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Acoustic Research ARRU449 Universal Wi-Fi Remote

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At a Glance
  • Audiovox Acoustic Research ARRU449 Universal Wi-Fi Remote

Forget world peace or love sweet love. What the world really needs now is a simple, easy-to-program universal remote. Acoustics Research's ARRU449 Universal Wi-Fi Remote comes closer than most.

What's different about this $399 handheld is Wi-Fi. The ARRU449 can log on to your home network and automatically download updates to its built-in program guide--no PC needed. You can search for movies, sports, family-oriented programs, anything broadcast in high-def, and channels or programs you've marked as favorites--and then check the results on the remote's 2-inch color LCD. It will even remind you when, say, Get Smart reruns come on.

As with all universal remotes, you must teach the AR Remote to talk to your various devices. Start by selecting the device type (TV, DVR, and so on) and manufacturer, then cycle through the infrared control codes for each piece of gear until you find one that works. An alphanumeric keypad lets you type the name of your gear maker to minimize scrolling, but it's still a tedious, trial-and-error process.

When the AR unit couldn't find the right code for my new Sony audio video receiver, I went to step 2: Put it nose to nose with Sony's remote and teach it what to do, button by button. If the ARRU449 lacks the right button (for Satellite or RGB input, say), you can 'soft code' it--make the command accessible from the remote's LCD. Once it knows your devices, you can program activities, such as turning on the TV, loading a DVD, and switching inputs on your receiver, to work with a single button. Expect to put in a lot of time tweaking your script until it works the way you want it to.

A cool but pointless feature is the ability to view weather reports, news and sports headlines, and Amazon shopping lists on the remote. (Isn't that why God gave us computers?) And the device has some basic design flaws. To delete something you just entered, for example, you must press, counterintuitively, the Clear and Enter buttons at the same time. Couldn't the engineers have included a backspace key?

Bottom line: The ARRU449 is a marked improvement on Logitech's Harmony line or Universal Remote's RF series, though at nearly $400 it's significantly pricier. But be prepared to spend quality time getting it to work right. As with world peace and love, patience is essential.

--Dan Tynan

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At a Glance
  • Pricey remote is innovative, but not without flaws.

    Pros

    • Color LCD screen, built-in Wi-Fi
    • Automatically updates programming guide

    Cons

    • Programming it can be time consuming
    • Missing a backspace key
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