While home theater advances like 1080p, HDMI, Blu-ray and 7.1 surround sound continue to make our entertainment experiences richer, they also serve to make them more complicated. If you have to go through eight steps, six remotes and three product manuals to figure out how to turn on your home theater system to watch a movie, then you are a perfect candidate for a universal remote.
• Read more top home theater remote control reviews from URC, RTI, Logitech's Harmony and many others.
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The R50 by Universal Remote Control is an advanced controller designed for the DIY-class of home theater enthusiasts (a professional version is also available through installers). It's a wand-style remote, with a small LCD screen that changes depending on the mode or device the user is in. The screen is not a touch-screen, but for about $150, users shouldn't expect a touch screen. The R50's main appeal is that is offers control of a huge number of devices (18 in total) and can be programmed pretty easily by most home users, all without hooking up to a computer.
Over the past few years, Harmony, now owned by Logitech, has ruled the advanced remote market. That market, interestingly enough, was nearly created by Philips when it first introduced the Pronto in the late 90s Universal Remote Control hopes to take some of the spotlight away from the PC-programmed Harmony line and the still limping Prontos with the easy-to-use R50.
Most remotes that don't rely on PC software require you to enter numerical codes for each device you want the remote to operate. The R50 doesn't work like that. Codes for thousands of audio and video components come built into the remote. You simply follow the prompts on the unit's LCD screen to select brand and type (ex: Denon, DVD player) of the target component. The R50 will then locate a selection of codes from it's library. After testing a few buttons you can either accept the codes or reject them and try for the next code that works. Repeat the process for each additional device. The R50 can also learn commands from another remote in the rare case that that's necessary.
You can stop there and just control each individual device by pressing the corresponding button (the LCD screen will then change to the device selected) or your can go on to more advanced programming. A cut-and-paste feature allows you to make sure certain commands (such as volume) will function no matter what device mode you're in. More advanced macros (commands that activate multiple functions at once) can also be created, so if you want to press one button to turn on your LCD TV, receiver and Blu-ray player all at the same time while switching everything to the correct inputs, just plan on setting aside a lot more trial-and-error time to get the macros right.
Read The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion on Page 2