on February 7, 2014
UPDATE after one year:
I don't use this remote anymore because of its drawbacks and ergonomic design. And one thing is for sure: the two people who did not find this review helpful are definitely A/V Dealers and my review seemed to have stepped on some toes...
Just a courtesy note to readers: If you don't feel much like reading my rants about URC and most of the Pro A/V Dealers out there, scroll down to the heading below, "My Review:"
I have the URC Digital R-50 handheld remote control which I think is ok, but not fantastic like I'd hoped (ergonomic design is lacking). I then decided to make a more ambitious venture by purchasing the MX-3000 for use with my home theater system in the downstairs family room. But before I made the purchase, I needed to know if I could handle the programming for the unit and tried to obtain the MX-3000 Editor software. This is next to impossible to obtain because URC has an arrangement with their licensed A/V dealerships that URC won't provide the programming software to any end user even if you own the hardware. This is URC's way of helping the A/V dealers make extra money by offering programming services in addition to the sale of the remote. Without the software to program the unit, the only option an end user has is to hire an A/V professional to program the MX-3000 for you at a cost of several hundred dollars or more. A/V professionals do their best to scare the end user by saying, "It's extremely difficult to program these units and it's just not possible for the end user to do it themselves unless they've had extensive training from URC." This is nothing more than scare tactics to try to help the A/V dealers preserve their cash cow. To make matters worse, most A/V dealers will tell you that they can't provide you with the software because it is against URC policies, and they could lose their license if they give the software to the end user. This again, is purely fallacious. URC allows their licensed dealers to give the software to whomever they choose so dealers have created a boondoggle.
There have been some sources that have tried to provide the software openly to anyone and everyone that wishes to have it, but this has made the dealers furious! Some dealers have threatened to abandon their URC product line because they think URC is doing nothing to protect their boondoggle! But URC has hired lawyers to go after those parties who are providing the software over unauthorized internet channels and are not licensed URC dealers. The dealers are crying because their boondoggle is being threatened. It's interesting that some dealers have made some pretty insulting remarks towards people who own the remote and are perfectly capable of programming it themselves and don't want to pay into the cash cow that these A/V professionals are feverishly protecting.
To add insult to injury, there are many instances where the dealer may not get the MX-3000 programmed quite right, and it works but might be a little buggy or just not operating optimally. I've read through the reviews here and there are some owners of the remote who wish they'd never bought the unit and wasted up to a $1000 purchasing one. They say it doesn't work very smoothly and they've thought about throwing it in the trash; they're tired of calling the A/V dealer back, etc. Perhaps if they had the software and were willing to take the time to tweak the programming a little and perform some other tune-ups, they wouldn't be so unhappy. I don't think any dealer can get your MX-3000 tuned perfectly so that it works precisely the way you want for a few hundred dollars worth of programming, because you need to be able to go back several times and mess with the programming until you get it working smoothly over a period of days or weeks, and frankly, it's just not cost effective for a dealer to be that thorough.
In addition, all A/V dealers know that no one has a home system that remains unchanged over time. They know that the next time you upgrade a part of your system, or even if you want to make some minor changes to the system or the way the remote control works with your existing system, you have to pay the A/V dealer another fee to modify the MX-3000 programming. This can be very painful to one's wallet. However, some people have no problem spending money and have it to spend, and the A/V dealers know this. But I wonder why any company would force people who buy their product to pay additional money to a 3rd party to make that product work. There may be situations where people can't or don't want to do the programming, but why not let people who want to do the programming do so, and those that don't pay a professional to have it done? Why force those that are perfectly capable of doing it, pay more for programming? One high end dealer made a remark on an internet forum, "If a potential customer starts inquiring about the software or starts asking us if they can get the software with the purchase of the unit, or if they try to negotiate the programming fee, we really don't want to do business with that customer!" The attitude of most of the A/V professionals out there seems very similar to this remark.
Rarely you might come across a dealer that isn't quite so scheming and tight with their business practices and will give you the software IF, you purchase a new URC product from them. They might even answer questions for you if you run into some problems while you are programming the unit, but be prepared to pay quite the price for a new unit ($600-$1000, programming extra).
