There are 8 pages of favorite channels, giving the R50 a total of 48 macros with 10 steps each. The only commands that can be used are numbers, [Enter], [Dot/Dash], and [Pause] for increased delays, and each macro must reference a specific device. As for button customization there’s a built-in gallery of 52 official network logos, plus 8 solid color buttons in combination with an optional text label for any network that isn’t covered. Of note, it would have been nice to have access to those solid color buttons for use with normal devices as well. Favorite channels can’t be rearranged once created, so some advanced planning will be beneficial.
52 different logos isn’t exactly a lot compared to the hundreds of channels on satellite or cable, with only major US broadcast and cable networks included. The R50 also can’t have its firmware updated by the user, so there’s no way to add new networks or update existing logos when they change.
Get out the paste!
For a remote designed to operate without a computer, it’s somewhat ironic that URC chose to use the computer-y term “Copy and Paste” to describe the R50’s key aliasing, rather than the more traditional “Punch Through”.
In the case of the R50, clusters of hard buttons can be quickly duplicated to other devices. The R50’s packaging mentions only the “SimpleSound” aspect, something used on URC’s lower end remotes for having one device’s volume keys operate under all devices. The R50 can also do this with the channel keys, transport keys, menu controls, numeric keypad and power buttons. Each of these groupings can be copied independently from one device to another or, if desired, all devices at once.
Aliasing keys in this way is usually an “optional” feature, something just to speed up the programming process, but with the R50 it’s also the only way of adding commands to the Favorite Channel section’s hard buttons.
By now the R50 should be nearly ready for use, but there are a couple of other customizations that can be made. First is the screen brightness setting, adjustable in 9 steps from 15% (nearly off) to 100% (nearly blinding). Both the screen and hard button lights can have their auto-off adjustments set independently in 8 steps from 5 to 60 seconds; the hard button backlight can also be set to activate automatically with the screen or only when the [Light] hard button is pressed.
The automatic low battery notification can be changed to activate when power levels drop to a range between 5% and 30% remaining; the default is 20%. The LCD features a static 5-level battery meter at the top of the screen for quick reference. Battery life is officially estimated at “18 hours of continuous button pressing with backlighting and LCD on... months of use for most users”. Thanks to those double-A cells I would concur – normally my testing routine is hard on batteries due to constant screen usage and numerous changes, but with the R50 I completed the entire process with it still claiming half power left.
According to the system information screen, approximately 2.5 megabytes of the R50’s full complement of 4 megabytes of memory is available for user configurations. Compared to higher-end graphical remotes that may not seem like much, but remember that the majority of space on those remotes is occupied by memory-hungry bitmaps, while the R50 only has a few of those – leaving its space for devices, buttons, learned codes and macros.