Universal Remotes were first put into production to allow for the replacement of a Remote Control for your Single Home Television or Other Media Device. Their setup was relatively easy and required that you press a setup and enter the code for your manufacturer and model to program the remote to control your device.
Since that time many homes have added devices such as Cable an Dish TV boxes, DVD and Video Tape Players, DVRs and Computers that can store and play back a variety of media from a local drive or from the internet.
The type of device that you need will be based on the products you own and the function you require.
A basic universal remote can be purchased at almost every discount store for $15 or less an will allow you to control from 1 to 3 devices.
The setup is relatively easy and your manual should include the numbers and method for inputting the control setup codes of each device.
Many basic remotes will also have a search method where you press the device type such as TV and then the up or down button until your television turns off. This is a good way to program your items but you may endup selecting a similar device and not get full access to your television or dvd’s menu system.
Once you find the code you should write it on a piece of tape that you put on the battery access cover in case you endup losing your manual.
Removing and dead batteries will deprogram the device.
Special Feature Remotes
Some remotes are designed to add use ability and are not simply for replacing a lost remote.
If you have problems accessing the buttons on your remote due to dexterity or vision problems you can purchase a remote with larger buttons.
Some remotes are back lighted allowing you to press a button on the remote and the numbers and buttons will light up in the dark for easy use.
Older and Younger Users will do well with a more simple remote that controls the things they need to use and does not have features that can be confusing. How many times have you pressed the dvr button while trying to change the television station only to have nothing happen and wonder what is wrong for a few seconds.
Signal Type RF or IF
Many new devices can make use of either RF Radio signals or IF Infrared light to control devices.
IF Infrared Light controls are the standard type remote where a light on the front of the remote must be pointed at the television to control it. This means you need direct line of site to the device an it must be located in the same room.
RF Radio Frequency Signals are a newer type of control where the device can be controlled with a signal similar to your garage door opener. This means you can setup your Media Center in a closet or cabinet and as long as it is within distance of the remote you can control it.
RF Distance Extenders can allow you to extend the range of your device to control a box that is wired into your home’s internal wiring that feeds many tvs or rooms.
If you need to control both types of devices you should look for a remote that has both features. RF Remotes are often found on high end devices and you can expect to pay much more for a remote that includes this feature.
Today it is not uncommon to have more then three devices in your main media center. To control all of these devices you need a remote with extended features.
Many advanced remotes will have the ability to control both RF and IR devices.
New Remotes will have the ability to connect to your computer through a USB Port for upgrades and setup.
Charging Stations as found on Wireless Telephones are also an option so you never have to worry about finding batteries if your remote goes dead.
Auto Learning can help program devices and allow you to add special setups an macro features to control one or many devices with the press of a single button or code sequence.
If you are purchasing a universal remote for the family and you have children in the home you may want to have two different ones.
Buy a cheap Universal remote that will allow your kids to abuse it but still access the television. Then get one for mom and dad that can control all of your devices from one remote.
This will alleviate the chance the kids will play fetch with the dog with your $300 remote and still let them watch their shows.
Remotes should allow you to control your media center while not costing as much as the devices you own. If you have an extensive collection of devices you can probably do well with an 8 channel remote that has auto learning.
If you simply have 4 devices and can pickup a couple cheap 3 function remotes it is probably not worth the extra cost to get the expensive models but even some 8 device, good quality remotes are available for about $20.
If you have a satellite system or media center that you want access to throughout your home you should think about RF remotes with extenders. This will allow you to pipe your television through your home without the cost for additional equipment.
In other howtos and buying guides we will cover the use of computers as media centers and the different types of delivery methods for television an music in your home.