Well, this is why I say that it is near impossible to obtain the programming software for the MX-3000; it's like a cartel or Fort Knox or something. So if you're thinking about buying one of these (new or used) from eBay or Amazon, make sure you inquire as to whether it comes with a CD that has the words, "MX-3000 Editor" labeled on the disk which is what you need to program the MX-3000 remote control. This is what I did and I had to ask a lot of questions to a lot of sellers before buying.
OK, please accept my apology for getting on my soapbox and ranting, but I just had to get all this off my chest and it needed to be said since this racket is most disturbing. And now on to the actual review (my opinion) of the MX-3000...
I purchased a brand new MX-3000 from the internet (not a dealer), and installed the Editor software on my PC (Windows XP) and had no troubles except that it would not update from the URC website to get the latest IR database and program revisions. I turned off my antivirus program and then the update completed. So now I was ready to start the programming. Actually, the programming interface is quite intuitive and it only took me about half a day to learn and program the MX-3000 to control my entire A/V system. Many of the IR commands were already available in the IR database of pre-configured electronic equipment, but some commands were not up to date or not working quite right. The unit has learning capabilities so that one can incorporate the IR commands from your existing remote controls just by pointing the old remote at the MX-3000. This feature is fantastic. The library of built in graphics for the touch screen are not very appealing (very basic, low resolution, boring themes). I decided to develop some of my own graphics which were very easy to import into the Editor software and upload to the MX-3000.
Regarding the programming difficulty of the MX-3000 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely difficult), I would give it about a 3 or 4. You don't have to know any special computer programming languages and you just have to use a little logic and experiment to figure a few things out. Even programming macros is really very easy and straight forward. The software was basically designed for dummies. In all fairness, I should say you have to be at least somewhat computer literate and familiar with how your home theater system works. If electronics intimidate you, maybe a professional would be your best bet, but make sure you get them to agree to make it right at no additional charge (which means they'll need to come back one or two times to tweak the MX-3000 after their first attempt).
After I got my MX-3000 all programmed and set up the way I wanted it (and btw, it took me about a week to fine tune everything and get some of the little kinks out and make it work smoothly), I was feeling good about the price I paid and the ease of programming. But I am pretty sure that no A/V dealer would have been willing to spend the time fine tuning and giving attention to details the way that I did with the custom graphics, sounds and macros... unless of course you pay them additional monies for changes to the programming. Because, how well can an A/V installer know your entire system by just selling you the remote and looking at what you want to control for an hour or so (unless of course they sold you your whole A/V system)?
But now that the programming is all finished and working well, I have to say that I am not extremely impressed with the MX-3000, and gave it only 3 stars in this review. But certainly not because of programming issues. The following reasons are based on my experiences for the past month of usage... and I am really glad I didn't spend hundreds of dollars for the unit; I got lucky and picked it up from someone who bought it then decided they wanted something else and dumped it cheap, brand new in the box. But here are five of my most disappointing impressions of the MX-3000:
1. Ergonomics - The unit looks slick and impressive sitting on the coffee table, but if you are like me and like to use your remote in one hand without looking at it, you won't be able to do this with the MX-3000. Even the other remotes that URC sells like the MX-800 and 900 series (traditional one-handed style remotes with a screen display) are going to have the same problem as the MX-3000 as far as ergonomics go, and here is why: Let's say you are the average person who likes to hold your remote in your hand while you're channel surfing and you've pretty much memorized the key locations on the remote and you typically look at the TV screen while pressing buttons on the remote. This isn't ergonomically possible with the MX-3000 touch screen remote. You have to look at the display, you have to page through the screens, and you have to touch the right soft key on the screen. All of this requires focus on the screen. You cannot operate the unit with one hand unless you set it on a surface and push keys with one finger (no thumb/finger action like your cell phone). And it only has hard keys for a few things like: Volume, Mute, Channel, Cursor up, down, left, or right, a Menu button, and an Exit button.
