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User reviews for the URC-200 "Automater" & RF-20 from Universal Remote Control Inc.
Average: 4.18/5.00 Median: 4.33/5.00
$150 / $120
The URC-200 is a 10-device learning and preprogrammed remote control that features numerous macros, a large LCD screen with customizable names for 5 hard buttons, favorite channel macros, 5-way menu controls and an optional RF extender.
The reviewer has used this remote control for 1-3 months.
Review 1 made on Wednesday March 31, 2004 at 11:29 PM.
Powerful, strong signal, very cool, very flexible
Small pre-programmed library
The URC-200/Automator is the "mid-range" consumer remote from Home Theater Master, but you wouldn't know it from the features. The only difference I've found between it and the URC-300/Customizer is the smaller display with buttons rather than a larger touchscreen and some memory. (See my review of the URC-300 for a fuller list.)
The URC-200/Automater has a fantastic look and feel. The LCD is very legible in regular light and extremely cool when backlight. All the buttons illuminate also, in a very cool greenish blue. The remote is a perfect size too, not nearly as large as most universal remotes.
All buttons, including those for the screen, are gemstone-coated plastic. This gives them a look of injection-molding with a laquer coat; it's really snazzy even though the primary purpose is wear-reduction. They're hard, not soft rubbery buttons, so they won't soak up oil and stains either. The D-ring (joystick) is easy to operate and is softer. I prefer this type of navigation control over buttons because, in the dark, I can quickly recognize the control and where I am on it by feel.
I also have the MRF-100 "Expander" RF module; this allows better range than my One-For-All 9800 and base do, and also came with additional emitters on 10-ft wires, very nice for putting the base out of sight. However I discovered that it is SO strong that I have it on top of the television, over the components, pointing away from them. It works fine anyhow. Amazing.
The only downsides of this remote really point to the company's primary focus on customizers. Not only is the device library small compared to others (e.g. OneForAll), but the LCD labels don't update with it. For example, if you have two EchoStar Dish satellite receivers in the same room, you will be using one of their secondary codes. But only the primary code is in the URC tables, so you'll have to learn the whole thing. There's plenty of memory, but learning goes slow of course.
A related issue is that the button labels aren't reprogrammed to match the newly-selected devices. The device labels start out as TV, Cable, DVD, VCR and Audio. If you have different devices or want a different order, even if you load them from the pre-programmed tables, the labels stay set as those initial devices until you edit them. So determining which buttons does what can be an exploration. The functions all made it, their labels did not.
So more than likely you will simply "learn" all the auxillary commands anyhow, which you probably would do just to move buttons around regardless. I'm not aware of a "move button" function, but again, this remote is aimed at the serious user. Because of that, I don't really count this oversight and the small library against the remote. Yes, you must customize it. Isn't that why you got one? (Hint: If you want one that works with the buttons preset out-of-the-box, the URC-100 Unifier might be a good choice; it has hard buttons rather than soft ones, so is less flexible but they're probably matched correctly on selection.)
Command learning is done well. The codes must be shot twice per, the second for verification. It takes a few iterations to realize that you should barely tap your source remote's buttons or the verify will "fail" and you'll have to do the process for that button over, but once you get it down, it goes quickly. And the verification is a nice touch because learned codes seem to always work.
Label editing, device mapping, macros and such are all done very well also. This is just a really easy remote to customize with lots and lots of power.
Just like the URC-300, there is a 7-pin connector in the battery compartment (though currently nothing to connect it to), batteries are included (a very nice touch), and there's a tutorial DVD which I've never loaded. The manual is much better than average for universal remotes. Bottom line: A very powerful remote with fantastic ergonomics and strong signal. The smallish library and default label issues are more signs of the intended market (the power user who intends to customize it) than flaws, and are a welcome trade-off for the ease and flexibility of that customization.