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urc mx-5000

Review: The $1200 URC MX-5000 remote

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mx-5000-1

So this is how the other half lives, huh? It must be nice to have a house full of $1200 remotes customized with user profiles and home automation controls. Yes, this remote costs $1200 and that doesn’t include installation and yes, you need it to be installed professionally. This isn’t a Harmony remote that can be set up in 10 minutes. But once it’s installed, holy cow, it’s effen amazing. I would call it the perfect remote, but I had two demo units die on me.

Features:

  • Haptic feedback touchscreen
  • IR, RF, and Wi-Fi controls
  • Windows Media Center compatible
  • Rechargeable battery
  • MSRP of $1,199.99

Pros:

  • Amazing build quality
  • No limits on customization
  • Touchscreen is perfect in size and function

Cons:

  • It’s $1,200
  • Most people cannot program it
  • I had two units stop working on me

Review:

mx-5000-3The first thing you’ll notice about the MX-5000 is the build quality. It feels like a million bucks. The buttons are smooth and hard with just the right amount of pressure needed to press them down. The screen is bright, sharp and very high-res. Even the charger screams high-end. It’s easily the best-feeling remote I have ever used.

But then I tried to set it up. The company offered to pre-program the remote before they sent it to me, but that insulted my inner nerd. I thought, “How hard could it be?” Well, after watching four online instructional videos from URC and spending about eight hours, I finally got the remote to communicate with my devices. But after that first, huge learning curve, I feel like I can do almost everything with the remote. I’m sure there are some super-macros that I don’t know about, but I managed to program the remote to control three AV systems (one via RF). I feel like all the CrunchGear writers could program the remote, along with a few of my nerdy friends. However, there is no way that the average Best Buy shopper could. Maybe the average MicroCenter customer.

ccpThe issue is that the setup program isn’t meant for the general public or the DIY crowd. It involves using IF THEN statements for macros and manually adding devices’ RF profiles. However, this type of programming allows installers complete control over how the remote controls each system. Anything is possible and installers are not tied down to a wizard.

Everything is customizable. You use pre-programmed themes or make your own in Photoshop. It’s totally up to the installer to create a pleasant user experience. I’m personally happy with how my UI turned out.

I found that backgrounds for the BlackBerry Storm are the perfect resolution, and this one looks great with the brushed look of the remote. My setup allows me to control three different AV systems in my house – not that I really need that ability. I added a dedicated TiVo button to one of the default layouts and it works great.

mx-5000-7The remote also features a Wi-Fi chipset, which enables simple RSS feeds like sports scores, news, and weather to be displayed on the remote. And it can easily control a Windows Media Center PC. The info screens are nifty, but almost a novelty. However, the Windows Media Center control is the coolest function of the remote.

All you need to do is tell the remote the Windows Media Center computer’s IP address in the PC programming software and it works. The remote’s touchscreen displays common functions and the navigational pad controls the on-screen GUI. It works flawlessly and is the easiest way to control Windows Media Center with a remote that I have ever used.

But not everyone has the ability to hook up a Media Center PC to their TV. The remote can still access a PC’s music library and provide two-way communication. This means that as long as the PC is hooked up to an audio receiver, the remote can control and play back music and even display album art.

mx-5000-4I would love to slap a large, “highly-recommended” sticker on the remote but I can’t because of the issues I had with the first two demo units. The first one just stopped working about two weeks after I got it and the other one stopped waking up when I picked up the remote. After disabling the motion sensor in the second demo unit, it worked fine for a while but eventually it started to freeze daily, which was resolved only by pulling the battery. But most of the review samples we get are first-run units so bugs can be expected. The third remote seems to be fine.

mx-5000-vs-harmony-900

The only real downside to the remote besides the price is that most people will probably need a pro to install it. If URC can come up with a complete, but also easy to use wizard, there is a market for such a remote – even at the high price. It’s the complete package: candy bar form factor, totally customizable, Wi-Fi- and RF-enabled, and it feels amazing. There is a huge difference in quality and ability between this remote and the $400 Harmony 900, but unless you have cash to burn or a complicated A/V setup, there really isn’t any reason to spend the extra cash. Unless you want the best remote on the planet, that is.

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