TX-1000 Medius Use and Conclusion
If you have a device that you use for multiple functions - an HTPC, media server, universal player, or the like, there are two ways to set up the remote. You can either make multiple pages with a bunch of macros or you can import the same device multiple times. For example, say you have a universal disc player. You may want to set the player up in the Watch section for movies and the Listen section under CD, SACD, and DVD-A. You could set up a number of macros and some sort of page that has all the stuff you'll need for DVD, CD, SACD, and DVD-A playback. Or you could just import the same DVD player four times and set up function-specific pages. While there is no right way to do it, I'd highly recommend the latter.
The unit defaults to a blue backlight for the LCD screen. Fortunately, you can modify that to your liking. All you need to do is right click on the input (DVD, Cable, etc) and change the saturation of the Red, Green and Blue. There are 17 different gradations of each (which works out to be just south of 5000 color options). Not all of these combinations are pleasing to the eye nor are they all significantly different from each other but they are available. I enjoyed giving all the different screens their own color.
In some of the more complicated components (like most AV receivers) you'll have pages of codes to wade through. Obviously, you won't want to have all those visible. The fix to this is to right click on the pages you don't need access to and select Hide. This eliminates the need to feed my almost psychotic desire to reorganize each device so that the most important pages are up front. Instead, you can pick the page(s) that already have most of the button you want and modify them. Then you hide the rest.
Under the RF control menu you'll notice that you have the option of setting each device for IR, RF, or both. While I can't think of a single reason you'd choose "both," you may have need for the IR portion. While the majority of your equipment should be controlled via RF, you may have a specific piece - maybe something that is housed too far away from the base station for the emitters to reach that you'd prefer to control via IR. In my case, I often have equipment in for review. While more often than not, I'll need to use the remote for the review, I may want to program a few of the functions into the remote. On and Off immediately come to mind as does input selection. It is just make life a little easier for me.
Which brings up another good point: Once you've set your remote up the way you like, you save your settings on your computer. If you want an alternative setup - say one for when guests are over. You just create a new one (or modify your own) and save it under a different name. What does this get you? Well, if you want to have easy access to a number of functionalities, you configure the remote one way. If you want to limit the access of your guests, you configure it a different way. Sure, you can work both into the same configuration, but it may be something that works for you.
While six inputs may be more than enough for most people, it is conceivable that for some, it won't be enough. It may also be that someone may want to use the same remote for multiple rooms. As I mentioned earlier, there is a switch on the bottom of the MRF-250. There are 15 different positions. This means that you can control up to 15 different base stations with the same remote. Set on up in every room in the house. That way, with a push of a button you can let the kids know it is time for bed.
The things to remember and focus on when setting up this remote is proper placement of the emitters and thinking out and testing the macros beforehand. If I had to make one suggestion, I'd suggest that you work with and use the remote alone for a few days before you ever hand it over to your significant other. Such a substantial remote is going to be met with skepticism at first so the better polished the functionality is, the quicker your significant other is going to be to accept it. Plus, they'll be so curious about it after a day or two, they'll be itching to get their hands on it.
Using the Remote
I've talked a lot about how to program and set up the remote, but I haven't talked about actually using it. Some people have described using an RF remote as 舠 life changing. "While that may be a bit strong, it does significantly change the way you interact with your home theater" for the better! I went from using between 3 and 5 remotes at any given time to using one. That is a big change. No matter how well an IR remote works, it will never work as well as RF. The IR always needs some sort of line of sight. With the RF, you are never worried that your kid is jumping up and down in front of the receiver so you can't turn down the music they've recently bumped up to "Skull Shattering." Actually, while I am writing this, I am sitting in my office controlling the HTPC in my HT (skipping songs I don't like). That is something I could never do before.
The biggest change is getting used to navigating the different screens. The Listen and Watch buttons really help with this. Everyone can understand them. If you clearly list the choices (using multiple buttons when applicable like I did) then you'll rarely have a person complain that they can't get your system to work. Limiting the number of buttons per page and making sure the first page they see is the one with the most oft used buttons will also endear even the most skeptical user to your new remote.
