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Home Theater Master MX-500 Review
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Finally, time to relax.
As you may have guessed, programming the Home Theater Master MX-500 is an absolute pleasure - the way all remotes controls should be. Except for renaming keys, enough instructions are provided via the LCD menus that anyone even remotely familiar with the remote will have no difficulty programming it from scratch, without a manual. To quote someone I'd prefer not to name, "that's a good thing" as the manual, while helpful in a technical sense, doesn't really make the MX-500 any easier to use.

After additional testing I found the channel, menu and transport controls to be ideally placed for single-handed use, but I felt the keypad was positioned too low on the remote to be nearly as comfortable. Owners should be careful to never spill beverages on this remote (though who actually tries) as there is an exposed mini-circuit board visible under the thumbpad rocker. Sometimes accidents will happen, but I fear that the MX-500 will be most incompatible with coffee or Coke. Finally, the [RECORD] button is a little vulnerable - it's right in the open, next to the thumbpad, and could easily be accidentally pressed. I would like to see a two-second hold option on it, where you must press the button decisively before the record command is sent. As it is, users would be safer to delegate this function in the LCD region.

Home Theater Master MX-500
Click to enlarge. (49kb)
If you're up to designing your own layout - learning all buttons for all devices exactly where you want - you'll quickly find a minor problem in that you can't 'delete' a button. If a preprogrammed command is assigned to a particular button to start with the signal will always remain, displaying the "transmission" graphic when pressed - even if you'd prefer the button to be totally vacant. On the other hand, if a preprogrammed code doesn't require a particular button it is left truly blank. So, after some searching I discovered that you could assign the AUX preprogrammed code number 155 to all devices before learning. This code consists of the numbers "1" and "2" (the rest are blank) and are non-repeating, so the transmission icon isn't visible, even if they're hit, making it ideal to effectively "blank out" a device.

Remote speed is fantastic, always quick and nimble. There's no noticeable delay between hitting a key and the signal transmitting, plus macros play back at rapid (if not breakneck) speeds. Each time you return to the Main Menu, the lower hard buttons retain all commands from the previously active device - a great feature. One engineering quirk is that the backlight flickers noticeably as signals are transmitted. This could be seen as either a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. If you like visual confirmation, the flickering backlight is much more useful than the tiny "transmitting" icon on the LCD. If you don't need confirmation, it's a mild visual nuisance. Must be those mighty IR emitters!

Conclusion
The MX-500 can best be described as a very powerful yet amazingly simple-to-use remote control. It's obvious that a lot of thought and refinement went into the physical and operational design - which is the primary cause of its later-than-expected release date. Was it worth the wait? You bet - the Home Theater Master MX-500 is the epitome of good design and reigns as the best hard buttoned remote I've so far had the pleasure of using.

10 devices, full learning, a preprogrammed database, plenty of macros, lots of hard buttons, easy setup and a 5-way thumbpad to boot. What more could you ask for? At a suggested retail price of $189 USD the MX-500 is a highly recommended product.

Changes have been made to the MX-500! Continue reading for full details.

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