By now we are all probably familiar with what a 'Universal Remote' is, and have a general idea of its purpose, right? If you are still unfamiliar with the term, the idea is to have one remote that controls several A/V devices.
Universal remotes are great because they alleviate the frustration of having:
1 remote for the TV
1 remote for the cable box
1 for the receiver/sound system
so on an so forth.
But did you know that there are several different options on the market, each with similar but different features?
Today we are not focusing on full home automation remotes, but rather single room solutions that would control the standard TV, Sound System, Cable Box, Blu-Ray/DVD Players, Gaming Consoles & Media Streaming Devices like; AppleTV, Amazon Fire Stick or a Roku. We are discussing how some universal remotes are similar, and how others are different in the design, and controlling aspects.
Your typical Universal Remote probably looked something similar to this.
Typically seen at Walmart and Radio Shack. It looks very similar to your cable providers remote control, and works via IR (InfraRed) which means you teach the remote the commands, and when your ready to use it you point the remote directly at the electronics to start them up. Now for as basic as this seems it was actually the building blocks for today's newer universal remotes. This remote could control 7 devices which fulfilled the key purpose of reducing several remotes down to 1 easy to use remote. But if your looking for something more, there are plenty of options available.
Traditional Hard Number Buttons:
While we are starting to see the disappearance of the traditional 0 - 9 hard buttons on universal remotes there still can be a desire to have them when choosing a remote. It's the familiarity from previous remotes that keeps us coming back, but if you never grew up with hard buttons, it might not be that big of a deal. Who else use to memorize the channel numbers? Newer remotes can free up that brain space by adding touch screens with the channel icons, when pressed, dial in that channel for you.
Touch Screens: Companies like Logitech have been making universal remotes for decades, and some of them do feature a touch screen like the Harmony 650, 665, the Harmony Elite & the Harmony Pro. What's great about this is, you get your favorite channel icons to quickly navigate you to your desired channel without having to type in the numbers.
Some remotes like the new Sevenhugs Smart Remote are completely a touch screen and allow you to control multiple devices on this futuristic style remote control.
Touch screens are becoming quite popular, but can have draw backs due to smaller wording & icons, and if you happen to have larger fingers, pressing multiple commands can and has been seen to be an issue.
With the emergence of voice assistance we are now seeing it become a standard for universal remotes. Depending on where you are, cable service providers like Comcast XFinity have added this feature to their standard provided remotes. Now Comcast's remotes do have limitations when controlling other 3rd party devices, and if your looking for a remote with voice control that can also control your other media devices perhaps you should look at one of the newest players on the market Caavo. Without diving into all Caavo's features the point we want to highlight is they do offer the voice control feature in their universal remote. To learn more about this system The Verge, recently did a full review of the Caavo remote which you can read here.
Quick Action Buttons:
TV manufactures, cable service providers & media streaming devices like Roku have started adding quick action buttons on their remotes that will launch streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime etc. quick and easily. Other remotes like the Harmony we mentioned above give you the ability to create activities to launch these apps.
Mobile App Control:
Today we are even starting to see the the disappearance of the hand handle remote entirely. Some users are gravitating to controlling their A/V entertainment systems from their cellphone or tablet. Manufactures like Simple Control, are completely mobile app based & didn't even bother creating a hand held remote. This type of system can have its benefits & draw backs
IR (InfraRed), RF (RadioFrequency) & IP (Internet Protocol) Control.
Finally, another key important thing to consider is how the remote is controlled. If you go with an IR remote then you will want to ensure that your electronic devices are visible so when you press your desired command, the devices activate. If your devices are stored away in a cabinet and out of sight not to worry, some of these IR remotes also have a central brain or hub that can have IR emitters that stick to each device's IR sensor location. This is similar to how the Harmony and other platforms control devices.
Other remotes use RF to control devices, which is great because you don't have to worry about emitters or devices in cabinets. The draw back is frequencies could possibly bleed over from a neighbors system, inadvertently controlling your system. Also, there is not a lot of 3rd party devices that can be controlled via RF any more.
IP control is great because it uses the internet & sends commands through the network to the devices. However this way of set-up does take a more tech savvy installer to perform & while it is a rising control protocol, not all devices utilize this technology yet.
In closing, depending on the design & features there is a universal remote that should fulfill most of your desired needs. As you can there isn't a one size fits all for universal remotes & it comes down to what is best suited for your application.
At Digital Delight we have been installers of several remotes throughout our 20 years. We have experience working with systems like; URC, ELAN, RTI & more... Today majority of our systems are design with the Logitech Harmony platform. To learn more about this system check out our detected Smart Home Control page, and check out this video of one of our clients systems utilizing the Harmony Pro remote.
Before you go please take our quick customer survey & let us know what features matter most to you in a universal remote control.
As always should you have questions or need assistance before you buy please don't hesitate to reach out to us directly. https://www.digitaldelight.com/contact
Thanks for reading & take care.