How All in One Remote Controls work

universal tv remote

Frustrated with all those remotes sitting on your coffee table? If so, this article might have the solution you’re looking for.

In the not too distant past it used to be all you needed was the TV remote; turn it on, change channels, adjust the volume and you were good to go.Well, spring back to today.

Today we need sometimes several remotes to control our TV electronics…we have the set-top box from our satellite or cable company. We may have tossed in a surround sound system and a 3D Blue-Ray DVD player too.  And of course, we still have the TV remote.

Wouldn’t it be great if they could be combined all into one? Of course, Right?

Not so fast…..

If you want to know if an All in One Remote, often also referred to as a Universal remote, will work for you it’s important to get a quick understanding of how they work.

Just like gasoline is different from diesel fuel… All in One Remote controls are different as well. It’s important to understand the distinctions when considering which All In One Remote is right for your situation.

How will you use an All In One Remote?

How you’ll use an All In One Remote Control will impact which brands or models to consider. Let’s start with the most basic remote control function, “Activities.” Activity is the word used to describe what you want the All In One Remote to do. For example, if you simply want to “Watch TV” an activity is setup on the remote to do just that, Watch TV. When you press that custom programmed button labeled, “Watch TV” your All In One Remote Control is going to send out a command to your television to turn the TV on. Then it will send out another command, this time to your cable or satellite set-top box, to turn on your cable or satellite box. And yet another command will go out to your television to make sure the TV is set to the proper source input. You get the picture (pun just happened). Now, if you happen to have one, let’s toss in a Surround Sound system. The remote also has to send a command to your surround sound system to turn your Surround Sound system on and even another command, again to the surround sound system, to make sure it’s also on the correct setting.

Infrared (IR) – Why you need to understand IR

It’s important to understand most Home Entertainment electronics today are controlled by what is called an IR signal (infrared – light invisible to the human eye). When you press a button on your remote controls an invisible beam of light, containing a specific code such as, “volume up” is directed at the TV. Your TV receives that beam of invisible light through an IR receiver window (nothing should be blocking that tiny IR receiver window for it to function properly). Once the TV receives this special infrared code the volume adjusts. Likewise, each button you press on your remote sends a different infrared code based on what you want the TV to do… turn on, turn off, change channels etc. It’s important to note however, not every remote communicates using IR. Some remote controls send their signal RF or radio frequency. So, with that out of the way…. to understand if an All In One Remote control is the best option for you we need to talk about a few other related important points. These points are: usage, IR versus RF, Wi-Fi, and equally important yet often one of the most frustrating, Programming.

Programming an All in One Remote – How difficult is it?

Isn’t it safe to say that the very moment you press that, “Watch TV” button on a new All In One Remote you want pretty much want everything to turn on correctly and immediately?  Here’s where things can get a little dicey.

How much should you plan to spend on an All In One Remote Control?

There are two options for purchasing and programming an All in One Remote. The first option is to do it yourself and the 2nd option is to hire a professional to perform programming on more complex Home Electronic equipment set-ups.  Spending money to buy the right remote and hiring a professional to program the set it up for you will cost you more money than you might think. With the do it yourself option you can: set it up, program, then test it, be on hold for technical support…adjust programming….testing again…..over and over until you’ve got it right. Between $200 for Do it Yourself whereas a professionally installed and programmed Remote Control system can cost in upwards of $1,500.

How do RF based Remotes compare to IR Remotes?

  1. IR stands for infrared or light you don’t see with the naked human eye. When you press a button on your IR type remote an invisible beam of light transmits a code to your TV and your TV knows what to do when it receives that code, such as, change channel etc. IR remotes are considered direct line of site; in other words, you have to point the remote at the device such as your TV and not have anything blocking the path of the invisible light beam. IR signals will pass through glass but not wood but the signal can be bounced off of some objects or walls and still function.  And, the range the signal will travel is somewhere around 20-40 feet with fresh batteries. Most remotes that come with the electronics we purchase today are IR based.
  2. RF stands for Radio Frequency or very low power radio waves similar to the radio waves used to transmit a FM favorite radio station.  Most remotes that come with your Set-Top box provided by your local television service provider are available in either RF or IR and you typically have to request one or the other. Radio frequency remote signals not only pass through glass but wood and most other solid materials as well.

When using an All in One Remote Control every time you press a button on an All in One Remote every piece of electronic equipment in your system is going to receive the command. And, once received, a determination has to be made by the respective piece of electronics equipment whether the coded IR signal matches a code within its own databases; although this process happens very quickly its not instantaneous.

Some All in One Remotes are capable of sending specfic commands to distinct equipment if the feature is properly set up and the benefit of this is simple; if a piece of equipment such as your TV for example is busy processing the coded command meant for your set-top box your TV might miss the command meant for itself and this renders the whole All In One Remote Control system more time consuming and frustrating.

How does the equipment know which command is for which piece? Chances are you may not know the answer and your not alone but now its easier to understand how this can get pretty complicated. How the All in One Remote is programmed affects how and when which commands are sent/delivered to which piece of equipment. The wrong command received by the wrong piece of equipment will mean your activity, “Watch TV’ turns into “This All in One Remote doesn’t work.”