries and 512kb of memory.

Monster Cable (View slide)
The company known for high-end cables offers a pair of remotes that are powered by a modified version of the Harmony software. The Home Theater Control 100 will run you $299 while the 300 is $499. Both feature a color LCD screen. 

  • Setup-type – PC guided wizard.
  • IR/RF signals – Both available, depending on model.
  • Backlighting – Yes.
  • Batteries – Rechargeable.
  • Featured Remote – The Home Theater Control 300, priced at $499.95. The 300 includes all the equipment needed for RF use and can also control lighting throughout the house. It also features a one-button A/B system switch to control multiple systems.

One other company to keep an eye on is tvCompass with its click365 wireless network. They are the people behind the ESPN Ultimate Remote ($300) that combines a universal remote with wireless Internet.

There are remotes available from other top brands such as Sony, Harman-Kardon and others, so as you can see your options are endless.  Feel free to drop us a comment if you’ve used one of the remotes above, or have a suggestion for one we didn’t mention.

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