Nov 102006

I have eight components in my living room that are remotely controlled. So, a universal remote is in order. I want a highly customizable unit–either learning, programmable for specific models, or both–because the punch-in-the-brand-code routine of the preprogrammed ones is never perfect, and I insist on perfect for this.

I had a Xantech learning unit that worked well, but the construction was rather poor. It felt like a really well-done high school project. I sent that one back.

Then I had a Carver remote that was functionally nice, but it had about 60 identically sized buttons on it just laid out in rows, and it wasn’t backlit. Sold that one on eBay after a year for $1 more than I paid for it.

Then I tried the Marantz RC2000 MkII, aka the Star Trek remote. While it looks really cool sitting on the coffee table, it’s not much fun to use. It’s weighted and sized poorly to use with one hand, and the IR is pretty weak. On the plus side, it’s built like a tank. I still have that one, mostly because it’s worn enough (the “marantz” on the front is about rubbed off, stuff like that) that it wouldn’t bring much on the ‘bay. And since it keeps its programming, it’s nice for a stand-in if something happens to the primary (read on).

The one I found and stayed enamored with for years was the Home Theater Master MX-700 (pictured). It is ergonomically marvelous, and is easily programmed by computer (cable included). Unfortunately, mine fell onto the kitchen floor from about five feet this week and died. Mind, it had already absorbed several minor to moderate impacts over the years, so I’m not impugning its construction here.

I researched a replacement for it and decided I’d just get another MX-700. It’s what I want functionally, and it’s a pleasure to use. It’ll be here Monday. I’ll plug it into the computer and suck the file from the dead unit to it, and it’ll be over with. Sweet.

If you need a universal remote control, check out Remote Central. It’s a great place to read comprehensive reviews, and if you’ve never poked around to see what’s available, you’ll probably be surprised at the variety. It goes way beyond what you see at Best Buy and Wal-Mart. No connection to the site other than being a satisfied user.

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  4 Responses to “A good clicker”

  1. A man after my own heart. I had a crappy universal remote for a few years that I gave up on after I got my first Tivo. I love the Tivo remote’s “wishbone” shape. Fits perfectly in the hand, and all of the buttons are well-placed. Since I listen to music now by streaming it from my PC to my Tivo series 2, the only time I ever need to switch modes on my receiver is when I’m watching a DVD. But if I were to get a universal remote right now, I’d go for a Harmony H680. Same wishbone shape as the Tivo remote and easy to program. The Harmony 880 has a color screen, but I don’t relish the thought of having to remember to put it in the recharge cradle. It’s bad enough having to recharge my wireless laser mouse every few days.

  2. There were a couple of Harmony ‘motes that I liked, but the thought of unwrapping that MX-700, plugging it into my computer, pushing a button, and being done finally made me pull the trigger. Plus, it’s down to $143 delivered now. I think I paid $200 for my first one.

    I will say I haven’t been the least bit tempted to get one of those thousand-dollar color touch-screen things.

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