Remote Controls

In my quest for a simple but decent home AV solution, one of the issues that keeps coming up is the remote control.  The more input sources you have (DVD, VCR, etc), the more remotes you may need to have to control it all.  More remote makes things harder (more confusing) to use – or at least a pain to find the right remote at the right time!

I came across this list of remote controls which was interesting.  Following through some of the links and reading some more, the impression I get is:

  • Funky universal remote controls with color panels run out of battery pretty quickly, so need frequent recharging.
  • Boring remote controls without any panel have batteries that last much much longer.
  • People are moving away from special purpose remotes with panels towards using iPads, Android phones etc.
    • The devices are useful for other purposes (so you keep them charged anyway).
    • They can be cheaper than the special purpose hardware due to volume of sales.
  • One negative of using your iPhone as the remote is if someone rings you and you want to mute your TV or pause the DVD, then you have to find and reopen the application your phone closed when you answered the phone call.
  • Remote controls that come with a product (TV, DVD, etc) are geared to serve that exact purpose – some universal remotes cannot do all of the features as you would like.
    • For example, I have an old learning remote.  The volume up/down buttons when held only send a single signal over.  I have to click multiple times to increase/decrease the volume.  I cannot just hold the button down for a while.  Little things like this can be annoying.

There are IR extenders such as RedEye that have an iPhone app that can control over Wifi an IR blaster that you put near the equipment you want to control.  RedEye provides a free iPhone app that allows you to pick which buttons you want on the app screen and what they do.  Takes a bit to set up, but very flexible (from what I have read).  I have not ruled out the RedEye product from my final home AV solution yet.

The alternative is it get a simple IR extender which has an IR receiver (not an iPhone app) and then sends the IR signal back to a blaster near your equipment.  So you just use the normal remote, but you can be in a different room to the device you are controlling.  Pretty simple, and pretty reliable/robust.

Many of the major vendors reduce the problem by providing remotes that control many of their devices (as long as you buy all Panasonic, all Sony, etc), so your TV remote can control the DVD player too.  This does help.  It means getting the same brand DVD and TV for example may be a definite win (in terms of keeping complexity down).

I am coming to the opinion that its not necessary to get it down to one remote.  If the remote is too hard to use, it defeats the purpose a bit.  For example, I don’t mind having a Foxtel (pay TV) remote and a TV remote – but its nice if the TV remote can control the DVD player as well.  (Of course I posted recently that the Foxtel remote can also be used to control your TV, DVD, and amplifier.  I am just not sure whether the restricted functionality using the Foxtel remote will make it a worthwhile thing to do in practice.)

I was considering a HDMI matrix which I plan to describe in a separate post.  My understanding for each output (TV) you typically select its input using yet another remote control.  This seems annoying.  A remote control to pick whether to watch Foxtel or a DVD?  This is where programming the Foxtel IQ remote might be a sensible thing to do as the matrix remote does very little – maybe only needing a single button to cycle through the available input sources.

DLNA and remote controls is another area I want to look into – but again, in a future post.

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