I was (and am) a bit concerned about the durability of the Medius. It is big and heavy. Remotes are constantly getting knocked off couches and tossed around... it is the lot in the life of a remote. The Medius' size and weight make such bumps and jostles even more significant. The unit feels solid enough but I personally would be concerned if the unit were to be dropped on anything other than fairly thick carpet. Of course, the large size also means that you have virtually no fear of the Medius disappearing into your couch.
Placing the base station is a very important task. You'll find that RF interference will quickly become the bane of your existence. I'd only wall mount the MRF-250 if I was absolutely sure the location was free from RF interference. Luckily, there is an easy way to tell. Plug in the base station, temporarily switch the channel assignment dial on the bottom to 0, and watch to see if the red light on the right lights up. When that light is lit, the unit is receiving an RF signal. If you are not pressing a button on the remote... this is bad. Like placing subwoofers, inches matter. I found that my proximity to the base station will sometimes increase or decrease the amount of interference. You'll want to place the base station then step away. Plasmas are also a source of interference. I've found that thunderstorms (not at all uncommon here in Florida during the summer) also increase the amount of interference. If you think you've found a good spot for the base station where it can be wall mounted, let it live there for a while before you drill any holes. Just a suggestion.
The unit is powered by four AA batteries. After some of the battery eating remotes I've had experience with in the past, my first question to Universal Remote Control Inc was, "So, what, they last about a month or so?" Their response was a little more than surprising, "The remote is designed to last a year with normal use." My jaw hit the ground. Now, I'm not sure exactly what constitutes normal use but if it lasts half that, I'd be more than thrilled.
I'll end this section with this... This remote is cool. My concerns about the size and shape aside, no one looks at it and just says, "Huh, that's a funny looking remote." They have to pick it up, turn everything on and off. Switch sources. Take it to another room to see if it really works from behind a wall. Some of the more traditional universal remotes just look like big, long remotes with LCD readouts. This looks different. Totally different. And when you want your home theater to stand out, different is good.
Suggestions and Recommendations
There is very little not to like about this remote. Still, I've a few suggestions:
- Changing the color of the LCD display is a pain. You have to change it on the computer, upload it to the remote, and then find the page to see what it looks like. The color on the interface and the one on the remote are generally not at all similar. There should be a way that either the color on the remote changes in real time as you make changes on the interface or change each screen individually on the remote itself. There is a color modification function in the service menu but it is global, not screen specific.
- It would also be nice to have some preset color buttons (standard Windows color chooser would be fine) available. While you can get a lot more variation by adjusting red, green, and blue manually, having a couple of preset colors to choose from would be nice as well.
- I understand the decision to use 12 different small touchscreens within the LCD display. I personally find the six character limit to be too, well, limiting. I'd like to see some way of overlaying a display on top of the touch areas. That way, if a word is longer than six characters it just runs over into the next touch area.
Conclusions and Overall Perceptions
Do I have problems recommending a $200 universal remote that can never be updated with new IR codes? Yes. Do I have a problem recommending a $500 remote that will never be obsolete? Not at all. Sure, you may get upgraditis and decide to switch to the newest, fanciest remote. But if you are switching from the TX-1000 Medius, you surely didn't need too. I have no idea how someone could outgrow this remote. It simply has too much functionality, too much expandability, too much... everything. Not to mention the cool factor. This is unlike any remote I'd venture to guess any of your friends have seen. Of course, you're not going to make any friends with this remote. I've already got a guy mad at me because his wife took one look at the Medius, thought back to the six remotes at home (with colored tape on them identifying the component), and started yelling. Life changing? Yeah, in a lot of ways. I'll tell you what; I'll never go back to an IR remote, that's for sure.
Special thanks to Glenn Gentilin from Universal Remote Control, Inc. for his help in giving us an overview of the URC Complete Control system and pointers on RF remote and macro programming.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
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- — Very Good
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- — Fair
- — Poor
|Ergonomics & Usability|
|Ease of Setup/Programming/Integration|