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User reviews for the Digital R50 from Universal Remote Control Inc.
Average: 2.87/5.00 Median: 3.33/5.00
The R50 is the consumer version of the MX-450. It features a vibrant color LCD screen, control over 18 devices, full on-board programming, a favorite channels section, red keypad backlighting, plus nearly unlimited learned codes and macros.
The reviewer has used this remote control for 6-12 months.
Review 3 made on April 7, 2009.
Good signal strength
Does not operate as advertised. URC customer support.
This remote is not as customizable as URC leads the consumer to believe. For instance, I have the light-on setting set to 60 seconds but it stays on for 5. Emailed customer support - NO RESPONSE. I woudl liek to not have to page through a bunch of unused menu items, but if I remove them the other items don't combine onto the least number of pages - and I can't move the menu items. So, to use my cable guide I have to hit guide, page one page back to go up and down and then select a show or to use the DVR I start on the DVR page go one page back to page up and down then haev to go three pages forward to hit the "A-C buttons. Or if I hit stop and want to erase, I have to hit a few pages to find the letter buttons.
This remote is definitely not worth the money and I question if URC even cares about customers - I emailed them for more information and all I got was a canned response that the terrible quick guide was all the info they had? If it is then who actually made and programmed this remote?
If I wanted a remote to not act as advertised and very poor customer support I would have bought a $20 remote instead of this one.
The reviewer has used this remote control for under 1 month.
Review 2 made on April 4, 2009.
Relatively easy to use, especially after being used to the MX-500 by the same company. Reasonable cost. Good tactile feel.
If you can't figure out how to program a feature, you're on your own. No User Guide, no toll-free support, no nothing.
I was very pleased with this remote and had no trouble programming it until I came to macros. I simply wanted to have my TV and cable box turn on with the same button. You would think that would be fairly easy. Especially since I had no problem doing it with the MX-500. You would be wrong.
First, the Quick Start Guide is USELESS. It advises you to "practice with the R50 first" but provides no real steps to follow. The on-screen guide is equally useless. It provides "Tips", but no real instructions. There is NO User Guide. If you go to the website there are PDFs of User Guides for most of their remotes, but NONE for the R50, only the Quick Start Guide. I guess they just could not be bothered to write one. There is no 800 number. There is a non-toll free number in the fine print. After trying numerous times to program a simple Macro I gave up.
I don't understand why a manufacturer would spend so much effort and expense to develop what is generally a very good remote (which I'm sure they think is user-friendly) and then simply not bother to write a User Guide for those of us without a degree in computer science or engineering. It's not even a matter of saving money on printing...they could have it on their website like they do for all their other products. They simply didn't want to pay to have someone spend a few hours to write one.
A good remote should not leave the user frustrated and angry.
The reviewer has used this remote control for under 1 month.
Review 1 made on December 4, 2008.
sleek and solidly built, strong overall abilities, stand-alone programming, very good selection of hard buttons
emphasizes looks over usability, non-updateable IR database, some programming tasks could be easier
The best remote for me is a non-touchscreen one, since I really prefer not having to look at the remote while I'm using it. And so I was excited to discover the R50, with the features and overall layout that I've been looking for for a long long time. An actual record button! Discrete skip buttons! No listen or watch or activities buttons! And at a reasonable price too. I went straight to BestBuy to get it, the only local dealer. Sadly, the only other local authorized dealer (a high-end A/V shop) was going out of business.
Having used an MX-950 for some time now, I had high expectations for the R50. The R50's build quality is exceptional, good fit and finish, excellent color screen, appealing two-tone look of satin and gloss. Similarly, the onboard programming and software is nicely done, with helpful onscreen Setup Tips along the way -- which you can disable once you're familiar with the process. Device IR code selection was a breeze, along with choosing icons, and T9 cell-type text entry for the labeling.
Though you're working with their large IR database and pre-defined button layouts, you can (re)locate IR commands exactly where you want them with the Macros function, which lets you place one or more commands from a device onto any soft or hard button on any other device. It's powerful stuff, and is more convenient than having to learn those commands onto the remote manually. A small gotcha of the Macros function is that it wants to jump to the device page that you "copied" a command from, when you press the button you've assigned that command to. To fix this you can either hide the source device page or make sure to navigate back to the original device before saving the macro. One unexpected nicety is that all onboard IR commands have a short descriptive label associated with them, and this label is displayed onscreen when you press each button. Cool!
I have to say, it was nice to be able to sit on my couch through the whole setup process, rather than having to attach the remote to my computer upstairs for programming. With my MX-950, every new device or idea I have means I'm constantly having to trek upstairs and down while I'm tweaking the 950's setup. It was great not to have to do this with the R50. I think the best of both worlds would be a hybrid approach: advanced onboard programming with the ability to tweak via attached computer. There are some tasks, like saving and loading button layouts, importing new IR codes, updating firmware, rearranging device pages, etc, that are best done on a computer. But being able to define and tweak new devices and buttons and macros directly on the remote is much (!) nicer than having to upload and sync via computer first (over and over again).
It was also a big pleasure to use a remote that didn't rely on or enforce arbitrary arrangements like Listen & Watch or Devices & Activities. Just a nice simple Main button instead, with a nice flat menu structure to go with it. Do we really need those extra pages of menus to isolate similar things? It seems to me that most media nowadays are both audio and visual, in some fashion or another. Whether its the onscreen menu for your audio receiver or your iPod, or being able to see what artist is playing on the cable radio channels. If there's audio, there's often gonna be some video too. Its all that metadata. Gotta love it.
