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There's Nothing Universal About It...

Every big box electronics store has a section devoted to so called "universal remotes." Prices range from $15 to $250 depending on the bells and whistles you're looking for.

You might think that their would be a strong correlation between price and quality, but if you did you'd be wrong. As the owner of any number of inexpensive and pricey "universal" remotes I've found that many times the cheaper models work just as well as (or better than) the more pricey models.

As a DirecTV DVR user I've found that the best remote on the market for TiVo owners is the One-For-All UPC-6131. It's one of the few remotes on the market that is designed for TiVo use - it even has the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down keys. Best of all it's one of the bargain remotes, widely available for $25 or less.

Life was good until I got the bright idea to get a new DVD-R/VHS combo unit from Daewoo at Costco. The DVD player/recorder caught my attention by including an iLink ports which allows you to record a DVD directly from a DV camcorder - no PC required. Given my backlog of DV tapes to process then burn on the PC this seemed like a great time saver.

Sound great, right? The problem is that there's no code for the Daewoo unit for the UPC-6131 to control the unit. This introduces the dreaded two remote problem to the equation - a problem the "universal" remote was supposed to solve.

The UPC-6131 is manufacture upgradeable - meaning you send them the remote and they add the proper codes - but that's an large hassle. This turn of developments has me surveying the marketplace for replacements, a thoroughly depressing prospect. All of these remotes have nifty features that are designed to attract the attention, yet inevitably there is some functionality or feature missing. The more expensive models have LCD displays instead of key, yet those cool looking models (by most accounts) are just expensive battery eaters. Few of them address TiVo (or other DVR) functionality, and those that do tend to stray far from the familiar TiVo "peanut" remote layout.

If you're TiVo user and you're in the market for a universal remote I suggest you head over to the TiVo Community Forums and be prepared to be depressed. Universal, my ass...


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Comments (18)

The Harmony Remote is aweso... (Below threshold)

The Harmony Remote is awesome. Download the codes from your PC via a USB port, no batteries, what more could you ask for? A little pricey, but if you use a repeater, you can control everything ion your house with one unit.

I hate universal remotes. ... (Below threshold)

I hate universal remotes. What was so bad about using two remotes (TV and VCR/DVD player)? Of course, I don't have a TiVo or surround sound or anything fancy like that. But still, how lazy have we become when we can't handle using more than one remote?

I have some friends who mad... (Below threshold)

I have some friends who made an ingenious solution to the two remotes quagmire.

They called it "The wand", basically what you do is take two normal remotes and tape them together into a single unit. Once again duct tape saves the day!

What ikkonoishi writes, bec... (Below threshold)

What ikkonoishi writes, because I've used the method for many years now, after wasting time and money on "universal remotes" by several and eventually going with the "tape two essential remotes together" method. Works like a charm. It also makes if far easier to locate the larger taped result. Just remember to change the tape every month or so to avoid the frayed-tape-gluey-edges.

I second the Harmony sugges... (Below threshold)

I second the Harmony suggestion.

I don't think tehy're made ... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

I don't think tehy're made anymore, but many years back, in the eighties, I had a truly universal (for infra-red, anyway) remote. It had a "learn" mode: push the button on the remote for the device and the button you wanted for the same function on the universal. You could select four device sets, which could actually be more - how often do you use numbers to control your stereo? Codes? It don' need no steenkin' codes!

Golly, wonder why I can't find one now? Guess for the same reason VCR decks have had timer-controlled channel-changing for over twenty years, but cable boxes don't.

I'm happy with my URC 8910.... (Below threshold)

I'm happy with my URC 8910. It's upgradeable via phone (which I used to get my dvd player codes). After a while you get used to using non intuitive buttons that you have assigned to functions (ie, fwd and rew for page up and down on the cable onscreen guide). I remapped the default key layout for the home theater codes to match my HT remote. Any keys missing from the device codes are easily added with the learning function. For $20 it's a nice remote.

I never had a reason to get into the JP1 remote hacking/programming, but it looks as though the 6131 is JP1 compatible.

