If you are thinking about buying a universal remote control, here are some features worth looking for.
This is useful for displaying information on what device is being controlled. Screens can be monochrome or colour and may also be touchscreens.
The Kameleon remote controls in this test have 'electro-luminescent LCD' (EL LCD) screens which display their touch-screen buttons only when the screen is on. When they are off, the units appear to have no buttons.
In dark situations a backlit screen can be helpful.
This allows some controls to be programmed and/or used by touching the screen rather than physical buttons. Other screens just show the labels for buttons adjacent to the screen (like an ATM machine).
Ability to set a different function to one of the standard keys displayed on the screen for any particular device. For example, if you often use the 'change aspect ratio' function of your TV, you may want this to be included in the 'TV' layout of the remote control.
All universal remotes in this test have macros — which deliver a sequence of commands to a variety of devices from a single key on the remote. If you wish to perform complex functions, look for a remote with a large number of macro steps.
This feature allows a gap of a few seconds to be inserted between programmed commands (Macros) to help minimise errors where devices take some time to complete a command.
Volume punch through
This function allows the volume and mute keys to be assigned to a single device, for example a home theatre receiver. The advantage is that you can mute or change volume with a single key press, no matter what device the remote is currently set to control.
The remote can be set to provide a sequence of instructions at a certain time. For for example, you could ask it to turn on the set-top box at 6.50pm, then start the hard-drive recorder at 7pm.
This feature allows the universal remote to 'learn' directly from other remotes, instead of using pre-installed codes. A learning sensor at the base is easier to use, as both the learning remote and the 'teaching' remote will be pointing the same way (rather than with their buttons reversed) during the learning process.
Check whether rechargeable batteries are supplied. If not, you may need to factor in the cost a good set of rechargeable batteries for future use.
Some remote controls come with a base station that can be used to recharge the batteries and store the control.
The remote retains its memory of key functions even when the batteries are removed.
This feature wakes the remote from 'sleep' mode when it's picked up. This saves you looking for the on button in the dark and helps conserve battery power.