Quite simply, no matter how good the components are, a poor controller means a bad system. A wellprogrammed control system is the glue that ties the crazy-expensive projector, over-the-top surround system, hard disk movie server, and hunk-of-crap cable company DVR together. This means that the remote is arguably the most powerful component in any system.
Left: URC’S MX-780 offers installers programming power and flexibility at a price point that will enable selling more remotes on a project. Above: The MXW-920 remote allows URC’s dealers to offer a remote for installation areas for which you’ve probably never had a great solution.
And whether selected on basis of price, features, programming simplicity, or enduser ease-of-use, most integrators likely have developed a controller brand or model of choice. You know, that controller that is spec’d on all jobs because your templates are already made and it fits into the budget line item with such ease.
If you’re familiar with the offerings from Universal Remote Control–now just URC–then these new models will perfectly fill holes in your sales line. And if you’ve yet to give URC a go, then these remotes might be the nudge needed to give them a try. The two remotes reviewed here–MX-780 and MXW-920–both debuted at the CEDIA EXPO this year and are exciting for different reasons, one for price and one for performance.
One of the great things about both of these controllers is that they program using URC’s powerful, Complete Control Program (CCP) software. This means that when you’ve learned to program one, you pretty much know how to program them all. Also, adding additional remotes to existing projects is fast and simple; I merely added these to my home’s “project” along with the trigger macros for “Watch Cable TV” and “Watch Kaleidescape” and the programming was mostly complete. I used both remotes in conjunction with my existing URC MSC-400 radio frequency system controller. Both remotes are also compatible with URC’s 418 MHz lighting controls.
The MX-780 ($299) hits a new price point in URC’s CCP line-up for a color-screened remote. It also adds the red, green, yellow, and blue buttons that are now commonplace on Blu-ray and DSS systems. Pressing the “Main” button toggles between two options, like “Watch” and “Listen,” making it easy for programmers to logically separate activities. It drops the rechargeable batteries, but gets an estimated “six to eight months” from a good set of AAs. The remote feels a little chunky compared to my daily MX-980, but I quickly got used to its feel and button layout. The OLED screen is bright and easily read in any lighting condition and the button backlighting–activated by pressing “Light” on the side–performed admirably in my no-light theater environment. There are a variety of button graphics to choose from, allowing you to easily produce a professional-looking design. With six buttons per page and up to 384 total “pages” of programming, this remote is powerful enough to handle systems of virtually any size and could easily be the primary controller in many systems.
While it’s essentially a redesigned version of URC’s MX-900 model, the look and feel of the MXW-920 ($499) immediately recalled memories of my first computer: the mylar keyboard equipped, Atari 400. The remote’s sealed case (the four AAA batteries and USB download port are located behind a sealed and screwed-down compartment) and slick button feel identifies the MXW-920 as URC’s first– and one of very few–weather-resistant model. “Weather-resistant” doesn’t mean strapping it to a bathyscaphe and controlling your TV during your Marianas Trench exploration. Rather it’s resistant to “splashing water from any direction.” It survived a complete submersion in my pool with no ill-effects.
With the growing popularity of outdoor systems, the MXW-920 should be an easy sell. It’s also great in the kitchen where hands are often not the cleanest or driest. And this isn’t a basic, source select and volume up/downonly model, but a full-featured, totally capable system controller. The buttons don’t have the same individual tactile feel of a traditional remote, and low-light viewing without using the backlight is tough, so if sold as the primary controller, your customers may want to punch you. But as that outdoor, “Go ahead, get it wet, leave it outside, humidity be damned” model, it’s outstanding.
There is no shortage of smart remotes on the market, so why should these two merit your attention? The MX-780 offers installers terrific programming power and flexibility at a price point that will enable selling more remotes on a project. And the MXW-920 allows you to offer a remote for installation areas that you’ve probably never had a great solution for. And as part of the CCP family, adding them to a project is incredibly simple. Less time on the computer means less time on the job, which (hopefully) means more money in your pocket. Nice? I thought so.
Programs using URC’s CCP; easy to add to existing jobs; MX-780 memory is large enough to handle almost any sized project; MXW-920 brings full control to outdoor or other wet areas
MXW-920 design doesn’t lend itself toward the role of primary controller
• Controls up to 48 devices and up to eight pages per device (384 total pages)
• 32 Mbit NOR Flash memory
• 1.46-inch color PMOLED (128 x 128) display screen
• Controls up to 40 devices and up to 40 pages per device
• Mbit Flash memory
• 23 x 57 mm, monochrome LCD text-based display screen
• IR or RF (418 MHz) capable