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Don’t fix what ain’t broke...
These remotes may be completely new, but they’ve clearly been based on the best aspects of the company’s previous offerings. The URC-100 is an almost exact replacement for the venerable Home Theater Master SL-9000 (the remote that simply refuses to become obsolete – read our review), the URC-200 is a sort of “MX-500 Light”, while the URC-300 reminds me of an MX-500 morphed with the older MX-1000 (read our review).
The trio features additional similarities with other Universal Remote products, such as the GemStone key finish, a menu cursor cluster akin to the MX-500, and a stylish black and silver color scheme picked up from the MX-800 (read our review). But where these remotes differ from those predecessors is with their physical design – and by offering even greater capabilities for the money! All three feature numerous hard buttons, infrared code learning, a preprogrammed database, macros, and in some cases favorite channel lists and customizable function names.
The URC-100, URC-200 and URC-300 are “device oriented”, meaning that they work like multiple remotes crammed into a single case: press the “TV” button to control the TV, or the DVD button for the DVD player. Another popular type of remote are the “activity oriented” ones, which merge multiple devices into logical activities: “Watch TV” would present only the controls needed to perform that activity, from any number of related devices. Universal remote novices sometimes find the device based approach the easiest to get used to, as that’s how everything has worked in the past. But even those who prefer the activity concept will be able to work with the URC-200 and URC-300 due to their excellent macro, learning and labelling capabilities – all staples of activity remotes. It’ll just involve a little creativity!
A single case for all.
All models share a common housing that measures 2.61” wide, 8.50” long and 1.29” thick (6.6cm by 21.7cm by 3.3cm). The two outer edges curve inwards in the middle, tapering the remotes down to 2.14” (5.5cm) wide, while the case thins ever so slightly to 1.20” (3.1cm) thick at the bottom. For an easy-to-hold shape, the back has been sculpted narrower with vertical grooves on either side, similar to the MX-500 but closer to the MX-1000. A slight horizontal indentation just above the centerline creates a natural resting place for index fingers.
The battery compartment is located near the bottom and holds 4 AAA batteries in a 2 by 2 arrangement – Duracells included in the box. With those batteries the URC-100 weighs 7.2oz (204 grams), the URC-200 weighs a bit more at 7.5oz (210 grams), while the URC-300 weighs 7.4oz (208 grams). Remove 1.7oz (46g) for a measurement without batteries. The three remotes are well weighted, with the balance point just below the index finger groove.
A small dark plastic shield on the front conceals a pair of infrared emitters, while lower down the right side is a [Light] button that turns the backlight on and off. The top half of the plastic case is textured like fine sandcast aluminum and finished in metallic silver, while the bottom half is coated with black matte paint – that marvellous grippy kind that tends to collects fingerprints but feels oh so nice.
Although comparable to URC’s Home Theater Master models, the Unifier, Automator and Customizer are smaller and styled somewhat differently. Instead of the top edges curving smoothly around to the sides, the new models feature a sharper angled bevel. Other details such as less resistance to lateral twisting, smaller and closer buttons, thicker label text and more flamboyant font colors give these remotes a slightly less refined air than the MX series... which is perfectly appropriate considering the price difference. You can’t have your cake and eat it too...
As the entry level URC-100 Unifier is significantly different from the two other models, this review will now cover it separately. Afterwards we’ll continue with a combined section for the URC-200 Automator and URC-300 Customizer. You may wish to jump ahead if the URC-200 or URC-300 is of more interest, but otherwise let’s continue on with the Unifier!