The more complicated your collection of A/V equipment, the more you need a universal learning remote control to corral all the commands. These days, for me, complicated means disparate.
My DVD player is a PlayStation 3 with a Bluetooth remote control. My VUDU box, for on-demand video, is an RF device. My TiVo HD uses an IR remote. Music comes from infrared-based sources: Apple TV, the Tivoli Audio Net Works radio for Internet radio, and a Delphi satellite radio tuner that I don’t have a remote for. My gaggle of remote controls speaks three different languages.
I didn’t realize how much I needed a universal remote until Jim Novak, senior product manager of Universal Remote Control, programmed the new MX-6000 ($2,100 with base station, programming not included) for this review. Using my pickup-sticks method of turning on A/V equipment using various remotes, I never can remember which video source goes into which TV input, and now I don’t have to. When I hit TIVO on the MX-6000 touchscreen, the TV switches to the right input, and the remote’s display shows buttons marked LIVE TV or LIST for recorded shows. If I tap VUDU, the TV switches to that input.
I found I wasn’t listening to XM Radio very much because I had to remember that XM was on the CD input (my receiver doesn’t have assignable inputs, so it’s hard to remember what’s plugged in where). I also had to bend down to the tuner module and press a button to turn it on. Novak found the IR codes for the Delphi tuner in the URC database and programmed them into the MX-6000. Now when I tap the XM logo on the touchscreen, the TV shuts off, the Delphi tuner module turns on to the last channel I was listening to, and the A/V receiver switches to the CD input where the Delphi is plugged in. The same thing with Apple TV. The MX-6000 knows that the Apple is plugged into the DVD input, and it makes the switch automatically when I hit the APPLE TV button.
The MX-6000 didn’t develop this intelligence on its own. It required a trained installer working with a PC program. “Remotes don’t do anything by themselves,” Novak told me as he painstakingly assigned command strings to macro buttons.
Just to get a video command to work correctly, he had to do trial and error commands to determine the number of seconds it takes my TV to boot up before it can accept a command to switch inputs. If the command to switch inputs is issued before the TV is fully on, the command won’t take. And in the case of the Tivoli radio, Novak had to take the credit card remote back to the lab to learn the button presses, particularly the quirky press-and-hold feature of the MENU button.
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