Friday, July 13, 2007

The MX-500 MX 600 Home Theater Remote Control Review

Do you have an excess of remote controls for all of your home theater devices and want to bring control over everything into a single remote? Do you need good IR or even RF range so you can use the remote from a great distance? Do you want to be able to customize that remote including the lcd labels? Like hard buttons on your remote? Want the ability to make buttons control a more powerful macro where a single button will do multiple functions for multiple devices. And you want this all in a very reasonable price under $200?

One of the best solutions for this type of remote is the Universal Remote Control's Home Theater Master MX-500 and MX-600. I've used the MX-500 for several years with my HTPC's and now also own the MX-600 remote control. Both remotes are nearly identical except that the MX-600 adds RF capability which allows you to use the remote throughout the house and with your components in closed cabinets.

mx-500 on left & mx-600 on right

Who is Universal Remote Control Inc?
Universal Remote Control Inc. began their company making OEM remote controls. They make remote controls for many, many devices some of which you may have used before. My Time Warner cable box's remote control was even made by them.

Layout of the remote:
The feel of these remotes is great. It fits in the hand very nicely and you can reach the volume, channel, fast forward, rewind and "mouse pad" all near the remote users thumb. The remote features 45 hard buttons,a fully customizable LCD screen (always on) with ten hard buttons assigned to those LCD functions, and a nice five-way mouse (thumb-pad). The remote supports ten devices which should be enough for most looking in this price range. You can really make any button do whatever you want it to and I have mine set up so you can basically get to almost any function with no more then two presses of the key. The remote is big - over nine inches long, but it really does feel good in your hand. To power the remote, it requires four AAA batteries which are included. Other hard buttons on the remote include play, stop, pause, fast foward, rewind, chap skip, record all the numbers, guide, menu, exit, info and three non-LCD macro buttons.

I won't bore you with the details of setting up the remote, but I will say it takes a little time to get everything set up just right. There's no internet or PC connection so you do everything right on the remote itself. The remote comes with a pretty large database of IR codes for home theater devices, but I used the learn function for many of my devices so I could make everything just the way I wanted it. I then created several macros including one that turns everthing on, makes sure my HTPC software (Beyond TV) is focused, sets all devices to the proper inputs etc. I set up several other macros as well. Once you get the hang of it, it's not too difficult.

Other Features:
Backlighting - There's a button on the side that lights up all the buttons and the LCD so you can see everything on the remote in the dark. You can turn it off with another push of the button or it will turn off automatically after a short amount of time (configurable in the setup menu).
Cloning - If like me, you have two MX-500 or MX-600 remotes, you can clone all the settings and codes from one remote to another. This made it nice for me since I have so many similar functions on my HTPC setups.

Range - The MX-500 is an IR-only remote, but it has incredible range compared to most remotes. I was able to use it as far as 50 feet as long as there was little or no walls or doors blocking the way. The MX-600 is even better as it uses RF technology and an RF receiver so that it can be used throughout the entire house. You can also place the components anywhere behind doors or in cabinets without problems. Since I use a cable modulator in the house, I've been running my HTPC located in the living room from my upstairs bedroom using the MX-600 remote - I can't begin to tell you how excited this made my wife athough it can be a problem when you are looking for the remote control in the living room :)

You can get the MX-500 for about $76 and the MX-600 for about $117 on sale at Amazon right now. I also use girder and the usbuirt to control my HTPC along with these remotes. The combination is just perfect for me. Bottom line I highly recommend both of these remotes. If you have any questions about either remote, let me know in the comments.