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What You Need to Know About Universal Remotes and Their Variants

What You Need to Know About Universal Remotes
They say necessity leads to innovation, and the universal remote aptly proves it. Instead of having multiple remotes for multiple devices, one remote does the trick. Have you ever wondered how?
Techspirited Staff
Last Updated: Mar 21, 2018
Did You Know?
The first universal remote was introduced by Philips in 1985 under the brand name of Magnavox .
A universal remote is one remote which can control all your digital devices. These remote controls are programmed to operate various devices like DVD players, television set, music player, satellite box, etc. These remotes work in a manner similar to the ordinary remote control except that the universal remote is programmed to operate at various signals. These remotes also have flash memory feature that stores all the program codes even when the battery has run out. A few universal remotes have the glow-in-the-dark feature, which allows you to operate the remote even when the lights are switched off.
Universal Remote Working
The device works on the same principle that most remote controls do. Each device that we use at our home has a predefined programming code sequence and frequency range. When a key is pressed on the remote, an IR (Infrared) signal in the specified frequency range and signal sequence is transferred towards the electronic device. Upon receiving this signal, the device will interpret the commands, and act accordingly.

In case of some universal remotes, there are predefined keys dedicated to various electronics devices. Each key has a specific sequence of flashes of infrared light, which is sent as a sequence of voltages when the key is pressed. This voltage will turn the IR LED on, thus, sending IR signal of specific frequency. The device that you point at, when you press the key, will have an IR receiver that will detect the presence of the IR signal. This signal, which is converted to electrical signal, contains information about the function that needs to be performed.

If you are using a high-end universal remote, like the touchscreens ones, you can program your remote for various devices. You can hold your original remote and the universal one head-to-head, press the dedicated button. The infrared signals will be transmitted to the universal remote, allowing it to duplicate the other remote's commands.
Variants of Universal Remote
The universal remotes are classified into two types―Pre-programmed remotes and Learning remotes. The pre-programmed remotes can be used with only a few listed devices, while the learning remotes can mimic the functioning of any existing remote. Let us take a look at these two types in detail, in this Techspirited article.

* Images for representational purposes only.
Pre-Programmed Remotes
Universal remote control
This pre-programmed remote has dedicated keys for TV, DVD, VCD.
The pre-programmed remotes have a predefined limit of the number of devices it will work for, generally 4 to 12 devices can be controlled. The remote is designed to work with a select few brands and devices. The device manufacturers usually do not change their control codes for years. This means you can operate your age-old television with any new universal remote.
In case you want to add additional devices to the remote, you will have to first change the remote's mode to programming mode. Now, you need to enter the setup code for the device, by looking up in the code table that will be provided along with the remote. There will be more than one code available for your manufacturer. Try entering each one of these codes, until one of the codes makes the device work.

These devices, though very popular, have drawbacks. These remotes can operate only a few basic functions of the devices associated with it. For example, it can only change the channels, volume, and power of a television set. The other drawback is the limitation of the number of devices that one can operate using the remote.
Learning Remotes
Learning remote
This touchscreen learning remote has dedicated keys for TV, DVD, Satellite box, CD, etc.
These remotes are not only pre-programmed to work with a number of popular electronic devices, but also have the ability of learning new codes from the original remotes. The learning remotes, duplicate the function of the original remote by learning their signals. Sounds confusing, right? If you have purchased the latest television set from a renowned manufacturer, but are unwilling to use its original remote separately, you can make your universal learning remote learn signals from this parent/teaching remote. For doing so, all you need to do is to put the learning remote in programming mode, and press the relevant key on the teaching remote. Wait for a few seconds, and voila, your universal remote has learned all the features of your current remote. Due to its learning capability, these remotes are termed as multibrand remotes. The main drawback of these remotes is their price. These remotes are priced on the higher side, and are costlier than the pre-programmed ones.
Wi-Fi Enabled Remotes
The newest types of universal remotes on the block are the wi-fi enabled remotes. These remotes ditch your cable networks and get all the latest information about the shows airing on TV using your wi-fi network. All this information is displayed on the LCD screen of your remote.
LCD Touchscreen Remotes
Touchscreen remote control
As the name suggests, these remotes are touchscreen enabled ones. Virtual buttons, alongside physical buttons, are provided on your universal remote that can be used to switch between devices.
Radio Frequency Remotes
Radio frequency remote
Unlike infrared rays, the radio frequency waves (RF) can penetrate walls, and are capable of operating over long distances. This means, if you are working in the bedroom, you can operate your television set in the living room by using the RF remote, provided the distance between the rooms falls in the remote's working range.
The universal remotes have a lot of features like remote consolidation, touchscreen, glow-in-the-dark, etc., which are a real treat when operating multiple devices. However, when you are looking to buy one, carefully examine all its features. Evaluate your needs before buying the expensive learning remotes. If you want the remote to operate all the basic functions of the devices, then pre-programmed remote is the best choice. Unless you are going to use most of the features offered by the learning remotes, they are not worth the money.
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Universal Remote Control
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