Screens on the Aurora change instantly thanks to its speedy 206MHz RISC processor (the same as the MX-3000), and as long as the remote is active buttons transmit without any delay - if it has to wake up a very brief pause will be added. The maximum itineration rate for pressing a single key multiple times is a little on the slow side, however this speed can be brought up to at least MX-800 levels by removing the default key press sound. Macros execute fairly quickly, with a sample 20 step sequence taking 12 seconds to complete, similar to the MX-800.
The remote has more than enough power to deal with an entire house full of zoned electronics, but the simple decision to not make the [Watch] or [Listen] buttons programmable means that users will not be able to smoothly navigate such systems, as pressing either of those buttons will always return you to the first [Watch] or [Listen] page. Having those keys customizable would allow programmers to return the user to a screen appropriate to their current zone.
The Aurora's lithium ion battery doesn't offer an exceptional runtime, with a storage capacity running just higher than three average NiMH AAA batteries. In our experiments it lasted for several hours of continuous use, however the convenient dock does recharge it exceptionally fast.
The hard buttoned MX series of remotes have been a favorite of custom installers not only because they're so easy for their customers to use, but because they're also quick to configure. Programming certain remotes can quickly become an entire career, even once you're familiar with the process. In contrast to a touchscreen's need for arranging numerous graphical buttons and creating complex user/zone screens, the MX-950's refreshing simplicity makes setup an actual pleasure. The Aurora does start to stray into more complicated things with its variable, bitmap and audio support, but even with those an entire 8 device setup from scratch should be possible in just a few hours time, less if some devices are prepared in advance.
While touchscreen controls are the undeniable kings of customizability and capability, they can also be slower and less straightforward for certain individuals to operate. With most people having lived with the standard buttons-on-a-stick style remote for years, the operation of even a far more sophisticated version can still feel completely intuitive.
Some growing pains are obviously still being felt in terms of software development, but Universal is typically quick to respond to problems. For instance, during testing I discovered a bug that caused a sound file, once loaded, to be permanently stored in the configuration even if it was later replaced or deleted. Less than 24 hours after reporting the issue a new version of the software was created to fix that very problem... now that's service!
The MX-950 may not be the only high-end hard buttoned remote currently on the market, but it's one of few that will operate without an expensive proprietary backend system. On a price-to-practical-performance scale the Aurora does falls shy of some of Universal Remote Control's less expensive models, but if you need a truly sophisticated remote control that's simple to use but capable of handling anything you can throw at it, the Complete Control MX-950 is a sure bet.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)