Pros: excellent layout, simple set up, comprehensive code list, features, price.
Cons: limited learning memory, minor bugs, no macros, no back lighting, no eject button.
True to its advertising slogan Philips has produced another excellent and very affordable universal, learning remote control. I am a big fan of Philips remote controls, this is my 4th one. I loved all of them, but did find the more advanced Prestigo one to be more annoying than helpful, just like any other super advanced remote control.
So I found the SRU5106 at Sears for something like $15 and since I had been trying to replace my beat up RC05 for a long time now, I didn't even think twice. This model controls up to 6 devices and the default labels are set for TV, DVR, DVD, SAT, and AUX, though any other imaginable IR device can be controlled by the remote and stored under any of the above modes, except TV, which only accepts TV codes (manual learning still works for other devices under TV mode).
For about 3, or 5 bucks more there are two step up models of basically the same remote, but designed for 7 and 8 devices. Another feature the step up models have, which this one does not is full keypad back lighting.
I picked up the 5 device remote not realizing that it was lacking the back lighting, but honestly it's hardly a disadvantage thanks to the excellent layout of the buttons. They are very nicely organized in well spaced groups according to their function - on top are the device select buttons, beneath them is the directional pad, followed by the channel/volume controls, the play control buttons, and the numeric keypad. The buttons are in various shape and sizes and are perfectly designed for use by touch in the dark. My only minor gripe is with the numeric keypad, which buttons are slightly smaller and more crowded than I prefer.
The remote operates on 2 AA batteries which are regrettably not included.
This minor oversight aside, setting up this Philips remote is a breeze. Perhaps because it is my 4th remote of this brand I was familiar with the procedure, but it truly is a much more logical routine than other similar remotes I have tried. In comparison the RC05 comes with a whole instructional DVD on setting it up, and another Sony model I tried was nothing short of painful.
Here is how it works on the Philips:
Press and hold set up till it lights up, press a component button, enter a 4 digit code, done. The included list of device codes is fairly up to date and comprehensive - it had all of my devices, including Xbox 360.
If a device is not listed, there is a search method for the code - press and hold set up, press a device button, keep pressing the power button until the device turns off (or on). Alternatively the channel up key may be used for devices that change channels. There is also a procedure to identify a code that has been stored through the search function, but since I never had to use it I am not sure how that works.
Finally, the learning function works similarly to other learning remotes - align the original remote with the IR transmitter of the SRU5106, press a button to be learned and press and hold the original remote button until it is stored.
Again, like anything else about this remote the procedure is much more thoughtful than other remotes. The biggest difference from Sony remotes for instance is that a new command can be stored on a button, which already has a previous learned command, without having to erase the original command first. It is unbelievable how much time this simple feature saves. The learning procedure is also the same for any button (unlike Sony remotes, which have different procedures for regular buttons and special buttons like device selection or macros). Finally, despite what the manual says, the remote can learn commands from different devices under one device mode - for instance I use volume control for both my TV and my receiver, so I have stored the receiver's volume control under the TV mode so I can control either without switching modes.
Now my favorite thing about Philips remotes is a feature that I can't believe that no other brand has implemented. While pretty much any remote I've had allows teaching commands to the device selection buttons, only Philips has implemented it in a way that allows you to switch to another device, without activating the command stored on its selection button. It is done very simply - to activate a command stored under a device selection key, it has to be pressed and held for more than 2 seconds. With my older remotes I always had to be careful and point the remote away, or better cover it up when switching devices. What I like to do is store the power command under each device button so it only takes one press to turn a device.
Otherwise the so called "special" features on this remote are a fairly standard affair - there is punch through functions for playback control, volume, and channel changing. The master volume could be set to any device that has volume control, and then individual components can be programmed to use their own volume control. The playback punch through control remembers the last device which uses those buttons, so if more than one playback devices are set up the last one used will be remembered.
There are several additional buttons targeted towards DVRs - four color buttons, instant replay, thumbs up/down, advance. Those seem useful to me for Blu Ray as well though unfortunately there is no dedicated Blu Ray device button yet.
Although I have been enjoying my new remote a lot and I am glad to finally be rid of the old RC5, there are a few things that could be improved:
1. The memory for learning from other remotes seems limited. Philips does not publish the exact number of commands that can be stored and I have no way of telling exactly how many I was able to store, but I eventually did run out of commands by the last device. When the limit is reached, the button, which is to be programmed blinks rapidly several times indicating that the command was not stored. This may occasionally happen for other reasons too - not aligned well, interference, etc, but once the learning limit is reached no additional command can be stored.
2. Occasional bug - causing the power commands, which I have stored under the device buttons to not function properly. It is a very random thing, I may try to turn the TV and it will turn on the DVD player instead. This seems to get fixed by using the actual power button.
3. No eject button - this is a small problem, since there are plenty of buttons on the remote, but the eject function has to be learned from another remote.
4. The set up and learn buttons are too prominent. They are stuck on top next to the power button for no good reason. Once the remote is all set up they are rarely needed and would've been nice to have them hidden somewhere on the bottom. What bothers me even more is that no command can be stored under these two buttons. I would've loved to see the learn button double as eject, since it sits right on top as is used for absolutely nothing once the set up is complete.
5. No macros - honestly, for $15 it is hard to expect that though. Maybe one touch power on/off would have been nice.
6. And my last complaint - the color buttons correspond perfectly with the four red buttons from the Xbox 360 remote, yet their functions are not available by default.
Also the two buttons "thumbs up/down" double as chapter skip/back for DVD or CD, but in punch through mode they don't work. I ended up learning them individually under every device, of course that was a half way solution since I could only store my DVD player and not my Xbox.
On the plus side though, the dash (-) used for digital sub channels worked right away with both my TV and my DVD recorder - again, only on Philips so far.
Well I'd have to say I have tried plenty of remote controls - from simple ones to very complicated models from Logitech, Philips, Universal Remote, and Sony, but I have never been a fan of the super advanced ones - they always seem to require digging through menus, looking at screens, scrolling and other annoying stuff. The Philips SRU5106 truly brings the Sense and Simplicity to the otherwise covered with remotes coffee table.