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While the SL-9000 has 46 user hard buttons, the MX-500 initially appears to have only 43. You're probably thinking, "did they actually downgrade?" Look again! Remember that [PAGE] button beneath the LCD screen? This is used to toggle between two sets of labels for the 10 adjacent hard buttons. And as one would expect, not only do the names change, but functions also! This basically means that the MX-500 can control 10 devices with up to 53 commands each. That's up to 530 learned signals - more than enough in almost anyone's book. Even in the unlikely case that you do find something with more commands, the MX-500 will be able to handle the overwhelming majority.
Why make difficult choices if you don't have to?
One of the biggest drawbacks any remote control can have is the lack of a learning function. Without that, it's unlikely the product will ever be able to seamlessly and completely control your entire system. Conversely, if a learning remote lacks built-in codes, it'll be useless if one of your original remotes becomes lost or broken. Universal Remote Control has wisely included both a built-in database and comprehensive learning capabilities in all of their Home Theater Master models. That way you always get the best of both worlds.
Universal Remote Control's database isn't the largest on the market, but it is still respectable. It's the only database I've tested that contains a Hitachi VCR code that works with my aging model. To enter a code - or do anything else to the remote - you must first enter the Setup Menu. This is accomplished by holding the [MAIN] and [ENTER] buttons for approximately four seconds.
For those that were never good at "Simon"...
Once in the Setup Menu you'll be pleased by the inclusion of an LCD screen. The predicament which all hard-buttoned remotes face is that configuration changes must be made though different button combinations, watching blinking lights, entering secret codes and receiving very little feedback as to how things are going or what you should do next. You can't exactly fault such remotes for this outdated process, but that doesn't mean you have to like it. With the MX-500, Universal Remote Control has taken full advantage of the display by providing a completely menu-driven interface.
The Setup Menu naturally provides ten options for its complement of ten buttons - preprogrammed code entry, learning, favorite channel setup, macros, punchthroughs, code recall, erasing of user changes, LCD label editing, backlight configuration and, finally, remote cloning. The small LCD text at the bottom of the screen will flash instructions when needed; the [MAIN] button always returns to the previous menu.
Preprogrammed or learning... it's all simple!
Configuring a preset code is unusually easy. Press the [P-PRO] Setup button, select the device button you would like to configure, choose the type of device to configure (this is where you'd change a "CD" to a "VCR"), then enter in the code with the numeric keypad. When entering a device code, the LCD buttons change to provide [SAVE], [EXIT], scan [UP] and [DOWN] options. The active code is shown in the top left LCD position. Each time you enter a three-digit number the remote transmits the 'power' command and waits for your next action.