on May 13, 2010
I really like this remote control. URC did some really clever things when putting this product together. There are some draw-backs to this product that I will discuss in greater detail, but none of those issues are significant enough for me to not recommend this device to most users. On the whole I'm very glad I bought this device. I replaced a Logitech Harmony 880 with the URC R50, and I honestly believe it was the right decision for me.
Everyone who has ever used a Logitech Harmony Remote knows that programming a universal remote with your computer is quick and easy. For most users the Harmony software gets the job done and they never consider the possibility that there may be a better alternative out there. This class of consumer is willing to accept the limitations that comes with using the Harmony product to program their remote. I am not one of those consumers.
After using the Harmony 880 for five years I learned a few things that are worth knowing about universal remotes:
1) Rechargeable batteries are annoying.
The Harmony 880 uses a table top dock to charge the batteries on their remotes. Over time the connection between the dock and the remote becomes less true, and eventually I had to balance another remote on top of the harmony to weight it down into the dock so that it would charge. The URC R50 uses batteries, and those batteries can be replaced. The R50 also offers 18 hours of continuous button mashing with 4 AA batteries, or months of normal intermittent use. The URC R50 also has a time out kill switch that will put the remote on standby if one button is pressed continually for more than a minute. In other words, battery saving features make this remote a good alternative to remotes with rechargeable battery packs.
2) With the Harmony software comes certain limitations.
Using the Harmony software means you have to follow their rules. Don't get me wrong, I like the simplicity of the Harmony software, but I never felt like I had complete control over what is displayed on the remote. The URC R50 isn't a perfect solution, and it too has limitations in what it will allow you to do, but in my opinion, being able to modify my remote configuration without having to turn on my computer is nice. All my macro setup and testing was done in my living room so there was no running back and forth from my computer to my entertainment center to test the remote's configuration. It may be a bit more time intensive to setup the URC R50, but the pay-off is worth the time investment.
3) Hard Buttons vs. Soft Buttons.
This is a personal preference issue that you won't know you have an opinion on until you've used a remote for more than a year. But I learned after using the Harmony 880 for four years that I really HATE hard plastic buttons on remotes. The Logitech remote may look very sleek and stylish, but in your hand it's just a button mashing device, and those hard buttons aren't finger friendly. The URC R50 has soft rubber buttons the conform more the interaction with the human hand. The surfaces aren't smooth and sleek like the Harmony, but it gets the job done. After a few years of using the Harmony 880, I also discovered that hard plastic buttons don't "wear" well over time. After three years many of the buttons no longer triggered their programmed function. I don't know about the longevity of the R50, but Universal Remote Control has a stellar reputation for making good devices. I guess I'll know more in three years.
4) The weaknesses in the URC R50:
-- The R50 doesn't come with verbose instructions or a detailed manual containing a code library. All configuration is done on the remote full color LCD display. There are tips and hints built into the remote, but the lack of comprehensive instructions might be challenging for the average user. As a tech savvy user, I saw this as a challenge which ultimately I over came. If you are stifled by a lack of detailed instructions, this may not be the remote for you.
-- Because there is no Make/Model code guide, you have to run through a series of trial and error to test which code works best with your devices. The good news is that this process is relatively painless, but as I said before... it can make setup a bit time consuming. My advice: Don't accept the first code that comes along and happens to work with your device. Keep testing until you find one that is a really good fit for all the features and functionality of your device. This can mean reconfiguring the remote a number of times until you find the "right" code kit, but it's not difficult to make a change, so there's no reason not to play with the settings until you find some that you really like.
-- Macros require that you know all your desired device settings prior to intitiating the "Recording Mode" for setting up a new macro. Essentially you start the Macro setup process, then run through the process of clicking the functions you want executed as part of the Macro. When you're finished you click the "Done" button, and the functions you clicked are saves as a Macro. This can mean multiple attempts to setup of a particular Macro if you have fat fingers, or make a mistake half way through. I didn't find it too difficult.
