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REMOTE CONTROL ROUNDUP

 

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It hardly seems credible now, and you young 'uns can scoff, but once there was a time when people actually got up out of their comfy chairs to change channels on their TVs. That was in the olden days -- about ten years ago -- before the arrival of infra red remote controls. It looks as though the futorologists got it right after all, the human race will eventually evolve into a race of pathetic-looking creatures, big brains but useless, withered  and uncoordinated limbs. Maybe it's happening already? Perhaps someone should check out the viewing habits of the English cricket/football/golf teams...*

 

* delete as appropriate

 

But seriously, remote controls have become a problem, there's simply too many of them! It doesn't take much effort to accumulate half-dozen or more little black button-boxes these days. Many households already have at least three in the living-room, if they've got a TV, VCR and satellite receiver; add a hi-fi system or components, video disc player and camcorder and there could be as many as seven or eight of them. Wouldn't it be great if you could control the hi-fi and video systems from just one handset? It would, and to some extent you already can, especially if your TV and VCR are made by the same company, quite a few now come with dual-function handsets that operate both sets equipment, and one or two makes will also control satellite receivers from the same stable as well.

 

Unfortunately life's not that simple and most of us end up with mongrel systems with products from a variety of different manufacturers, of varying vintage, so it would be unrealistic to expect them all to be controllable from one box, wouldn't it? Well, we've got some good news for you, it can be done, there's a new generation of 'universal' or 'unified' remote controls on the market that can operate just about anything, and what's more they can combine the function of a number of handsets, from two, up to eight in the selection we're about to look at, but how do they work?

 

There's basically two different sorts of universal remote, the first type is the 'learning' remote. It has to be taught each commands separately, by pointing the original or 'host' handset at it. Inside there's an IR receptor which picks up the invisible pulses of light for each command function, a microprocessor decodes the signals and stores them in its memory. The second type is the pre-programmed remote; these have command 'libraries' stored in a memory microchip; all the user has to do is tell the handset the make and model of the product they wish to control -- usually by entering a three or four digit code number -- and all of the stored commands are automatically assigned to the handset's buttons.

 

Whilst the end result is basically the same there are fundamental differences between the two technologies. It's important to have the original handset, in good working order, if you're going to use a learning remote, so they're not much use for replacing lost or broken handsets. On the other hand learning remotes are better at tackling older or more obscure products. Pre-programmed remotes make good replacement handsets, providing, of course, the commands for the equipment you want to control are included in the library, so always check first because there can be gaps, including newly launched products which may not have made it into the library.

 

These handsets vary widely in scope and price, from simple one and two function remotes, to one very unusual variation on the theme, which uses radio waves, as well as IR commands, to operate equipment at a distance. In this case the radio waves can penetrate walls; for example, it could be used to operate a VCR, in the living room connected by cable or sender, to a TV in the bedroom.

 

So if you're suffering from an infestation of remote button-boxes, or the dog thinks they're fun to chew, here's a selection of gadgets that can help you take control of the situation once again!

 

FOXAPPER 15.95

The snazziest-looking remote in this selection, crafted from bright yellow plastic with dark purple buttons, it's not the sort of thing you can easily ignore, or loose! Foxapper has two pre-programmed memory banks covering only the most basic TV and satellite functions, i.e. volume, channel change, mute and on/standby. The set-up procedure is fairly tedious and long-winded, especially if your TV or satellite receiver happens to be a long way down the list. Some omissions, including Maspro ST satellite tuner. Cheap and very cheerful standby or replacement remote.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      6

Value for money            9

Overall              80%

 

 

FOX TRIO  17.95

Handy little replacement remote with three pre-programmed memory banks for a TV, VCR and STV receiver. Basic functions only but sufficient for day to day use. Programming slow, like Foxapper, as the user has to wade through the command library, but the coverage is very good. The 'set' button, although flush with the casing, is a little vulnerable and can be accidentally pressed during normal operation, otherwise very good and worth thinking about.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      7

Value for money            9

Overall              85%

 

FOX SMART-FOX 3 24.95

Pre-programmed remote covering the main functions of a TV, VCR and satellite receiver. Additional TV facilities, accessed via 'shift' button, for brightness and colour saturation.  Simple 3-digit code programming, but some gaps, including Maspro ST satellite receivers. Large accessible buttons but a rather bulbous case

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      7

Value for money            8

Overall              85%

 

 

FOX 400E 39.95

Conventional-looking handset, able to control up to four different products (TV, VCR, satellite and cable box).  Good-sized buttons though sliding selector switch on the right side of the box is stiff and awkward. It's simple to program, with easy to follow instructions and comprehensive code book, though look out for updates on loosely inserted update sheets. TV controls include fastext functions plus brightness and colour, which are comparatively unusual.

