Choosing the Right Remote for Your Home Theater

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 15,166
    Home theater expert Keith Harmon discusses how to pick the right remote control for you home theater.

    Hi, it is Keith Harmon with Smart Wired Home and we are back with how to select and install a home theater. Next, on the docket, we are going to talk about remote controls. Now, I know a lot of you think that the most important decision you are going to make is which TV you are going to get. But we would argue at Smart Wired Home that the most important decision you are going to make is what remote are you going to use, the reason is because that remote is what is going to make everything work together. It is what is going to allow you use it and as well as everybody in the family, the mom, dad, grandparents, kids, everybody should be able to operate the system. Of course, subject to your parental controls on your cable box. So, typically when you end up putting in a home theater, you are going to end up with at least four remotes. Here are four typical remotes as we would see, one for your TV, one for your cable box, one for your audio, video receiver and one for your DVD player.

    So, you have these four remotes, so what is your solution? Well, why do not you have this solution which is you get a nice little basket to put them all in, so that you can find them all. Thinking that maybe we can come up with a little higher tech solution in that. So, if we have four remotes, here is what we have to do to turn on the system to say, watch television, first of all, we turn on the TV, we set that to the right input for the cable box, so we can see what is on the cable box. Then we turn on the cable box, we would then set that to the channel that we want to watch. Then we turn on the AV receiver and set that to get the sound from the cable box. Now, you are ready to start actually watching TV and changing the channels here on this remote.

    We would then instead of the cable box, we would then substitute the DVD remote, if we wanted to watch a DVD to do some things on there. So, if we want to move to doing a more programmable universal remote, a lot of people look at universal remotes, "Okay, I can program the buttons to do things.

    " So now, I take this remote and I turn on the TV, set the channel, turn on the cable box, set the channel, turn on the AV receiver, set the input. So, I am still doing a whole bunch of different things and I have to remember which one of those things to do, a whole bunch of different button presses.

    So, what we would look at today is something called an activity based remote. So, instead of pressing buttons to do specific things, we do something called a Macro, a Macro is just a fancy name for stringing a bunch of button presses together. So, we take something like this remote from Harmony that is made by Logitech and what we see are different, different activities across the top, watch a movie, watch TV, listen to music. So, when one of those buttons is pressed, all those commands would then come out the end of the remote and sent by infrared signal, so that is line of side, it is going to come out of here and point towards the equipment and set all of the inputs to the right thing. Great thing from an ease of use perspective, the one thing you have to always keep in mind when you are talking about infrared, this is light coming out of the end of this, so, if you press the button, put it down, put it away, turn to talk to somebody, anything else, point it behind you, all kinds of different ways that you can send. It is sending six commands out there. But because you point it away from it, it only got half of them, three commands let us say. A nice capability to address that with the help button which will actually start asking you about what is on or what is off. But that is just one of the inherent limitations of the infrared technology. So, if you want to then move up from this - by the way, this remote is available for a retail price of around $150 and it is something that any user can program. It is not like that you need a huge amount of specialty skills to be able to do it. It is reasonable to expect at home or you could program this remote.

    Moving up, we start to address that capability of not being able to see things. So, we talked about moving from infrared technology which is light based to radio frequency technology, so like a radio, so it does not matter where you point it or what you do, put it behind your back or anything else. The command still gets through as long as you are not too far away for the radio to reach. This one actually has a little bit more controls here where it is actually programmable buttons here, so that we see the -- we watch TV, watch a DVD and you can actually rename those in the setup software which is important. Both of these remotes are setup with software on your PC, you plug a USB cable into it and then update the remote. So, you are not trying to program it through this interface to hit this button, put that button, whatever. You actually get a full user interface on the computer where it is a lot more user friendly to be able to use and program.

    So, the radio frequency technology solves the problem of - most of the time of getting only half the commands because you did not point it. But it also gives you the capability to take your devices and put them in the closet or hide them away, put them in a cabinet that you can not see through because you do not have to have that line of sight to be able to have the control come through. Now, if you really want to get into more advanced controls then we get into something that probably can not be done, can not be programmed by the average home owner. We start to get into something that will control your lights, control your HVAC, control the - to be able to view video cameras through your remote, to be able to turn other devices on and off, all kinds of different capabilities for total home control as you get from something like this. So, we have covered remotes from the basic multiple remotes that we want to get rid of to the middle tier remotes to the high end remotes. Basically, you need to think about the level of ease of use and capabilities that you are looking for and therefore you can make your decision on what is it that you want and eliminating the basket in any case.