-- Unlike the Logitech Harmony remotes, the URC R50 does not have "last state memory". It simply executes macros as you programmed them. This means that if you have 2 s-video inputs on your television, and two different devices are hooked up using S-video from your receiver, when you use the macro to switch between the two devices you will switch inputs on your TV from S-video 1 to S-video 2... (or any duplicated input on your display). I solved for this by simply putting a source selection button configured into every device on my R50. If the incorrect input is selected, I can correct it with my pre-programmed source select button. Harmony wins on this point because they have a built in "Help" feature that will auto-correct issues for you. That was a very nice feature, but with the solution outlined above, I don't feel like I will miss it.
-- The above lack of "state memory" also applies to power state. This means that when you switch from your Xbox360 to your Blueray player, your Xbox may not turn off without programming that into your macro for the switch. Otherwise you will have to turn off ALL devices before you switch to a new device. This is a configuration issue that can be resolved with clever macro programming, but it is a bit tiresome.
After all these consideration outlined above, I still think that the URC R50 is a great device that, with the proper amount of patience and clever macro configuration, can result in a powerful remote that can control every device in your entertainment center. It has a very powerful IR blaster that works really well under almost every living room condition I've thrown at it. At the end of the day I prefer the R50 to my old Harmony 880.
on May 23, 2009
I went from hating this remote and being really sorry I had purchased it, to liking it. There is truth to all the reviews, I found,and so I hope this one will be useful. While I would not classify myself as being technically inclined, I don't think I am a complete dufus, owning many, many gadgets/ electronics and having had no trouble in the past. Thus, I thought that programming this could not be so bad. How wrong I was. It really was painfully slow for me, with a lot of trial and error, exactly because of the absence of the manual. With hindsight, I think the quick start guide was trying to tell me many things, but in a slightly abbreviated form, and sometimes with crucial or helpful steps missing. Like many poorly written instructions or bad teachers, these assume a certain knowledge, and also that one can fill in the blanks. If you fall into that category of being able to make some leaps without detailed instructions, or you are good at reading between the lines of general instructions, you will have no trouble. Otherwise, take the attitude that the setting up has to be done just once (however slow and painful) and THEN comes the good part. The macros (quick start tries to explain these -- sort of) are exceedingly useful. Buttons are easy to learn, based on their layout and their different shapes. You can teach any button to learn anything within a device category, and you have the capacity to re-label everything also. You can choose the brightness of the color screen. And so on. You end up with a very useful item which is exactly what it is: a Universal Remote Control.
Update: I have added the Roku to the list of devices and have used the volume and channel cut and paste functions, thus one is able to do favorite channels and change volume super easily. Also, when programming macros, make sure to do a practice run and jot down the exact steps, taking nothing for granted, THEN program the macro on the URC.
on December 27, 2008
Universal Remote Control URC-R50 Digital R50 Universal Remote Control
I ended up buying a HD-TV and a new DVD-VHS for the family and set them up just before Christmas. Ended up with 4 remotes just to watch TV in the the evening. I did some background research and found this new remote from Universal Remote that seemed to fit the bill to consolidate all the remotes. there are not many instructions included in the package but it stated the instructions were built into the remote. I was able to set up all 4 remotes into this one within less than 1 hour and I am not experienced in this. The TV code was the first one the "computer" selected in the remote and with some testing it worked fine. The Cox cable box remote worked fine and was able to verify that it worked in getting the "pay per view movies" channel. The TIVO (TM) was also preprogrammed into the remote and had built in all the buttons the same as in the TIVO remote. Impressive. The DVD-VHS remote was also coded correctly and works fine. Each selection of a code the remote provides instruction of how you can test the individual equipment to make sure it has the right code before proceeding.
The one negative is that I tried to program a macro but was not able to do it from the instructions included or those provided in the remote. I knew all the steps I wanted but could not get from one devise to another while programming the remote. I may call the help line when I get a chance.