Pronto. You get what you p... (Below threshold)

Pronto. You get what you pay for. :)

Granted, programming a Pronto is a little like building your own car just to drive to the store...but if you can deal with it and you enjoy getting your hands dirty...it's *awesome*. You can also just download someone else's pre-programmed Pronto files and add them to your system fairly easily if you aren't into doing it yourself.

Expensive though. REALLY expensive. Nothing beats a well-programmed Pronto though for controlling a multi-DVR, multi-DVD home theater.

If your universal remote is... (Below threshold)

If your universal remote is JP-1 programmable you can grab the code for the Daewoo DVD-VCR combo at http://www.hifi-remote.com/forums/dload.php?action=category&cat_id=79 and then add it to the remote with a JP-1 cable and the appropriate programs. Main page is at http://www.hifi-remote.com/forums/index.php. Once you've started re-programming your remotes with JP-1 you'll never go back.

If your not into the whole ... (Below threshold)

If your not into the whole duct tape esthetic, try velcro tape. A strip of the opposing sides down the back of each will hold them together well. Plus the velcro system is upgradeable should you ever need to replace one of the remotes you just put the right half of the velcro on the new unit.

Also, if you are clever enough to not tape the battery compartment closed you have easy access for replacement.

I would agree, Pronto all t... (Below threshold)

I would agree, Pronto all the way. Granted it's a tedious process to get it "just right" (and the default interface for it blows, hard).

If you've ever used something like a windows forms designer, you'll love the flexibiliy of the Pronto. You are at the mercy of your imagination with respect to it's functionality.

Pricewise, I picked mine up online as a reconditioned refurb unit for a fraction of what a new one lists for. (check out remotecentral.com for reviews and files for universal remotes).

Kevin,Like you, I ... (Below threshold)


Like you, I am a DirecTV DVR user and needed a universal remote. I found the One for All URC8810 at WalMart for $20. It doesn't have the thumbs-up/thumbs-down buttons, but it does have most of the capabilities to control the TiVo out of the box. Best of all, anything it doesn't have can be copied from your existing remotes and placed on to about any button on the remote. I use it for a Toshiba TV, Sony amplifier/tuner, ProScan VCR, and a Kenwood 5-disc DVD player. Some of the buttons, such as the thumbs-up/-down I've had to program in, but very few and it works great once their in there. It also keeps the programing through battery changes. For $20, you can't beat it.

I have a no-name remote sha... (Below threshold)

I have a no-name remote shaped like a slice of pizza that cost me $5 at a discount warehouse; it's always worked perfectly.

My vote is for the Harmony ... (Below threshold)

My vote is for the Harmony remotes. I don't have tivo (yet), but I do have a cable box, vcr/dvd combo, surround sound, dvd player, and the Tv naturally has numerous imputs.

My harmony remote allows me to use one button switching between any number of viewing possibilities.

All programming is done via Logitechs Harmony website, just plug in model numbers of your equipment and down load to the remote by the usb cable.

Some models can be alittle pricey, but my remote bought 2 years ago is now available at fraction of the price with just a little looking around.

And possibly the best thing is their support service, it is the best I have ever dealt with.


You can still get learning ... (Below threshold)

You can still get learning remotes. I don't know the brands offhand but there are a few. Sony definitely has one. I don't think any of them are cheap, though I think I've seen closeouts for $50.

The Woz invented them, BTW.

So ....Is there a ... (Below threshold)

So ....

Is there a lesson here to be applied to universal healthcare?

I got tired of always losin... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

I got tired of always losing my remotes so now I just super-glue them to the side of the tv or whatever as soon as I set them up, that way I always know where they are.

my suggestion (the same as ... (Below threshold)

my suggestion (the same as a few others on here)? Get a Logitech Harmony remote. I have about 6 remotes for my system at home, and one logitech harmony remote works for all of them - flawlessly. yes, some of the harmony remotes are pricey, but i got mine for around $40 after rebate. Check it out!






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