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Hama 40068, £49.99             ****

Maxview URC1, £14.99            **

Maxview URC3, £19.99            ***

Maxview URC4, £24.99            *****

Philips RU410, £17.99 ****

Philips RU430, £24.99 ***

Philips RU440, £ 34.99   ***

Sony RM-V10T, £19.99            **

Sony RM-V50T, £29.99            ***

Vivanco UPR 40, £29.99            ****






They’re breeding! We’re being overrun by remote control boxes, it’s surely only a matter of time before they take over. Rick Maybury looks at ways of reducing their numbers...



These days everything from cat flaps to car alarms have remote controls, which is very convenient, and it’s difficult to imagine how we ever managed without them, but it’s getting to be a bit of a problem in the living room. That’s where most people keep their TV, VCR, satellite tuner and possibly one or more hi-fi components, each with its own little black button box.


Apart from the nuisance of having to find the right box, there’s the increased probability of one of them being damaged, lost or chewed up by the dog. Most devices with a remote control facility rely heavily on it, some functions may even be inaccessible without the handset. Manufacturers replacements are often ridiculously expensive; we’ve heard of some companies asking more than £70 for a TV remote!


The solution in both cases -- handset mortality and population control -- is a universal remote control. There’s dozens of different models on the market, from cheap and simple TV controllers, to sophisticated multi-purpose designs, that can replace up to eight separate handsets, covering all types of video, audio and home entertainment products. We’ve put together a selection of ten programmable remotes, costing from £15 to £50, to illustrate what’s available.




Hama 40068, £49.99     

Hama have covered all eventualities with their 8 in 1 universal remote handset. It has an extensive library of commands for several hundred different brands of TVs (including fastext models), VCRs and satellite receivers. In the unlikely event a device is not included, or you want to control hi-fi and AV equipment, it has a learning function, that memorises commands from another handset. It’s the only handset in this round-up to have a rotary shuttle-speed control for VCRs and CD players etc., and it has an illuminated keypad. Reasonably easy to program and use; pricey but very versatile.

Hama UK, Telephone (01256) 708110


Maxview URC1, £14.99

Simple one-device controller. The command library covers a wide range of familiar and obscure brands, and there’s an auto-search function, if the right codes cannot be found, though It can take quite a while to search through the memory. Maxview offer a free helpline service, in case of difficulty, however, when we tried it the number was unobtainable. Our sample was unable to control a Goldstar TV using the programmed commands. In the end we found a set of commands for some of the main functions, though the channel numbers were incorrect and a lot of the TVs secondary features -- teletext, channel stepper etc. -- didn’t work either.

Maxview Ltd., telephone (01553) 811638


Maxview URC3, £19.99

This neat-looking three device pre-programmed controller can replace the handsets for a TV, VCR and satellite receiver. Like the 1 in 1 it has some teletext functions, but neither of them have colour-coded fastext keys, though this one can control some picture functions (colour brightness etc.). It shares the same basic TV command library with its stablemate and it couldn’t control our Goldstar TV properly either. All of the VCRs we tried it with worked satisfactorily. The programming sequence is reasonably easy to follow. It’s good value, but watch out for possible gaps in the code library.

Maxview Ltd., telephone (01553) 811638


Maxview URC4, £24.99

This is Maxview’s top of the range universal remote, with four programmable functions, for two TVs, a VCR and satellite receiver. Unlike the other handsets this one has a learning infra-red facility, which memorised IR codes from an original handset, so the TV2 mode can be assigned to control devices not included in the code library, such as a CD player or hi-fi system. It also has a number of additional TV facilities, including colour-coded buttons for fastext functions and a menu button for equipment with an on-screen display system. Good value, and worth considering if you’ve got equipment not covered by the built-in code library.

Maxview Ltd., telephone (01553) 811638


Philips RU410, £17.99

The RU410 is a replacement TV controller, programmed with codes for more than 300 different brands, though surprisingly, Goldstar are not included. Although the code for our Goldstar TV wasn’t listed it was possible to find one that worked using the auto-search system. Stepping through the complete library takes around 7 minutes. One key can be assigned to a special function -- there are 992 of them --  though as there’s no list of what’s available, it’s of limited use. It has a simple teletext function, but no fastext keys. It’s supplied with a set of AAA cells and Philips operate a free helpline service. Worth considering.  