2. Battery Life - With moderate use, the unit will need charging about every day and a half, depending on screen "ON" time and usage (I have my screen time-out set to 30-seconds and the unit drains the most amount of power when the screen is ON). However, it only takes a couple hours to recharge the unit. I highly recommend that you NOT leave the unit on the charging cradle at all times because it will wear the battery out faster and you'll end up having to buy another Li-Ion battery in about a year (according to the experiences I've read about from other users of the MX-3000). Some sources will tell you that it's OK to leave the unit on the charging cradle at all times because it has a "smart charger" that won't over-charge the battery, but that doesn't quite explain why some users have had to replace their battery within a year and said that the battery pack had swelled up and cracked when they went to replace it; these were folks who have said they left the MX-3000 on the charging cradle constantly. The cost of a new battery is about $15 to $20 with shipping on Amazon or eBay; they work fine but make sure you order the one with the right connector (there are two styles and you have to pay attention to what your MX-3000 has, and what you are buying).
3. The Auto-ON Feature - Normally, this would be a great feature, and on the one hand I really like the feature: the unit is off and setting on the table; you pick up the unit and it turns on instantly because it has an internal motion sensor that detects any movement of the unit. However, this means that if you are holding it in your lap, or you set it on the sofa beside you, it is going to keep coming on every time you move a little. This runs down the battery fairly quick, so the "wow" factor loses its appeal once you realize how often it needs charging. This may encourage you to just leave the unit on the charging cradle all the time, but doing so will shorten the life of the battery. And once the screen comes ON, you cannot manually shut it back off; you have to wait until the screen time-out elapses according to the length of time you selected in the settings (see my next disappointing comment).
4. No Screen "OFF" Key - I would much prefer that the MX-3000 would have been designed with a push-button Screen ON/OFF key so that you can turn it off manually instead of waiting for the screen time-out to elapse. Even an "OFF" soft key in the programming options would have been great, but URC hasn't allowed it for some reason and here is the dilemma: If you set the screen auto-off time too short, you have to keep turning it back ON while you are using the remote; but if you set the time-out longer so that you can navigate between screens and figure out what you want to do with your theater system, then when you set it down on the table, it just stays ON until the auto-OFF time-out has elapsed. Again, not a good design and depletes the battery. (My URC R-50 has the same problem, and I'd like to be able to just turn OFF the screen manually.) If URC would read this review, they could easily add a command feature in the programming that would allow the user to turn the MX-3000 screen OFF which would allow the user to save a lot of battery power between charges. Some things are just so easy and make so much sense, but they just get over-looked by the design teams sitting in their "ivory towers."
5. Additional Updates - The Editor software cannot be updated after the first time you perform a live update with it. The Editor displays a message if you try to update after the first update saying, "This software can no longer be updated. Contact your Distributor or Sales Rep blah, blah, blah." Then it says you must have the Complete Control Suite (not CCP, but CCS) to obtain additional live updates for MX-3000 and other URC products. Again, URC is trying to force the end user to pay additional money to a Pro A/V dealer who has the CCS software which can be updated.
The Remote is not difficult to program if you have some computer skills and are reasonably knowledgeable of how your home theater system works;
Looks very impressive sitting on the coffee table;
Touch screen is nice and works fairly well;
Learning feature allows user to program the unit by pointing your old remotes at MX-3000 and each button command can be learned and stored in the editor software;
Cool sounds can be programmed for buttons and macro sequences;
Can import your own graphics for total customization;
Programmable to do just about anything w/ macro feature including lighting in your room;
A clock display of the current time can be programmed to appear on any screen of the MX-3000;
New unit can be bought on eBay or Amazon much cheaper than from a licensed A/V dealer.
Not a one handed remote, and not ergonomically designed for "no-look" operation;
Battery life not great (and could easily be better; see comment #4 above);
Touchscreen is not as good as today's smartphones;
Screen resolution and touch sensitivity are low quality;
No Screen "OFF" key (lack of this feature drains battery; see comment #4 above);
Screen keeps turning ON if Auto-ON is enabled (see comment #3 above);
Software is extremely hard to obtain if not provided with purchase;
Software cannot be updated after the first live update unless you have additional CCS software;
Built-in graphics included with software are undesirable, cheesy looking, and just plain boring;
Pro A/V dealers try to make you feel like a criminal if you buy it from anyone other than a licensed dealer;
Pro A/V dealers gouge customers for programming costs which should be free.
One really good thing I want to say is if you buy it from Amazon you are pretty much golden, and they will take care of any problems you have and treat you with all kinds of respect if you want to return the unit and get a refund. But if you can't or don't want to program the unit yourself (not hard to do if you have computer skills), make sure you have a licensed dealer nearby who can provide programming services for a fee.