 

Ease of use                   9

Versatility                      8

Value for money            7

Overall              85%

 

 

MEMOREX RC3 24.99

Visually similar and suspiciously alike in operation and programming to the One For All 3, they even share the same codes. The RC3 is a lot easier on the eye than it's OFA equivalent, but somewhat dearer, and with less comprehensive instructions. The handset covers most VCR, TV and STV operations, and is very simple to program. In case of difficulty there's a very obliging customer help line service, available Monday to Friday on a freephone number. Gaps in the satellite coverage, including that Maspro receiver again.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      8

Value for money            6

Overall              80%

 

MEMOREX AV4 29.99

Another One-For-All work-alike, (or is it the other way around?), this time with four pre-programmed memory banks for TV, VCR, satellite receiver and one other. The library includes codes for some audio products but it's a bit hit and miss, and exploring the possibilities can be very wearing on the button-finger. The same gaps in coverage as the RC3 (and OFA3), which presumes the same chip, but with a very different external design. The tiny buttons make it hard to use in dimly-lit surrounds.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      8

Value for money            8

Overall              85%

 

 

MEMOREX AV8 TURBO 59.99

Top of the range blockbuster pre-programmed remote which, as its name suggests, has 8 memory banks. Massive code library and superbly well-documented function list, detailing thousands of individual commands for hundreds of different products. In addition to normal TV, VCR and satellite equipment the AV8 can take control of complete hi-fi, AV and home cinema set-ups, including the latest surround-sound and digital sources (DAT, DCC etc.) plus more obscure products, like home automation systems.

 

Ease of use                   7

Versatility                      9

Value for money            9

Overall              95%

 

ONE FOR ALL 1 'ONE SHOT'  14.99

The simplest and cheapest pre-programmed remote in this roundup, ideal as an emergency replacement. Just one memory bank, with basic TV functions (on/standby, channel change, volume and mute). Incredibly easy to program, and even easier to use but small size means it'll probably get lost even faster than the TV's original handset.

 

Ease of use                   9

Versatility                      3

Value for money            8

Overall              80%                 

 

 

ONE FOR ALL 3 19.99

Virtually identical to the Memorex RC3, except this one is a little cheaper, and the shaped buttons make it look a bit like a child's toy. Verging on the patronising, in fact, though it might be a good idea for those with impaired sight (or intelligence), at least the labelling won't wear off. Easy to use, fair value, and a good way of simplifying a system with just a TV, VCR and satellite receiver.  Incidentally One For All also operate a freephone help line service.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      8

Value for money            8

Overall              85%

 

ONE FOR ALL 4 29.99

More restrained incarnation of the Memorex AV4. Pre-programmed code library covering four product groups (TV, VCR, satellite and one more), which could include some audio components, though these are not necessarily documented. Convenient size and layout, efficient operation and easy programming. Recommended.

 

Ease of use                   9

Versatility                      8

Value for money            8

Overall              90%

 

ONE FOR ALL 6 49.99

Similar to, though not quite as versatile as the Memorex AV8, with six pre-programmed memory banks for the usual TV, VCR and satellite products. Extensive coverage of audio systems and components, including AV and home cinema equipment. Simple layout and design, well-spaced, finger-friendly buttons, though some of the keys for the more frequently-used functions (volume and channel change, for example), could have been made larger, or differentiated from the rest.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      9

Value for money            8

Overall              93%

 

PHILIPS RT-830 99

Learning IR remote handset with a difference! The difference is a voice-recognition system that responds to spoken commands. Three memory banks covering TV, VCR and satellite functions. It's a novel idea, and it actually works a lot of the time, though the user's voice needs to be very controlled; shouting and anger, caused by the thing not responding, doesn't help! The main disappointment is that you have to press and hold a button, and speak into a microphone, to make it work, which somehow negates the hands-free image a voice-activated remote conjures up. Additional features, include timer-controlled VCR or TV activation and 'zap it' command which makes the VCR speed search through ads. Expensive novelty but a real conversation piece...

 

Ease of use                   7

Versatility                      7

Value for money            6

Overall              75%

 

 

RADIO REMOTE 79.99

One of several wireless remote control systems developed by Radio Remote. This one is based on the Fox 400, which operates as normal. However, inside the handset there's a tiny radio transmitter (DTI approved) which converts the IR command codes into radio signals, these are picked up by a matchbox-sized receiver, placed close to the equipment to be controlled. The receiver coverts the radio signals back into IR commands. Range and reception variable, our sample managed around 25 metres, which is adequate for most houses to reach from the bedroom to the living room. Definitely worth considering if you have an audio or video distribution system

 

Ease of use                   9

Versatility                      9

Value for money            7

Overall              90%

 

VIVANCO ULR 100 19.99

Good value learning remote with the capacity to store up to 124 commands, on four banks of 31 commands each. Slightly fussy set-up, and it can take quite a while to teach it the functions of four other handsets. Some spurious error indications but more often than not the command has been successfully stored. Macro function a big bonus, this sends a sequence of up to 10 commands, at the touch of a single button, to turn on the TV, and VCR, set the channel and instruct the VCR to play, for example. Recommended.

 

Ease of use                   7

Versatility                      9

Value for money            9

Overall              95%

 

 

VIVANCO UPR 100 29.99

Well specified pre-programmed remote with capacity to control up to five different products, including two TVs, two VCR s and a satellite receiver. Some gaps, including the Maspro ST2 receiver, but otherwise a very comprehensive code library with individual commands specified. Relatively straightforward programming though buttons on the small side and set rather too close together for comfort.

 

Ease of use                   8

Versatility                      8

Value for money            9

Overall              90%

 

---end---

R.Maybury 1994 0604

 


 

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