Philips Consumer Electronics, telephone 0181-689 4444


Philips RU430, £24.99

A single button switches between TV, VCR and satellite receiver control functions. It has a huge command library, covering several hundred brands, including Goldstar, though neither of the two listed codes worked with our test TV. The appropriate commands were there, but they could only be found using the auto-search feature, which takes several minutes. There’s a set of colour-coded keys for fastext functions. It’s very flexible, and the instruction booklet lists almost 500 extra commands, covering brightness, colour saturation and contrast functions, that can be assigned to individual keys.  The handset comes with a pair of AA cells, which last for up to a year. Good Value.

Philips Consumer Electronics, telephone 0181-689 4444


Philips RU440, £ 34.99

This is the most expensive universal handset  in the Philips range, with the capacity to control up to four pieces of equipment (TV, VCR, satellite receiver and ‘aux’). The design is similar to the RU430, though there are differences in the code library -- it contains codes for several audio devices made by companies closely allied to Philips --  but for some inexplicable reason Goldstar TV are not listed, and we couldn’t find a fully functioning set of commands using the auto search mode. It has a set of coloured fastext keys, and an extra on-screen display button. Keys can be assigned special functions, though unlike the 430, a list of codes and functions are not included.

Philips Consumer Electronics, telephone 0181-689 4444


Sony RM-V10T, £19.99

This is a surprisingly basic two-device controller for a TV and VCR.  There are some very large gaps in the code library. It has a search facility, though it only covers 38 brands, and our troublesome Goldstar TV was not amongst them, or other well-known makes, such as Amstrad, B&O, Bush, Ferguson and Mitsui, to name just a few. It doesn’t have an LED indicator, so you’re never quite sure what it’s up to. It has a fair range of functions though, including fastext, but the limited coverage counts against it, and anyone thinking of buying one is advised to check carefully whether or not it can be used to control their equipment.

Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144


Sony RM-V50T, £29.99

The V50T is a bold, eye-catching design. The blue-coloured body of the handset is only a few millimetres thick; it’s powered by a tiny long-life lithium battery, and it bleeps, every time one of the membrane-type buttons is pressed. There’s a spring-clip on the top, presumably so you can hang it on your belt, so it won’t slip down behind the cushions on your sofa. The V50 can control two devices (TV and VCR), and it has a similar code library to the V10, sadly with the same large gaps. Given the rather high price and limited coverage it’s not a particularly good deal, but it does look very smart.

Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144


Vivanco UPR 40, £29.99

Vivanco have put a lot of thought into the functions of this controller, it’s just a pity they didn’t spend a little more time on the button labelling, which is almost invisible in normal room lighting. The shaped keys help, though the set-up button is a little exposed, and can be accidentally pressed. It’s a four device handset (TV, VCR, satellite and CD), pre-programmed with hundred of codes. Functionality is good, with separate picture controls (colour and brightness), and colour-coded fastext keys. A handy scan feature instructs a TV to step through its programmed channels. Reasonably priced, worth considering.

Vivanco UK, telephone (01442) 231616




There are basically three types of universal infra-red remote control: pre-programmed types that contain a ‘library’ of command codes, stored on a Read Only Memory or ROM chip; learning type remotes, that can be ‘taught’ to replicate IR commands, using information from the equipment’s original handset, and retro-programmable types, that can have their command libraries updated, by exchanging memory modules, or connecting them, via phone, to a remote computer. There are also several hybrids on the market, that use a mixture of technologies.


Pre-programmed remotes are the most common, and they’re generally quite cheap, but the main disadvantage is they usually cannot be updated, to cover new products, as and when they’re launched, so it’s important to always check they will work with the components in your system, before you part with the plastic. That’s not usually a problem with learning remotes, but they depend on the original handset being available, so they’re not much use if it’s been lost or damaged.  All the handsets we’ve looked at have non-volatile memories, which retain their data when the batteries are exchanged, though on some models this has to be done within a few minutes, or the settings will be lost.



Ó R. Maybury 1996 0410





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