If you read my blog about attempting to use individual apps to control my system, you'll find this one to be in the opposite direction. Universal Remote Control (as you can tell from their name) specializes in smart remotes. They have been a favorite at Audio Advice for years. A recent introduction, the MX-890 has been extremely popular lately, so I decided to take one home, program it, and put it through its paces.

I've probably had as many “smart” remotes at home as anyone on the planet. I am a total geek for these things! My first one was called the CORE remote by a company called CL9, founded by none other than Steve Wozniak. It was the first attempt to consolidate controls and it actually worked, but you had to remember what the buttons did as they were just numbers and symbols! This was way back in 1987. It was by all historical accounts, the world's first programmable remote control. Interestingly, the next one was a joint venture between Harman and Microsoft, called the IRIQ. This one had a scroll wheel that would frustrate the mess out of you! The list goes on and on. I think I have had over 30 different models in my house over the years.

All of that is to give you a little background on my perspective about remotes. I expect a remote to feel good in my hand (one hand, not two), have many repeat functions as hard buttons, and be very easy to understand. Bonus features: it lights up when I pick it up or move it, has a nice recharging cradle so batteries do not show up dead when you are trying to turn things on to catch something on TV, and a bright screen with great graphics

Well, the new URC MX-890 nails everything on my list and then some! One of my favorite parts is the way they ergonomically designed the back. It has three rounded indentations for your index finger to rest as you move your thumb around the various sections on the remote. The screen for icons is just super bright. Backlighting is super easy to see in a dark room and comes on the second you touch it. And unlike the iPad (which can be a bright spotlight in a dark home theater until it goes to sleep), it goes completely dark when put down! I've never had a remote feel so good in my hand.

Check out the great ergonomics of the Universal MX-980

Check out the great ergonomics of the Universal MX-980

A great feature of all Universal Remotes sold by Audio Advice is the optional RF base station. This unit picks up the signals from the remote via radio frequency vs line of sight IR. This has huge advantages when one button press is executing the series of commands we've programmed for you. In some systems, the “watch TV” button may be doing 10 or more commands to get everything just right. You don't want one of those interrupted by not pointing at the right unit.

You can have the MX-890, a base station and our custom programming for well under $1000 and have one of the best remote controls I've ever tested. Take the frustration out of using your great gear and let our team deliver one of these for you!