The button layout to me is fine. With the small screen, and so many other touch screen found in electronics, I am tempted to touch the screen rather than the adjacent button. I'm sure that will be in the next generation.
Impressive and it did work. I'm not an electronic geek so can't compare to other remotes.
on January 22, 2009
Physical Quality: Excellent - the weight, feel, and balance, all make this a great remote.
I purchased the R50 remote by Universal because I already own the R5 remote that they used to make and I was very pleased with the value of that remote. I purchased a new HD TV and a new Home Theater system and wanted to make it easier for my other family members to work the equipment. The R50 is advertised as a remote that would do what I wanted.
I was a little concerned (as were others I talked to) when the remote came with no User's Manual. All you get is a "Quick Start Guide", which is nothing better than a sales brochure. I guessed that they assumed the On-Screen Display (OSD) help would suffice. So I forged ahead. I was able to set up my brand new Vizio TV using the pre-defined codes in the remote. But when I tried to add my older Toshiba DVD-R (DVD Recorder), the code wasn't available. This is why I like the Universal brand of remotes. They can learn.
So I decided to use the learning mode to add this device. The learning screens are not very intuitive. This is where a user's manual would come in handy. It's not that the learning mode doesn't work. It's just that it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what you're doing and how to navigate the screens correctly. I'm very good with technical things, but this was confusing at first. I eventually figured out how to work the screens, but I can only imagine how difficult it would be for anyone that claims to have no techincal skills. Now that I know how they've set up their screens, navigation is very simple. But some examples in a manual would go a long way in letting a new user know what to expect, screen by screen.
Also, there are always features of any device that are less obvious, but provide great help and enjoyment to the user. Who of us know all the features that Microsoft Excel provides. We'd never know many of the features if someone didn't tell us about it or we didn't read about the feature in a book somewhere. Now I have a remote that does the few things I want it to do, but because there is no user's manual, I have no idea what other features it could possibly provide me if I were aware those features exist. And now that I have my remote working, I don't want to search for those features or use it to practice.
The only complaint I have about this remote is the lack of a User's Manual! If they didn't want to pay the price to have User's Manuals printed, they could have at least provided a User's Manual (or a book of samples of setup routines) on their web site as a PDF file.
All in all, this remote does as it claims. I'm happy I bought this remote over the X10 Icon Remote, as it was not going to do what I wanted. This remote would have gotten my very highest score if it had only come with better instructions. If you're not real good with technical things, then I suggest you purchase this product from a Brick and Mortar store rather than on the web. Because if this remote doesn't have the codes for your equipment, you may want to take it back. But it is worth buying. Probably the best value out there in universal remotes. If your needs for a universal remote are very simple, try the R6 by Universal. For under $20 (at Best Buy), you get a very good remote that works great.
on February 16, 2015
I bought one of these in 2011 and absolutely loved it. When I needed another universal remote for another room I decided to see what else was available. There's not many choices for quality universal remotes anymore; basically just URC or Logitech. I've owned Logitech remotes before and found their software to be very clunky. First, you have to download their software to your computer and connect the remote as well to do ANY programming. Their software then finds codes to program the remote. But in my experience they never match up the way they should or how you want. But you can use the learning function the Logitech has but not every button can be customized.
Every button (except for the FAV) button on the URC R50 can be customized. There's no clunky computer setup and no need to use codes. I found it much easier and quicker to use the learning function for ever button. This way I knew exactly what button did what and didn't need to do extensive testing after using the codes to see what button did what and if they worked how I wanted them. I was able to program this remote completely in about half an hour, and that's for four devices and setting up macros. The macro setup was very easy, simply hit the start button and go through the steps on the remote how you want the macro to function. Save it and then it works exactly how you did it every time. I found with the Logitech the macro coding took forever and there was a lot of trial and error again because everything was done on the computer. When you want to test the Logitech you have to disconnect it from the computer and then test it. If it's wrong you have to reconnect it, such a pain. It took me nearly 2 hours last time to program a Logitech remote.
