One universal remote to rule them all?
June 18, 2011 9:28 AM   Subscribe

One universal remote to rule them all?

Over the past year I've ditched cable for a combination of Netflix + Hulu + xbox streaming + dvds. This has resulted it a plethora of remotes for my hodgepodge media center.

My current setup looks like this:
- 1 42in samsung TV. Controlled with a somewhat basic TV remote with limited programabilty. Has a basic over the air HD antenna for basic local programming
- 1 net-top ASUS Revo running XMBC over Win 7, downloads various things automagically. Controlled with a wireless keyboard/mouseball combo and/or a windows center remote.
- 1 Xbox 360 use primarily for gaming, but also Netflix or espn 360 streaming
- 1 desktop computer, which plays DVD/bluray and connects to the main tv with a 4x2 HDMI matrix switch. Matrix switch has it's own controller.

So controllers include:
- 1 keyboard/mouseball combo
- 1 tv controller
- 1 windows media center remote
- 1 xbox 360 controller
- 1 matrix switch controller

This is excessive. And my girlfriend can't operate my TV.

I need one remote that does all of the following:

- controls the TV
- controls XBMC more or less flawlessly
- operates as a keyboard/mouse and works with the Revo, outside of the XBMC application
- ideally operates the matrix switch, but that might be too much to ask
- hopefully costs less than $100

Does such a device exist? Does it exist at a reasonable cost?
posted by T.D. Strange to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Aside from needing the keyboard functions/full PC control and the price concerns, the Logitech Harmony remotes sound like what you need. Here's a thread full of how to use it with XBMC. And as far as the Matrix Switch, you should be able to make it learn from the original Matrix remote.

The $100 Harmony may work, I would run everything you have through their device checker.
posted by deezil at 10:13 AM on June 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I second Deezil's suggestion. A Harmony is what you want.
posted by mhoye at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: Nthing the Harmony remotes. My remote currently controls a TV, PS3, FIOS DVR, receiver (that doubles as an HDMI audio+video switch), DVD-Audio, and an HTPC flawlessly. It did take a little fiddling and trial and error, but I spent less than an hour getting things right thanks to the internet interface. They may actually be able to control the matrix switch.

However, there is no remote that I know of that can also double as keyboard and mouse. That kind of functionality would add on at least $100 just on it's own, moreso if it needs a touchscreen. Better to stick with a Harmony and your current KB/mouse.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:25 AM on June 18, 2011

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you may want to consider the Beacon by Griffin Technology, the software for which is powered by Dijit.

Disclaimer: I'm friends with one of the founders of Dijit.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2011

I have a Harmony 525, costs about £40 (so probably $40 for you) and it does everything you want. My only complaint is that the case isn't very rigid and so creaks a bit when you squeeze it hard. There are newer models but they can get into silly money territory. It gets approval from the GF as she can just hit the "watch tv" button and everything turns on and the correct input on the TV is set.

One other nice thing is that you can easily override things like the volume buttons so when you press up and down the tv volume is changed not the HTPC volume. I also replaced the TV mute button with the WMC mute because it mean't that you got no sound and subtitles (when available). Nice touches like that.

Make sure you also get some rechargeable batteries, they like to go through them pretty quickly. Also, set aside about 1.5 hours to configure it to your liking - I'm not kidding.
posted by mr_silver at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2011

If you have an iphone, you can get mouse/keyboard functionality with the Mobile Mouse app. Check if it's compatible with your computer. It works wonderfully with the Mac mini I have hooked up to my tv.

(I know it doesn't solve your one-device problem, but ONE remote [eg one of the harmony models suggested above] + your phone that you probably have with you anyway might work?)
posted by pupstocks at 11:23 AM on June 18, 2011

As it happens, I've also got XBMC running on an Acer Revo and I find this little handheld keyboard/mouse combo to be just the thing for those occasions when I just need to enter some text. My main remote is part of a Control4 system which sounds like it'd be well outside your price range (though it'll do everything you're asking and more, and would be especially good for your distributed audio,) but if I didn't have that I would absolutely go for the Harmony. It's not a complete one remote solution, but in my experience (and I do this professionally) any remote with a full keyboard is not the remote you want to use for channel surfing. Just set up the Harmony for basic XBMC navigation and get the keyboard out of the drawer in those rare situation where you need more control. I find that I end up using mine maybe once a week.
posted by contraption at 1:59 PM on June 18, 2011

Oh sorry, just reread the question and noticed that the matrix isn't for multiroom audio as I surmised but rather for HDMI. Why are you using a 4x2 matrix instead of a 4x1? Is the second output unused? If you're feeding a second room that may complicate things a bit, as most universal remotes are designed for control of a single zone and won't be able to easily track when to turn things off in a multi-room scenario.
posted by contraption at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2011

Response by poster: Why are you using a 4x2 matrix instead of a 4x1? Is the second output unused?

It switches the xbox output over to the desktop monitor, so I can play xbox if she wants to watch Dancing With the Stars. No multiroom audio, this is in a 1 bedroom apartment.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2011

Another vote for Logitech - I have a similar setup (minus the matrix switch) and use a Harmony 650. Works great (even without keyboard/mouse functionality) and is incredibly easy to configure and use - Logitech's online configuration system is very intuitive. Plus it's on sale at the moment; only $60 at Radio Shack
posted by photo guy at 5:06 PM on June 18, 2011

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