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So you can buy the best universal remote control

In 2017, many households now have a television, receiver or sound bar, blu-ray player and TV decoder. And often there are also a game console and media streamer available. Do you control them all with separate remote controls? Perhaps that is not necessary at all. This way you can buy the best universal remote control.

With all those media devices in the living room, four to five remote controls swing around easily. A big disadvantage, because you can easily lose them or you just get the wrong if you want to zap them. In addition, of course you prefer to control all equipment from a single device. The manufacturers of universal remote control units will respond to this need by tempting you to buy. For example, they promise that you can operate up to fifteen devices without restrictions. There is a clear market for this, because universal remote controls are available in all kinds of price ranges. There are also only a few more hi-fi products that are so much in dispute as the universal remote control. One person perceives it as an incomprehensible devaluation, while the other can’t do without it anymore. Enough reason to discuss the universal remote control in detail, so you can decide for yourself to what extent the device is indispensable for you.

How does it work?

If you manage to set up a universal remote control as desired, it is easy to operate. First you indicate which device you want to connect to. On cheap products you can see buttons on top, for example, with TV, DVD/VCR, SAT and AUX. The more expensive models have a touch screen on which you select the right source. You then use the other buttons, for example, to adjust the volume and tune to the desired TV channel.

Programming

Anyone who immerses themselves in the world of universal remote controls will discover all kinds of things. The simplest products are already for sale for less than a dozen euros, while a luxury remote control such as the Logitech Harmony Elite goes over the counter for about 240 euros. For low-cost infrared remote controls, you usually need to enter the product codes of supported devices manually. This is done by means of a code table. Usually you can see on an indicator light whether the entered code is correct. Fortunately, even with the cheapest remote controls, you can more and more often search for codes automatically. You can then set up the remote control on that device and press one or two keys at the same time. The exact procedure for this differs per product. Unfortunately, when replacing the batteries, there is a chance that you will have to reprogram the codes. It is nice that many remote controls keep the codes entered in memory for about twenty minutes, so that there is enough time for a battery change.

Compatibility

Go for a cheap copy, make sure that there is support for the desired brands. The packaging often indicates that the remote control can handle a dizzying number of devices of countless brands. Unfortunately, it is by no means always stated which brands they are. Ensure compatibility and if necessary, find an online manual in advance. Further, check which device groups the product can handle. There is regular support for DVD players, but not for blu-ray players.

What is your goal?

It is important to determine the purpose for which you purchase a universal remote control. Do you want a product that replaces all existing original remote controls? Or is the remote control of a specific device piece and would you like to replace it? In the latter case, there are also affordable remote controls that you can program using special software. This gives the universal unit exactly the same functions as the original remote control. The condition is, of course, that the device is supported. According to the manufacturer, the so-called 1:1 remote controls from König are compatible with about one hundred thousand devices. You can also opt for inexpensive universal remote controls that can control four or even eight devices.

Not truly universal

Some universal remote controls work together with only one brand of products. So they are not truly universal. For example, the manufacturer One For All develops specimens that are compatible with Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony or LG devices. An advantage is that you usually do not need to program these remote controls. Furthermore, the functions of the products better match the buttons on the original remote control. Think for example of opening the smart environment or the electronic manual on a smart TV.

Annoyances

The operation of a smart TV is nowadays so advanced that the use of a cheap infrared model is usually not enough. Turning the device on, tuning in to the correct station or opening a teletext page is usually still successful. But that’s something like that. Opening up the smart environment, for example, is often a lot of hassle, making apps like Netflix, YouTube, NPO and RTL XL difficult or impossible to reach. Also, it is not usually possible to activate the 3D mode or voice function with a cheap universal remote control. If you want easy access to all the features of the smart TV, you need a more modern version. Fortunately, they are available in abundance. Logitech is a forerunner in the development of smart remote controls that can be used for every smart-TV. We will discuss below various functions that are available with many luxury remote controls.

App support

Of course, manually programming a remote control using a code table is no longer appropriate. That’s why many modern products have a Bluetooth adapter built in, allowing them to communicate wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet. Useful, because you can use an app on your smartphone/tablet to set up the universal remote control. Often it is enough to specify the brand of the television, TV decoder or blu-ray player, after which the app and the paired remote control will start a test procedure. If necessary, you can also enter the correct model number immediately. Sometimes the app includes some extra features, such as playback of a beep tone on the remote control – very nice if you lose the remote control!

Alternative solutions

Do you want to limit the number of remote controls on the coffee table? Do not run straight to the shop for a universal copy. There are other possible solutions. Many televisions on the side have a CI+ lock. For some TV providers, ask for a suitable CI+ module including a smart card that you can put directly into the TV. This eliminates the need for an external decoder with a ditto remote control. For tuning to your favorite TV station, use the regular remote control of the TV. Among other things, Ziggo supplies its customers with an optional CI+ module. Incidentally, in the case of high-end smart-TVs, a remote control is often included that allows you to control other devices, including external TV decoders and blue-ray players. The LG Magic Remote is a well-known example of this.

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