Other reviews I've read say this is difficult to program and Logitech is a dream. That may be true if you just have one or two devices. But if you have a lot, you're going to want the ability to customize exactly how you want.
on November 17, 2012
I purchased this remote to make life easier for anyone else who didn't know how to operate our 5 remotes (everyone but me). This was fairly easy to program. Don't stress too much about Macro's if you're concerned about them in other reviews. The top plate (black plastic) broke off after being repeatedly dropped by our kids, but the remote still works fine. I like the fact that it's not rechargeable batteries, as these can eventually cause problems. Manually programming the remote was not difficult, though takes a bit of planning.
Suggestion: When programming this unit, I suggest starting your programming on the 2nd "home screen" (if you Hit Main, then the button which will move you one page to the right). There, you can put all of your individual pieces of equipment (i.e. DVD player, TV, receiver, etc). Once you've done that, you can set the first home screen(Main)for your Macros (a macro is simply a chain of commands that you program the remote to do. See below.)
Here's an example. On our remote, when you hit "Main" all of our Macro's appear on the 1st page.
Main (Page 1)
Watch TV (MACRO - turns on TV & sets the proper input, turns on the Receiver and sets the proper input, turns on the Cable box)
Power Off (Macro)
TV (code set for our TV)
Audio (code set for our reciever)
DVD(code set for our dvd)
Cable (you get the idea)
Here's an example of a Macro I programmed:
TV --> power on --> TV Input 4 --> Main (back to home screen) --> Audio --> Power On --> vid 1 --> Main --> Cable --> power on
Basically, you just need to have each unit 1) turn on and 2) set to the desired input. Also, the LAST piece of equipment you program (in this case the cable box) will be what the remote now operates... so if you select the DVD player last in the series of commands, the remote will work the DVD player whenever you hit that Macro button. This is important, because if you want to control the cable box, make sure that's last command in your Macro so that you're not using a remote that controls something else.
Hopefully this is helpful! I like this remote and find it easy to use.
on May 28, 2011
I bought this remote to replace my worn out MX-500. In many ways the R50 is much better:
1. It looks much better. The screen is stunning. The red button backlighting works well. Because of the good looks, I will keep this remote despite its other faults. (The MX-500 is butt ugly--it looks like a paddle to be used for spanking.)
2. The IR is very powerful. I can just aim the remote at the ceiling, and it operates all the equipment, the TV, and the curtains, all around the room. With the MX-500, I had to sweep the remote a particular way while it ran certain macros, so it would be pointing the right direction for the particular command. (This was a skill my wife was unable to master.)
3. It learned every command from every remote I taught it. The MX-500 was very picky, and sometimes I had to teach a command to an old Radio Shack remote, then use the RS to teach the MX-500.
4. It has more hard keys. For example, the MX-500 shared Pause and Info, which are both used by my DVR.
5. It is much easier to program because of its on-screen help pages. To enter programming mode, you just hold down the Main key for three seconds. (The MX-500 uses a key combination I can never remember, so I have to look it up whenever I program it.) Keep in mind this remote is for the fairly advanced techno-geek. If you get frustrated easy, get another remote. I have 14 devices, and need complicated macros to switch between them. Once I have it all set up, my wife can run most of the system. For example, to watch the satellite, just hold the satellite button down for 2 seconds, and the macro automatically switches everything over to the satellite.
6. The "favorites" button is great, along with the slick graphics for the common networks (CBS, HBO, ESPN...) It makes it real easy to select your favorite channels.
7. The R50 has many more "discrete" codes for my equipment. These are separate ON and OFF commands, instead of a single ON/OFF toggling button. In many cases they don't show up on the device's original remote. Discrete codes are good because an ON command can be used in a macro, and it won't turn the device off if it is already on!
