Universal Remote URC-300 Customizer and MRF-100 Expander Reviewed

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This quick review was delayed a few times, but that was somewhat intentional. It's no secret that movie studios like to delay the release of certain films on DVD so that they can coincide with a film's anniversary. I thought it fitting to mark my two-year anniversary with ETC. Magazines with a remote control review, since my first review was Universal's MX-500 back in 2002. So here I am, two years older, arguably wiser, and faced once again with a full-featured remote from Universal Remote Control. If you're ready to torch that pile of remotes and you're looking for control without barriers, the Customizer and Expander may be just what the doctor ordered.

Additional Resources
• Read more remotes and system control reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver to program into the URC-300.

Unique Features 
If there's one thing common to most remote controls, it's the inability to see through walls, the couch and the family dog. Elaborate aiming measures must often be taken before a successful register of the infrared signal. This is because most remotes only emit infrared (IR) commands, and line-of-sight to the component is critical. The Customizer emits both infrared and radio (RF) signals. When you add the Expander radio receiver, the RF commands are converted to infrared and self-adhesive "flashers" are affixed to the front panels of
your gear to receive the IR commands.

Also noteworthy on the Customizer is its use of a touch-screen display instead of hard buttons on the top half of the remote. I'm a little mixed on this subject; if I wanted a touch screen, I'd buy a Pronto. That said, the Customizer's screen worked well and sensitivity was good.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The URC line of remotes from Universal is marketed as their "consumer" line, while the MX series is considered "custom/professional." There is a tremendous amount of overlap in functionality, and advanced users shouldn't feel embarrassed for considering the consumer-friendly Customizer. As far as I can tell, the biggest difference between the URC and MX series is the packaging. The URC-300 Customizer comes with a handy setup and tutorial on DVD, in addition to a well-written and lengthy user manual.

Read more about the URC-300 on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for Universal Remote URC-300 Customizer and MRF-100 Expander

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

3.5

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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Using the manual, establishing the correct codes for my gear was a straightforward and relatively painless process. My Philips DirecTV/TiVo receiver took a few attempts, but one supplied code finally worked. It was nice to see that the Customizer has separate code tables for DVD players, laser disc players, DVRs, and cable boxes. Code gaps are no problem as the Customizer is also a learning remote.

The Expander was a snap to set up, and only required connection to an AC outlet and my equipment, using the included IR flashers. The Expander's RF range is rated at 50-100 feet, more than sufficient in my home. I was able to successfully use the Customizer from the upstairs bedrooms with the Expander in the basement theater. Larger homes may present a problem, but for most users this range is fine.

Final Take
Although the dual IR/RF control is handy, the Customizer will only earn a place on my table if its ergonomics are up to snuff. After all, the goal with a universal is to do away with your other remotes, so the last thing you want is the sense of missing your old remote(s). The Customizer is well-designed, another winner in the Universal stable of controllers. Channel and volume controls are exactly where they should be and the most important buttons for DVD fiends (play, pause, etc.) are well arranged.

The hard buttons on the Customizer are smooth and well-rounded. I found them a bit stiff, but I expect this decreases over time. The buttons and touch-screen display are backlit, but again the side-mounted light button was stiff and a tad sticky. The well-sculpted directional cursor pad in the center of the remote has a good feel. It's easy to use in the dark, with accurate on-screen response using DVD menus.

At a total price of $275, the Customizer and Expander is a solid, simple to use and easy to program combination. With full macro capabilities, plenty of preprogrammed codes and dual IR/RF control, the Customizer is a good choice for anyone looking to master their electronic domain. I'd like to see cushier buttons next time around, but other than that, the Customizer gave me very little to complain about.

Additional Resources
• Read more remotes and system control reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver to program into the URC-300.


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