Wrangling With Remotes

Steve and new Duo-ist Dawn Chmielewski, both homeowners, settle in for a discussion of a problem plaguing family rooms across America: the multiplying plague of remote controls. In the interest of rediscovering the tops of their respective coffee tables, the pair gathered five of those all-in-one remotes and gave them a try. The results were ... well, don't break out the doilies just yet.

Steve found it interesting how greatly the five gadgets varied from one another. Universal Remote Control's Automator, for instance, has lots of real physical buttons, and they light up. The problem with that model, notes Dawn, is that the buttons don't always perform the same functions. You pick which device you want to control, and a screen indicates what five things you can do with, say, your DVD player. That means a lot of the stuff that's right out front on the remote that came with your TV or DVD player or whatever is buried in menus on the universal remote. But the Automator does come with a DVD that helps you program the device.

Meanwhile, the Universal Electronics One For All 6 Kameleon remote goes entirely the other way. It's got this illuminated touch panel that changes depending on which device you're controlling. If you're in TV mode, you get your usual TV controls, but if you switch to VHS or DVR, you get the usual play controls like fast forward and reverse. But this thing has its own problems. For some reason, it hides some of the essential controls for some devices until you press the button marked Scroll. It doesn't actually scroll anything--it reveals things. (And what's the point of hiding them in the first place?)

The other problem is that this thing gives you no tactile feedback at all. There are no dedicated buttons that you can actually feel--not even for volume--so you can't use it without looking. But of all the models that underwent testing, Steve likes the Kameleon the best, because it does put most of the commands out there all at once.

Hey, didn't they promise us five remotes? Next segment, folks, move along.

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