8. Control what you can't see.
Optional to the MX-950 are the MRF-250 or MRF-300 RF basestations, which take RF signals sent from the remote control and rebroadcast them as infrared. For this review we'll be looking at the more economical MRF-250, which retails for $99 USD MSRP and is essentially an internally upgraded version of the earlier MRF-200. The MX-950 cannot be used to operate any RF-only equipment such as some satellite receivers and audio systems directly, but if your infrared-based equipment is stored behind wooden doors, off to the side, or even in another room the MRF-250 will allow you to use the remote for complete control.
Measuring 5.06" wide, 3.57" deep and 1.20" high (12.9 cm by 9.1 cm by 3.1 cm) with the antenna folded flat, the MRF-250 is compact and unobtrusive. It's finished in a light silver and black color scheme, so if left out in the open it will be complementary to the remote. The MRF-250's semi-flexible antenna is about 3.5" long (8.9cm) and can be adjusted for best performance no matter where the transceiver is situated. A plastic mounting plate (screws included!) slides and latches onto the bottom of the unit and can be used to place the unit in gravity-defying locations. Also on the bottom are four soft plastic feet for tabletop use.
The back of the MRF-250 sports a DC power-in port, plus six numbered phono jacks for plug-in infrared emitters. The MRF-250 ships with all 6 wires, each 10 feet long. Each wire has a single stick-on IR emitter (plus one spare sticky pad). Universal Remote Control decided to defy convention and use extra-small 2.5mm jacks instead of the industry standard of 3.5mm, which corresponds to most headphone jacks. Custom installers requiring different wires than those included (such as ones with dual emitters) will need to purchase the appropriate adaptor.
In addition to the six wired jacks, the front of the transceiver features an astonishing six built-in infrared emitters: two pointing forwards and four pointing upwards. Although these particular emitters may be used in close quarters, URC has made it possible for the unit to be placed clear across the room - they even scored an impressive 3.5 on our MTBF test. The manual cautions that they may actually overpower some equipment. The top of the unit has two LEDs, one for power and another to indicate signal reception. Located on the bottom of the MRF-250 is a small dial that can be set to one of 16 numbers - the ID of this particular RF unit.
The final programming stage in MX-950 Editor, number 8, displays RF settings for all controlled devices including the two main menus. Each device can be configured to transmit IR from the remote, RF to the transceiver, or both. If one of the two RF options are chosen, any of the 16 potential receivers can then be specified, followed by where to send the signal - to all IR emitters or one of the six in particular. Buy 16 transceivers and it's possible to broadcast discretely to 96 individual devices! This is a great solution for working with multiple identical components that would otherwise respond to each others' commands.
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.