RCA RCU-800 "Systemlink 8 A-V" Universal Remote
Inexpensive, reasonably flexible, but not
by Jim Bray
RCA is an industry
leader because it knows perhaps better than any other company how to make
a product that's suitable to the "ordinary consumer." This skill extends
from the top to the bottom of its line, and I've often applauded the company's
track record in this area.
One place in which
RCA has been traditionally a leader is in making remote controls that
are easy to figure out. This is an often overlooked but vitally important
area, since it's the remote control that the consumer is going to use
most often when operating a particular piece of equipment.
As with most things,
however, the more you spend the better you get, which explains why I'm
a bit disappointed in the performance of the RCU-800 Systemlink 8 A-V
After all, the thing
sells for about twenty American bucks, so it's entry level at best. And
it really does control a lot of different components. But it doesn't offer
consumer-friendly features like the backlighting of buttons that makes
using the remote so much easier in a darkened home theater.
On the upside, the
remote is comfortable in the hand and laid out quite logically. Programming
it is as easy a pressing a couple of buttons and entering a code (or two
or three, depending upon what you're trying to program).
The RCU-800 will control
two VCR's, a TV, DVD player, DSS satellite system, an audio system, cable
box, and one other component ("AUX"). It comes with built in codes for
RCA, not surprisingly, and there's a card in the package that contains
the codes for the other brands it'll handle. Whether or not your brand
is there is up in the air; there are plenty of TV and VCR models supported,
but not nearly as many of the rest.
If your code isn't
there, you can supposedly train the remote anyway, with a "code search"
feature. The procedure's straightforward enough, but the cloud around
this silver lining is that you may have to press the "on/off" button up
to 200 times before the component you're trying to control either begins
working or you discover that it isn't going to work. I went through this
process several times, trying to get the thing to run my (admittedly old)
Pioneer receiver and laserdisc player.
The buttons are laid
out in groups, with the power and component buttons at the top, with channel/preset
and volume controls below, followed by cursor control keys, a numeric
keypad, and the tape/disc play control buttons. A final row across the
bottom controls PIP, input, and sleep timer buttons, doubling up the features
with speaker selection.
In the grand scheme
of things, this isn't really a great universal remote. However, it's also
about two hundred-some dollars cheaper than the really great ones, so
it shouldn't be surprising that it has its shortcomings.
For RCA's customers,
however, most of whom I suspect have mainstream audio and video components
and desire little else (and there's nothing wrong with that, despite how
some audio/videophiles may look down their noses at you!), the RCU-800
could provide a nice "all in one" solution to that pile of remotes on
the coffee table. It can also be used as a second remote control for the
spouse (or 'significant other") so he/she doesn't have to get up and search
the coffee table for the main remote.
Imagine the remote
control wars you can have that way - two people armed with their own remotes,
tuning to different programs at the same time!
I can see it on "Divorce
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