Television Remote Controls: Understanding Some of the Options
It is hard to imagine television without a remote control. Channel surfing really wouldn’t be the same without them. Unfortunately, losing or breaking a remote before the demise of the television isn’t unlikely. It’s also probable, with the multitude of remotes lying around the average living room that an owner will decide to consolidate just for the sake of their sanity and get a remote that can control not only the television but other equipment as well.
Before television owners begin shopping for a new remote however they should consider how much they really want to spend. A very basic television remote can be had for around $12. On the other end of the spectrum, spending in the neighborhood of $1,000 is also possible.
Most television remote controls are IR/infrared, meaning that they communicate with a television via an LED which transmits an infrared signal. In order to function properly users must generally be within 30 feet and within line-of-sight of their television. These remotes won’t be able to transmit the necessary signal to the television through a wall or around a corner no matter what the distance although in many instances this is not a concern to the average user.
Some satellite TV receivers, stereo systems, and home theater components use RF/radio frequency remote controls which communicate with devices via radio waves. RF controls have a greater range than IR controls. RF can transmit up to 100 feet away and offers the added benefit of being able to transmit through walls. One way that an IR remote can be “boosted” to allow it a greater transmitting range is to get an “RF extender”. This does not change the fact that a person is using IR, it just gives them greater range.
If a person’s goal is to consolidate their television remote with other AV remote controls then a universal remote should be considered. These remotes are capable of operating multiple devices, even those from various manufacturers. Very handy, but they will have to program in the command codes of each piece of equipment they want the device to control. Information on command codes is generally found in the owner’s manual for the equipment. To save time, a “learning” type of universal remote is an option. These remotes are able to read signals transmitted by other remotes and to then begin transmitting those same signals without the user having to program the command codes.
A common complaint about the average television remote is that it is 433 mhz remote control hard to use in the dark. A back lit keyboard can be useful in this situation. Another issue can be the difficulty of using a remote because of the sheer number of buttons on the face of it. A couple of options can help to address this issue. Some television remote controls use “macro commands” which allow the user to perform a series of commands with the push of a single button. For instance, a macro command could be set up to turn on the television, the DVD player, initiate play, turn on the speakers, etc. by hitting a single button. Remotes with LCD screens can also cut down on the number of buttons by displaying a limited number of icons on the display versus having a button for every function.
Television remotes today even offer various methods of input aside from pushing buttons. Touch screens, joysticks, and even voice command controls are available; for a price. Touch screens can be color or grayscale; grayscale of course helps hold the cost down. Higher priced remotes offer two way communication which allows the remote to pick up and display information from the device that it operates. For instance, such a remote could display information about the programming on a particular television channel while viewing other shows.
Like all electronics for the home, television remote controls are beginning to multitask and understanding all of the features takes a bit of research. Buyers simply need to assess what functions are important to them and how much money they really want to spend.