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Why are all-in-one remotes so bad?

Week 275.0 — 30th January '23

We have long used a Logitech, programmable, all-in-one remote and have done for over a decade. We're on our second and I was devastated when it really became a pain to use. Buttons were unresponsive and I seemed to be the only person in the house who could still use it fairly reliably.

To set the scene, we have a whole bunch of devices to interact with:

  • TV (with an awful Smart Hub)
  • 5.1 AV amp
  • Satellite set-top box
  • Apple TV 4K set-top box
  • Blu-ray player

Depending on what we're watching, the TV and/or amp need to be set to the right channels, the two set-top boxes need to be on or off and the Logitech is perfect for that. It's demise was a little distressing for me...

And so in September last year, the search began for a new all-in-one remote. Didn't take long to find out that Logitech had ceased to make their remotes. I was never a fan of their fully-featured Harmony remotes with touch screens and hubs and all the rest. It was their 'basic' Harmony line that really did the job well.

We had the Logitech 700, followed by the Logitech Harmony 650h. I love them. Bit of a pain to program, but once it's programmed it's great.

My only bug-bear with them is that the more recent Apple TV set top boxes have multi-click gestures to jump between apps and profiles but they're not possible to program on to these remotes. I can live with that as it's rare we do that anyway.

So, if not Logitech, then who? We just happen to have a variation of the One For All Zapper remote at home and it's pretty good. It doesn't make using multiple devices easy, but overall its fine.

I decided to give them another go and get the Smart Control 5 remote because it offered 'seamless' setup via an app, 'Smart Activities' and could work with up to 5 devices. It's not a looker, but sounded like it would be the closest thing to what we already have.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The One For All Smart Control 5 remote turned out to be terrible for us. Setup was fairly seamless to be fair, the app worked and when mapping devices and functions it mostly worked. It was a lot of trial and error, but got there in the end.

The Smart Activities worked too, if that's all you want to do. Turning the TV and set top box on? Not a problem. Oh, you have two set top boxes? The remote can turn the second box on without any issue... but the TV or AV's input can't be changed so you can't actually watch it without manually intervening.

First world problems, I know, but we have a Logitech remote right now that switches devices on and off, changes the inputs on multiple devices at the same time without any issues.

Thankfully, I not only returned the remote, I found a repair kit on eBay that did the trick. A clean of the parts inside might have sufficed but the repair kit certainly made it all feel new and robust.

For the future though, I'd love to know of an alternative remote we could purchase and use. Hit me up @cchana or @[email protected].

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