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The URC-100, URC-200 and URC-300 can all make use of the optional MRF-100A RF extender. As infrared is a light-based signal, it naturally cannot bend corners or go through opaque objects such as walls and doors. What the RF extender does is allow the remotes to transmit a radio frequency signal – which can go through walls and doors – so that equipment not directly visible can be remotely controlled. The remotes cannot be used to operate any RF-only equipment such as some satellite receivers and audio systems; they are only designed to work with IR-based devices.
The MRF-100A costs $75 and comes complete with a power supply, infrared flashers and a mounting plate with screws. The compact basestation measures 5.1” wide, 3.5” deep and 1.2” high (13.0cm by 8.9cm by 3.1cm) with the 3.5” (9.0cm) antenna folded flat, and won’t take up much space. It’s the same as the RF extender that comes with the Home Theater Master MX-600, and is nearly identical to the MRF-200 that comes with the MX-800 (although the MRF-200 is more advanced and allows specific addressing of each output – no, the MRF-200’s features cannot be used with the URC series).
The RF extender has six ports on the back for separate infrared emitters, as well as a main blaster with an astonishing six emitters, two pointing forwards and four aiming up. Two LEDs on the front indicate power and signal reception status. The extender can be mounted on a wall, underneath a shelf, or can just sit below your equipment.
In addition sending a regular infrared signal, the remote also transmits an RF signal directly to the basestation. The basestation then takes the RF command, converts it, and rebroadcasts it as infrared over the extender’s main blaster and six wired emitters. The emitters come on 10-foot cords that use non-industry standard 2.5mm jacks. The jack plugs into the extender, and the emitter is placed with a sticky pad over your equipment’s infrared receivers.
Now, the Unifier, Automator and Customizer are fairly “dumb” when it comes to RF, as it cannot be enabled or disabled on a device-by-device or even remote-by-remote basis. Even if you don’t have an RF extender, the remote is constantly sending an RF signal. Note that the North American extender operates at 418MHz, which is the same as almost all other remote control extenders – so if you also have another brand of extender, chances are it will rebroadcast signals from a URC series remote as well.
Since neither RF nor IR can be disabled, you might come across an issue using the extender on equipment that is normally within line-of-sight of the remote. Unless the equipment’s IR sensor has been completely blocked off to everything except the wired emitter, it could potentially see IR commands from both the emitter and the remote at the same time, possibly overwhelming or confusing it.
The official RF range as specified by the manual is 50 to 100 feet, beating out regular infrared at 30 to 50 feet, however due to local conditions this number could vary widely. If you have thick walls, lots of wiring, old plaster on metal lath or just a busy RF environment, reception range could suffer accordingly. In testing I was able to control devices reliably from throughout my house; however this does not guarantee that the extender will work as well in your specific conditions.
At a total of $175, the URC-100 plus extender is a pretty good deal for RF-based control, but even better is the URC-200 plus extender at just $225, $25 less than the MX-600 package.