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Oh My Tech!: Searching the galaxy for the perfect universal remote

Published May 23, 2013 11:10 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I am now the proud owner of a fantastic new sound system for my big-screen television, and it's wonderful, but also a little intimidating. There are remotes everywhere, and I'm pretty sure they're breeding at night because every time I look there seems to be more of them. I've heard about universal remotes, but in reading the reviews, it looks like they are even more complicated than all those reproducing remotes. Do you have a recommendation for a little old retired librarian who wants to be blown away when she watches "Fast Five"? — Sheri Thompson, Farmington.

First of all, I love that a "little old retired librarian" wants to get blown away by "Fast Five." I expect that from a beer-guzzling plumber maybe, but not a librarian.

Anyway, Sheri's right, that if you're not careful, remotes can start multiplying like Tribbles from "Star Trek" every time you buy a new component for your home entertainment system. I have five remotes spread out on my ottoman that control the TV, two video game systems, the cable box and a stereo receiver. Every time my wife stashes them somewhere while cleaning the room, I panic.

Buying a universal remote can be a solution, although a frustrating one. I have yet to find a device that was completely compatible with all of my devices. Also, it hardly seems worth it to consolidate all of the operations of my home entertainment system into one even-bigger universal remote that has more buttons and is more complicated than a console on the Starship Enterprise (in keeping with my "Star Trek" theme).

After a little research, I was able to find a couple of companies that might hold hope for the remote-impaired. Mind you, I have not personally tested them, so if you decide to buy one, I suggest purchasing it from a site or a store that has a good return policy in case it doesn't work for whatever reason.

There's a company called Hy-Tek that makes universal remotes with big buttons for those having a hard time seeing (which is most of us as we get older). More importantly, these remotes also keep the number of buttons to a minimum. At the Hy-Tek site at www.bigbuttonremotes.com, there are three different models, including one that has only six buttons. They range i from $19 to $40.

Fobis Technologies is another company that makes remotes with very few buttons. Its latest line of remotes, the weemote X ($34.95) and weemote dV ($24.95), have nine buttons each but are fully programmable, according to the company. You can see them at www.weemote.com.

You also can check one of your existing remotes, like for your big-screen television, to see if any of them already have universal-remote capabilities. Many of the newer televisions build their remotes to also work with other components.

Finally, if you just want a really good universal remote, regardless of its complexities, check out Logitech's Harmony series, which has gotten great reviews from tech sites. I've used one that was really good, but it was tricky to use, as well as expensive. Find them at www.logitech.com.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.






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