The biggest drawback I found with the R50 is the ergonomics, and I'm sorry to say that this one is a showstopper for me, and that I'll be returning this remote shortly. Sigh... I had such high hopes, but the physical placement of the buttons (in all three dimensions) is not good, and the buttons themselves are not the best either.
On the plus side, the overall organization of the button layout is much better than most remotes, anywhere. I do so hate it when buttons for one task are combined with those from another task. Unlike many remotes out there, the R50 has the button tasks grouped nicely: volume/channel, menu, transport, etc. Buttons for each of these task groups should be physically close together for ease of use, and the R50 does this well, unlike some earlier attempts by URC. I don't want transport buttons attached to the directional menu pad -- that's where the menu action buttons should be (info, exit, menu, guide). And I don't want the menu action buttons separated from the menu pad by volume or channel or other buttons. There are many examples of this issue, but you get the idea. Interestingly, unlike the majority of their other remotes, URC has made the R50's menu pad perfectly flat, instead of the usual dished shape.
And on the minus side...
The buttons themselves are problematic in both action and in feel. Certain ones (volume, channel, skip+/-, stop, rec, menu, guide, info, exit) are too oddly shaped, and this makes them either stiff or mushy or both. They also tend to tilt at odd angles when you press them, rather than depressing evenly like the other buttons. All of the buttons were formed with a very square profile to them. Normally this wouldn't matter much, but the odd shaped ones end up feeling very sharp under your fingers, along the button edges and corners. Using this remote for an extended time is a bit irritating to your fingertips. Not as pleasant as my MX-950, at any rate. I'm guessing they gave the buttons such square profiles in order to achieve the look they were after, with the black graphics leaving a nice thin border at the button edges. It may look nice, but it doesn't *feel* nice. Bad design choice.
The odd shaped buttons (and rew and ff and the menu pad) have another problem. They're physically hard to get at to push them, and this is for two reasons.
Reason one: they're just too darn close to each other, and there's not enough room to reliably push them without inadvertently pushing a nearby one as well -- and I have slim fingers. The worst offenders are rew and ff and the menu pad. When it comes to button usability, there is a rule of thumb that I've realized. In order for any given button to be easy to get at and use, it must have a certain minimum amount of space around it. If that space isn't there then that button won't be easy to get at or use. The R50 violates this rule of thumb on a good number of the 47 buttons it has.
Reason two: the various heights of the button surfaces. You can't easily tell from the pictures, but the central black area on the remote is raised higher than the sliver areas to each side of it. And that black area is also slightly higher than the height of those buttons in the silver areas. What this means is that the 10 buttons in the silver areas are hard to get at, because your fingers are partly blocked from pushing those buttons by the raised black area that butts up against them. Very bad design choice.
Things that would make this remote better: > There needs to be a "button copy" function. And a "button swap" function would be nice too. When you're arranging the buttons layouts, having such functions would make things much quicker and easier. Using the Macros function lets you effectively copy the IR commands where you want them, but it doesn't copy the associated label text, which means you have to separately create and label a button before you can place commands on it (for soft buttons). On hard buttons you aren't allowed to create a label at all, and so you lose that small nicety mentioned earlier. > Make it easier to hide and unhide device pages. As it is now, when you hide a page it kicks you back 3 or more steps. Instead it should let you hide multiple pages at once. > If a device page is hidden, you should still have access to all the buttons on that page when in programming mode. As it is now, you must unhide the page before you can build macros that reference buttons on it. The hidden pages are visible in programming mode, but they're blank of any buttons. > The fav button has a great feature, where you can be in any device and you can go in and out of the favorites pages without ever changing devices. I'd really like to see an extra button or two that acted this same way, to allow adjusting audio and video settings, all without having to re-navigate back to your original device. > The button backlighting would be nicer as a soft white, rather than the deep red that it is. It would be easier to read the buttons and would visually match the lcd screen's backlight. A color adjustable backlight would be more flexible though. > While I prefer the R50's silver and black color scheme over the sibling MX-450's all-black look (all-black is hard to use) the visual look of the R50 feels busy and cramped. The MX-980 has a much cleaner look with its silver and black color scheme. > Make sure there's enough spacing between all buttons. > Get rid of the height change on the central black area. It blocks your fingers from the buttons next to it. > Get rid of the overly odd button shapes. They're awkward and not very usable. Also, round off the button edges, make them comfy. > The two bottom corners of the remote should be rounded more. These areas sit in your palm the most, and they dig in after a while.
I really really wanted to like this remote. It has so many good things going for it. I don't want to chop the quality rating I'm giving it, since the hardware and software on this remote are very nicely done, but given the poor ergonomic qualities, I've got to. I suppose I could learn to live with these limitations, but for a product that I would use so frequently almost every day, I know that I'd be very irritated by it, and its just not worth it.
A plea to the folks at URC...
Please don't let the visual design of a remote take priority over other design requirements. If the basic functionality isn't in place then all the good looks are of no use. Those looks may help you sell the remotes initially, but they won't keep your customers happy. Its the functionality -- the usability -- that keeps them happy. The good looks are the icing on the cake.