The Automator

Tired of juggling 7 different remotes, I recently purchased a universal remote known as The Automator. It replaces up to 10 different remotes, and so far we have it controling our cable box, receiver, HDTV, DVD player, and most importantly, TiVo. That was the hardest remote to replace, since it’s so wonderfully ergonomic. It’s still not a perfect fit, but close.

The remote has an LCD screen at the top, which holds 5 pages for each device, with 5 functions per page. It is not a touch-screen LCD, which is great, because they have no tactile feedback. That’s important when watching in the dark, even though there’s backlighting, because most of the time you don’t want to take your eyes off the screen (esp. when fast-forwarding or rewinding). Also, the buttons are nicely spaced and laid out well, and after a couple weeks of use I rarely need to look at it.
     I was very impressed at how easy it was to program macros and learn new functions. In addition to the simple manual, it comes with an instructional DVD. You can override or assign macros to any button, including on and off. When I have DVR (TiVo) selected, the on button turns on the TiVo, turns on the receiver and sets the A/V input to TiVo, and turns on the HDTV and sets its video input to the receiver. Brilliant. The only problem is that it can’t remember state, so the only way (I know of) to switch devices is to press the off button (triggering it’s complementing macro), then switch devices on the remote and press “on”. Not perfect, but simple.
     We’ve (by which I mean my roommate) customized the remote by hiding the default pages for the devices and making new ones with just the functions we use. We also set up the punch-through settings, so that audio functions always go to the receiver, even in TV mode.
     The only issue I have so far is that I still can’t believe I spent $160 on a remote.