Universal Electronics One for All Kameleon Remote Reviewed

Universal Electronics One for All Kameleon Remote Reviewed

As cool as flat screens are, remotes still look like remotes. But not the Kameleon. It's nearly flat, and features a cool button design that's a cross between a touchscreen and hard buttons. As cool as it looks, it has features to back it up for a modern home theater system.

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I currently have eight remotes, laid out side by side: one for my Mitsubishi 48" HD widescreen rear projection TV, one for my Polk audio system, and still others for my high-def cable box, ReplayTV, VCR, XM satellite radio and HDTV settop box. My girlfriend is horrified at the clutter. To her, all those remotes are confusing and messy. Lately, I'm beginning to think she might be right. No one can work my system but me, so it might be true--maybe, just maybe, there is a better solution...

Additional Resources
• Read more remotes and system control reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver to program into the Kameleon.

In the past I've had issues with universal remotes: difficult setup, narrow RF beams, incomplete functionality, macro functions that don't time correctly and, of course, the cardinal sin of all--lengthy difficult menus that take way too many steps to complete a command. I usually wind up scurrying back to my original remotes. So it's always been a question of which is the lesser of two evils? To find out, it's once more into the breach, with the One For All Kameleon 8 Home Theater Remote from Universal Electronics.

Unique features
The Kameleon 8 uses a display technology that illuminates only the active function device keys. By doing that, it effectively hides the inactive keys. Universal names that function Intelligent Illumination. It ships from the factory at a mid-level brightness setting, but is adjustable. Furthermore, the Kameleon 8 has a feature called Mode Animation. The menu animates the device to which the remote is set. Another name the Kameleon uses is Activity Animation which shows which commands are being sent or if the remote is in the programming mode. That brings us to Code Verification, which basically is a blink back signal to verify your preset codes. Home Theater is a label dedicated to controlling all equipment that is in the home theater realm. This works to allow you streamline access to home theater devices without changing equipment modes. It gives you all the equipment on one screen with less buttons to hit. Another nice feature, but unverifiable at this time, is the Kameleon's "futureproof' claim: upgradeabilty--so that you can upgrade the remote with new codes for new equipment that come into the marketplace. This upgrade can be done on the phone with customer service. You hold the remote up to the phone and it gets the new code. Your remote talks to customer service! Favorite Channel Scan lets you pre-program your favorite channels, and avoid the ones you don't want to see.

Macros? Of course they have macros! Macros send multiple commands with the touch of one button. The Kameleon comes with four macro settings: M1 through M4. The power button can be used as an on/off macro, effectively adding a fifth power macro to the list of features.

The Kameleon also supports Picture-in-Picture (PIP) in all televisions, cable boxes, or any product that features PIP. One of my favorite features is Mode Reassignment, allowing you to replace the remote function of one piece of equipment with another (like a second television). Key Mover lets you move key function for one device screen to another, creating custom device screens.

In all, the Kameleon 8 has a total of 58 keys and 17 different screens. Incorporated into the remote are 291 unique setup codes covering 300 brands.

Installation /Setup/Ease of Use
The instruction booklet is easy to understand. It has helpful boxes to write in personal device codes. I started by going to the back of the manual, finding the codes and then programming them. (Later, I found out that I could get those codes by calling customer service.) I was happy that every device I have was listed, except my Sony XMSR receiver.

While programming, I discovered that hitting the power button is the final step in evaluating if the code I entered is correct. Shutting the device off confirms the correct code. Being a wise guy, I tried to turn the device back on. This didn't work, and I wasted time reprogramming to find better codes. After chasing my tail for an hour I realized I was on a fool's errand. When you totally exit the setup process, the remote will do all the functions for you.

Continue reading about the One for All Kameleon on Page 2.

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Setup went fast and, in no time, I had everything programmed (except the XMSR). So, on to the test drive. I turned on the Rotel DVD/DVD Audio/CD player. It functioned pretty well, but the remote wouldn't open or close the tray and I couldn't fast forward the disc. For the Polk home theater receiver, I could only control on/off and volume. When I went back to the setup menu and tried different codes, I discovered that none were any better than the original code I was using.

Being highly intelligent, I tried setting the codes for a Marantz system for the Polk but, alas, some of the codes were the same and showed no difference. Then I tried the code search function. It worked well but, in the end, no improvement. Hey! Call customer service, I thought to myself. Let's see what the wait time is, and how well they help me. I get a recording stating the customer service is only open 9am-5:30pm, Eastern Standard Time. Hmm, I'm not a happy camper. Does Universal think I should take off work to talk to customer service? After all, I would need to be in my home theater environment. I don't think so.

I have to move on. After all, Senor Clint has me on a deadline. I programmed the Mitsubishi HDTV, covering most everything but the formats (stretch, zoom, etc.).

At that point, I was frustrated that the remote worked, but didn't provide the depth of functionality that my original remotes have. Me thinks, okay, that is why I keep eight remotes on the table. Then, I went further and started playing with the learning remote functions, and I had a news flash. I thought to myself, "Let's try to teach the Kameleon the Polk Audio unit's functions." I took the two remotes and I started to program functions like menu choices (CD, cable, digital cable, etc.) And voila! It worked! After that, I continued to program every device/remote I have and all the "missing" functions. Then I used AUX and programmed in the XMSR. Next, I programmed the macros. This procedure went well, and I now can turn off the Polk, Mitsubishi TV and DVD player with one button. Turns on, too!

Final Take
The Kameleon 8 is a second generation of the Kameleon ilk. Universal Electronics made some very nice improvements. First, I found the 8 to have a very wide field of fire. Laying the remote flat on the now uncluttered coffee table, the Kameleon was easily able to control every device I have; even when the line of sight was blocked or it wasn't pointing directly at the device in question. The Kameleon 8 accomplishes this by using a wide range IR blaster, using both high and low frequencies. This is unheard-of in a remote at this price point.

The remote is well designed and has a nice touch. It is 8-inches long with a slim profile, and feels nice in the palm of my hand. It also has a memory and won't lose your codes when you change the batteries.

When the Kameleon is laying unused the display lights are off, saving batteries. When you pick up the Kameleon 8 it wakes right up and is ready for commands. The animated icon tells you which functions are ready. I like the Kameleon 8 a lot; its intuitive design and key function make sense and work well. It has successfully replaced my eight original remotes, much to my girlfriend's appreciation.

There are good remotes and bad remotes in every price range. The Kameleon 8 doesn't do everything and should not be confused with a good $599 universal remote, but it is a very good remote even at twice the price, making it a great value at $99.

Additional Resources
• Read more remotes and system control reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver to program into the Kameleon.

Kameleon 8 Universal Learning Remote
2,000 bytes built-in programmable memory
for permanent retention
Macros, key mover, favorite channel scan,
upgraded codes, code setup, mode
re-assignment and volume lock
32,000 bytes ROM
to store operating software
and
pre-programmed IR code data
Weight:160 grams w/o batteries
(200 grams w/batteries)
MSRP: $99

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