There are a few things I don't like about the R50:
1. If the screen is off, your first keypress turns the screen on, but the command isn't sent to the device. This is extremely irritating! With the old MX-500, I could set it down, and whenever the phone rang I could just pick it up and hit pause. With the new R50, I hit pause, nothing happens, then I have to hit pause again. Argh! If it weren't for this defect, I would give it 5 stars.
2. It repeats characters too quickly. If I hold a button for more than 1/4 second, it starts repeating. My entertainment PC is menu based, so unless I quickly stab all the keys to avoid repeats, it makes menu selections I don't want.
3. The volume, channel and transport commands are all sunken and difficult to feel in the dark. I expect I will eventually get used to them. I often use the skip and fwd/rew buttons to deftly skip commercials on the DVR, and these buttons are the hardest to hit on the remote.
4. I wish there was a way to move or copy individual buttons. To get around this, I can make one-button macros, or learn a button from the original remote. For example, in the case of the X-10 lighting control buttons, the "Off" button shows up on page 4. But I was able to make macros so that CH+ and CH- functioned as On and Off.
Overall, I think it is a good deal for the money. I can't stand the Logitech style of activity-based remotes, or having to go online to program them. It would be nice to store the setup in a PC, but it is also nice to not need a PC. For under $100, I think it is probably the best remote available for my needs.
on December 26, 2011
I give the URC-50 2 to 3 starts, and the URC-40 4 to 5 stars.
First, I'll just cut to the chase and say that the URC-40 is a much, much better product than the URC-50. Unfortunately, the URC-40 costs about 50% more, but that extra 50% is totally worth it. I have both, and here is why the URC-40 is so much better.
1)First and foremost, the URC-50 is fragile and very easily broken. The 50's covering (the piece surrounding the buttons) snaps on, and will easily break-off when dropped. If you are careful and don't have a tile floor, then this might not be a problem. When it was sitting on a blanket on the couch, my wife picked-up the blanket to fold it, and the remote fell on the tile. The hard black plastic covering cracked and fell-off, and the screen stopped working completely. The URC-40 does not have the same brittle plastic covering, and it seems obvious that it would not crack as easily. The top also appears to be just one piece -- there is nothing that snaps in that could break-off. Its too bad that the market for remote skins / protective coverings is nowhere near what it is for phones, but it is easy to make this yourself (see the end of the review).
2)Regardless of how technically savvy you are, the URC-50 is tedious and time consuming to program, when compared with the URC-40. Both remotes effectively have templates (they call them codes) for various different branded devices. If you have a Sony TV, you can scroll through a number of different Sony TV templates to find one that works with your TV, but it might not have 100% of what your TV's remote control has, and / or some buttons might not work. If you select a template on the URC-50 for a given device, you are stuck with it -- you can't make changes. I.E., if the 'Play' button does not work, then you cannot tell it to learn the play button. If you can't find a satisfactory template for a given device on the 50, your only option is to make it learn every single button for the device. With the URC-40, you can start with a template and then you only have to teach it the things that don't work. Plus, you can re-arrange / move / add / delete buttons on the URC-40, but you can't do any of these things with the URC-50's templates (and no matter what, you can't move / swap learned buttons like you can with the URC-40).
Because it is possible to start with a template and then make changes on the URC-40, it took me only about 10 to 15% the time to program it as the URC-50.
It would be much faster and easier to program either remote if you could do at least some of it with a computer, especially macros. Evidently you can use a computer with the Logitech Harmony remotes, but I understand that they are not as flexible as URC remotes.
3) The URC-40's screen is smaller but noticeably brighter. The URC-40 is LED backlit, so it is a bit more efficient with batteries than the URC-50.
4) The URC-40 has 4 'favorites' buttons: Sports, Music, Movies, and News, which are handy. For example, you can tell it what your favorite news channels are, and then whenever you click the news button, it will display up to a few pages of news channels (6 to a page) so you can very quickly change the channel to the channel you want just by pushing one button. The URC-50 does not have this feature.
