Universal Remotes: Some Things to Consider

Universal Remotes: Some Things to Consider

We probably all have about 8 “universal” remotes these days. Every new component you buy comes w/ one, but none of them are really “universal” because there’s always some feature on one device that the other remotes don’t have a button for. But wdn’t it be nice to really be able to use one remote for all your devices? I do!

There are so many different universals on the market these days that it’s impossible to go over them all here. So I’ll hit the high points and let you decide. I’ll pick a few popular types/models and go over a few points that helped me decided for or against them.

One thing you need to understand is what a ‘learning’ remote is. That means that you can set the remote to learn other remotes’ signals: you set it to be ready, aim another remote at it, press a button on that remote and the learning remote stores that signal.

Now whatever button you set up on the learning remote sends that same signal. This way even if your universal remote doesn’t have a ‘Eject’ button, it can send that signal.

All of the remotes listed here are learning b/c that’s the only way to be truly universal.

Most universal remotes these days also allow you to run macros. That way when you want to watch a movie, w/ just a couple button clicks, you can have it turn the TV on, the stereo to DVD player, etc.

Also, the usually have timers so you can turn the TV on and off while you’re out of town for example.

Big LCD: Sony RM-AV3000

This remote was the ‘big boy’ on the block for a long time. It does it all and looks cool doing it. The two main draw backs to this model are size and buttons.

Because it’s so big, it’s hard to use w/ one hand – you can’t reach across the remote to press some buttons or parts of the LCD. Next time you’re watching TV, see how often you just use one hand on the remote and think about giving that up.

This model used to be pretty expensive, but it’s getting better.

Internet: Harmony SST-659

I haven’t actually tried this one, but I get the idea and I like it. You can program this remote to work w/ your devices and upload the configuration. That way others can use it. More directly, you can use other peoples’ configurations!

The point of this one is ease of use so I’m assuming it wd be relatively straight forward to hook it up and program it. Maybe a little intimidating, but I bet most people cd do it and it wd be worth it.

I’d say the main drawback here is price. Once it’s setup, you probably wdn’t need to go online w/ it again for months (until you bought a new component to control) so the hassle is limited.

Finally, setting up any universal remote is going to involve some learning and this one is probably worth it as much or more than the others if you’re willing to spend the money.

Basic: Sony RM-VL1000

This is the remote I have and I love it. It’s learning so it’s really universal. It’s the right size, weight and shape for either hand. It’s got all the normal buttons w/o being too crowded, but also 4 buttons beside the LCD. You can program these buttons to be whatever you want and lable them what you want too. You can scroll through 3 “screens” for these buttons so each component can actually have 12 buttons programmed in the LCD buttons.

It’s preprogrammed w/ most common components and those settings use the LCD buttons when necessary, but you can change any buttons programming as you wish.

It can control up to 12 components which is plenty for most people, but you can have the volume set to always control the same device. I have my volume buttons always control the stereo even if the rest of the buttons are working the TiVo. Similarly, I have my power button set for my TV even when I’m working the TiVo.

It has a built in ‘power off’ macro that turns all Sony components off. You can define the rest of the macros yourself and even run them on a timer (I have it set my TiVo to standby every night).

It’s a bit of a pain to setup, but once it’s done you’re set and it’s so worth it.

And it’s so cheap!


Take all things into consideration when shopping for a universal remote: is it learning, macros, timer, size, shape, weight, cost, buttons, setup, etc. What’s important to you?