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Using the remotes.
All three remotes are quick to operate, but the quickest (by mere milliseconds) is the URC-200. Devices switch rapidly, pages change instantly. Macros also play back swiftly, with 10 commands transmitting in approximately 4.5 seconds.
The logic behind the URC-200 and URC-300’s navigation will be second nature to anyone familiar with the MX-500 or MX-700, and should definitely be intuitive enough for users unfamiliar with advanced remotes: all things start from [Main]. Pick your device, and then use the [Page] buttons if you don’t immediately see the command you’re looking for. Pressing [Main] from a device returns to the home page. On the URC-200 the Favorite Channels area is treated as a nested device, so if “TV” was the last device before pressing [Fav], pressing [Main] goes back to “TV” rather than “Main”. Fast and simple.
In addition to some close key spacing on the URC-100, the only other design nuance is shared by all three remotes: the keys encircling the menu controls are too close. The menu’s direction pad is raised higher than the surrounding keys and subsequently has a wide bezel ramping up around it. Seven or eight of the keys surrounding this section are at least partially embedded in the bezel, making those keys difficult to press for anyone with large fingers since your finger tends to hit the bezel as you push downwards. Of particular concern are the [Fast Forward] and [Rewind] keys, which are almost completely embedded in the bezel.
This exact same issue occurred years ago with the first MX-500 model. It was partially corrected on later MX-500 versions by changing to the GemStone finish, which raised the keys higher, and was completely fixed with the MX-700 and MX-800 by removing portions of the bezel that directly contacted key edges. On all three of these new models those keys are smaller, lower, closer to the direction pad, protrude less outside of the bezel, and have a smaller gap between them and the raised plastic. Insert frowny face emoticon here...
Owners of DVR units such as TiVo and ReplayTV should be aware that none of these remotes include dedicated Chapter Skip or Guide Page keys – those functions will need to be placed on other free keys.
Six emitters, no waiting...
Okay, so each remote may not actually have six emitters, but as I was preparing to test the infrared strength of the Unifier, Automator and Customizer, each one sporting a pair of blasters, I was wielding a veritable six-pack of potentially record-setting remote power. Universal Remote Control has had a particularly good history of equipping their products with far-more-than-is-really-needed infrared capabilities, so I entered our MTFB lab with high hopes for the new series.
For those not already in the know, MTFB stands for “Menacing Thick Fluffy Blanket”, the industry’s only enumerated testing bed for universal remote controls. Why, companies are peeking through the windows to catch a mere glimpse of our super-secret polyester-based infrared blocking material! Well, maybe not...
Level one begins innocently with a single layer of obstructing blanket. As expected, this posed absolutely no challenge for any of the remotes. Level two starts with the URC-100, check; URC-200, check; URC-300, check... no problems. Typically it’s at level three where remotes start to get claustrophobic, what with being smothered in all that blue fluff and all, but once again the three models passed with flying colors.
Level four – a point which most remotes have never seen, let alone passed. And what’s this? Suddenly, the off-angle performance of all three models is severely reduced. Unless pointed precisely at the receiver, nothing gets through. Level five unsurprisingly proves to be too much altogether, so the final score comes out to 3.5 for all three units. Excellent, but not outstanding.