There's Nothing Universal About It…

Every big box electronics store has a section devoted to so called “universal remotes.” Prices range from $15 to $250 depending on the bells and whistles you’re looking for.

You might think that their would be a strong correlation between price and quality, but if you did you’d be wrong. As the owner of any number of inexpensive and pricey “universal” remotes I’ve found that many times the cheaper models work just as well as (or better than) the more pricey models.

As a DirecTV DVR user I’ve found that the best remote on the market for TiVo owners is the One-For-All UPC-6131. It’s one of the few remotes on the market that is designed for TiVo use – it even has the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down keys. Best of all it’s one of the bargain remotes, widely available for $25 or less.

Life was good until I got the bright idea to get a new DVD-R/VHS combo unit from Daewoo at Costco. The DVD player/recorder caught my attention by including an iLink ports which allows you to record a DVD directly from a DV camcorder – no PC required. Given my backlog of DV tapes to process then burn on the PC this seemed like a great time saver.

Sound great, right? The problem is that there’s no code for the Daewoo unit for the UPC-6131 to control the unit. This introduces the dreaded two remote problem to the equation – a problem the “universal” remote was supposed to solve.

The UPC-6131 is manufacture upgradeable – meaning you send them the remote and they add the proper codes – but that’s an large hassle. This turn of developments has me surveying the marketplace for replacements, a thoroughly depressing prospect. All of these remotes have nifty features that are designed to attract the attention, yet inevitably there is some functionality or feature missing. The more expensive models have LCD displays instead of key, yet those cool looking models (by most accounts) are just expensive battery eaters. Few of them address TiVo (or other DVR) functionality, and those that do tend to stray far from the familiar TiVo “peanut” remote layout.

If you’re TiVo user and you’re in the market for a universal remote I suggest you head over to the TiVo Community Forums and be prepared to be depressed. Universal, my ass…

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