Both remotes take 4 AA batteries, making them slightly bulkier and heavier than most remotes, but they go a long long way on 4 Alkaline batteries (6 months or so of medium to heavy use), or 2 to 3 months on low self discharge Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, like Eneloop or Imedion).
The only thing I don't like about the URC-40 is the location of the REW and FF buttons. On most remotes, REW is to the left of play, and FF is to the right of play, and this is the layout of the URC-50. On the URC-40, Skip Left is to the left of play, and Skip Right is to the right of play. FF and REW are one row below play. If you program the remote according to the button labels, its easy to get messed-up until you get used to it. Of course, you can always program the Skip Left to be Rewind, and Rewind to be Skip left, and do the same for FF and skip Right -- this is what I did.
Overall, I would prefer the larger screen on the URC-50, but all of the 40's advantages makes it a more desirable remote.
Finally, its easy to rugged-ize any of these remotes yourself. Just go to a craft store and by a few sheets of rubber like cushion with a sticky back, and then cut a few strips and place them on strategic locations like the battery door, bottom, and sides. Add a generic screen protector, and voila'! Given the cost, I don't plan to find-out just how much more durable the URC-40 is then the URC-50.
on August 5, 2010
After 2+ years or good use, I was having issues with my Harmony Logitech 670 remote (it would quit working intermittently) so I decided to seek an alternative. After weeks of using my new URC-R50 remote, I now consider the URC-R50 an upgrade over the very good Harmony model.
I consider the URC-R50 better because you can program it exactly how you want it. The possibilities are endless as you can program each button on each screen to fit your system & needs. Nothing is stopping you from making the FF button the RR button if you so desired. The Harmony is not quite as robust in that department. Then the URC-R50 has the ability to invent "macros" or mini-programs that can be assigned to any button on any screen. For instance, the "on" button on the main screen can function as both the "turn on TV" button and "turn on TV, put TV on cable input, turn on DVD, turn on audio, put audio on surround sound mode" button. The first command is triggered with a normal simple press, the latter is a macro program triggered by holding the button down for 2 seconds.
However, programming the URC-R50 to be able to do all this is a bit of a challenge or has a "learning curve". Please note I am an IT geek with years of programming experience on large computer systems. It does not take a genius to program the URC-R50, just patience. But if you have never heard of the word "macro", or the word "programming" scares you, then you may want to stay clear. I would go with the Harmony that allows you to connect the remote to the web to set the programs. But if you want something that can be tuned to your desires, this is it.
The web is full of tips on the programming the URC-R50 such as [...]. If you put the time into the URC-R50, it will reward you. I just hope it holds up better than the Harmony. I liked the Harmony, it was easy to set-up, but it only lasted a bit over 2 years & was not very "customizable". Time will tell if the URC-R50 outlasts the Harmony, but the URC-R50 is quite a bit heavier than the Harmony and seems better built.
One negative on Amazon is this was sold as "new" but when I got the URC-R50, the package box was open and my "new" URC-R50 already had some programs in it. Obviously this was a returned unit by some frustrated non-program person. The unit seemed in very good shape with no damage. I was in no mood to return it as I needed a new remote, so I simply reset the unit to factory settings and was on my way to programming a very serviceable remote.
on April 13, 2009
Nice idea. Very good looking! But it needs work. For one, it needs an owner's manual. Even though the concept of this remote is based upon a built in "wizard" programing system.
For my application it just wasn't that easy. After hours of programing it finally worked, sort of. I couldn't remove the malfunctioning "on, off" macro. So I called customer service and I was waited on promptly. Apparently, there's this neat little icon burried in the main menu, not in the programing function, that completely deletes any macro. I applied the delete function icon and reprogramed the "on and off". Now it works fine.
The keys are not as easy to find in a dimly lighted theater room as most of the other Universal Remotes. But after a while it becomes a little easier. It would have been a great remote if it had the MX-500 body with the color screen of the R50.