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What Should I Consider When Buying a Universal Remote Control?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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It's amazing how many expensive DVD players, television sets and cable boxes can be done in by the loss of an inexpensive remote control. After frantic searches of couch cushions, lounge chairs and even refrigerators are complete, the next step is often a trip to a local store to buy a universal remote control. Before you decide on a particular brand, however, there are some things you should consider, including functionality, programming options and ease of use.

One of the first considerations when buying a universal remote control is functionality. It is not unusual for a homeowner to have one remote for the television, another for the cable box, and yet another for the DVD or VCR player. If one of those factory-issued remote controls should break or become lost, you may be able to find a replacement remote that only addresses one function. Quite often, a single-function television remote can be replaced with a universal remote control for a fraction of the cost of multi-function units. Before you purchase a replacement remote, decide if you need an all-encompassing TV, VCR, CABLE controller or simply one that turns on the television.

Another consideration when buying a new remote control is the number of optional functions it provides. Some units only provide the most essential functions of the devices they control, while others duplicate practically all of the advanced functions of the factory-issued remote control. If your electronic tuning and playback needs are relatively simple and straightforward, then you can invest in a less expensive universal remote control and regain wireless control over your system. A more expensive one should be almost indistinguishable from the original remote in terms of functionality and options.

Many people become frustrated with a universal remote control during the initial programming stage. Quite often, the manufacturers of these devices include a manual listing virtually every model of television, movie player or cable box in the world. Even so, there is always the chance your particular device won't be listed, and you'll have to discover the programming codes through an elaborate hit-or-miss technique. If you own a popular brand name device, the chances are good you will be able to find the programming codes for the remote fairly easily. If you own a lesser known brand, however, it may be better to select a more advanced unit, since the lowest priced models may not be truly universal.

Before buying a replacement, consider the current habits of the main users. The elderly, or those with vision problems, might appreciate a remote control with larger numbers and luminescent buttons. Users who are technology-challenged may prefer a basic universal remote control over a multi-functional model with dozens of seemingly extraneous buttons. Technophiles, on the other hand, may want to choose one with all the bells and whistles of the original factory-issued remote.

If the programming routine for a universal remote control is especially difficult or time-consuming, look for a model with a built-in memory system. This feature will allow users to replace the batteries without having to reprogram the entire universal remote all over again. Most universal remotes have this feature, but some low-end models may not. When in doubt, you may want to consult online product review sites which evaluate the pros and cons of electronic devices.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to EasyTechJunkie, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On Dec 11, 2014

@Vincenzo -- That may have been the case once upon a time, but having the Internet around means you can look up instruction manuals for universal remotes before you decide to purchase one and you can tell what electronics each remote will control.

It may seem ridiculous to research universal remotes before you but one, but that is not true. After all, it is frustrating dealing with a universal remote that doesn't control your TV or something, so why not do some research in advance?

By Vincenzo — On Dec 10, 2014

Oddly, one of the most important factors to consider when getting a universal remote is the equipment it will control. Universal remotes are great so long as you are dealing with common stuff made by manufacturers everyone has heard of.

They aren't so good when it comes to lesser known brands.

So, there is some question as to whether your universal remote will control your off-brand electronics. The problem is that there is no good way to know if a universal remote will control your electronics until you get it home and try it.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to EasyTechJunkie, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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