Remote controls are deceptively simple devices, and something that we tend to take for granted. Basically, all they are is an interface between the human body and devices that could be five or even thirty feet away. By sending digital signals, remotes can tell your TV, or even your fridge, to carry out certain actions, saving you the effort of getting up and doing it yourself. It’s hard to imagine how much effort remotes have saved us in the past, but for most of us, it’s easy to recall the frustration of having our remote break down.
Whether you need an all-purpose remote for multiple devices, a device specific remote or a remote for gaming consoles, this buyer’s guide will lay out your options and help you find the perfect remote control for your individual needs.
Mediator Between Human and Machine
Amazing though it may seem, the concept behind remote controls has been in circulation since 1894, when physicist Oliver Lodge discovered a way to wirelessly transmit digital signals. A couple of years later, radio inventor Guglielmo Marcono astonished spectators in London by pressing a button and making a bell ring without any visible connection.
By the 1900s, pioneering scientists like Leonardo Torres Quevedo were wowing the public by piloting model boats into harbour while standing on the quay, while the 1930s saw the introduction of remote controlled planes for the first time (the first aerial drones, in a sense).
However, it took until 1950 for Zenith to introduce the first television remote, and until 1955 for the first wireless TV remote to appear (the “Flashmatic”).
The development of remote controllers in the UK was stimulated in the 1970s by the popularity of information services like Ceefax, which required a more complex set of buttons and commands. After that, the range of options on a standard controller became increasingly impressive, with fast forward and rewind, menus, volume and brightness alongside the core number (and sometimes letter buttons).
The 90s saw the basic controller joined by genuine multi-device (or universal) controllers as well as programmable smart controllers that could be connected to PCs and given specific code to interact with other devices. During this period, the previous audio transmission technique, which used ultra-high frequencies to communicate with TVs, was replaced by infra-red light, which remains the current standard.
How Do Remote Controls Work?
The vast majority of modern remote controls use infra-red light to establish a connection between the remote unit and the target device. When you press a button on the control, the unit creates a pulse of infra-red light which cannot be seen, but is received by the target. The trick is to create specific infra-red patterns for each button. That way, the TV or gaming console can discern whether you are changing channels or altering the volume.
Other remotes use radio-based transmission techniques including Bluetooth or ZigBee – which is commonly used with car door locks and garage doors, but these are rarely applied to home entertainment systems.
The Many Different Types of Remote
At HotUKDeals, you’ll find a vast selection of deals on remote controls of all varieties, and finding exactly the right model for your device can be a tricky procedure. Here are the major types and what to look for when choosing one that works for you:
TV Remotes – Many TVs will require owners to use a specific model of remote control, at least at first. That’s because they will bundle remotes in with their sets, and they have no incentive to provide a universal remote. Instead, you’ll usually receive a very basic TV remote with limited features and little use other than with the set you’ve bought. However, the plus side of these remotes is that they are accessible, and – with higher-quality TV manufacturers like Samsung or Sony – extremely reliable. They can also be replaced cheaply (and sometimes at no cost at all, depending on your warranty).
TV Box and streaming service remotes – TV-specific remotes are far from the only kind to be found in today’s homes, where you’ll tend to find a range of DVD, gaming console and TV box remotes as well. When you purchase a streaming box like Kodi, you will also receive a specific remote that enables you to surf the various channels on the system, as well as streaming services like YouTube or Netflix. However, Amazon have taken the idea much further, combining a streaming box an advanced control in their Amazon Fire product. With this remote, you can access a vast array of streaming TV and movies, and browse the library from an ergonomically designed remote, which works with almost all modern TVs.
Universal remote controls – If you are the kind of person who regularly switches between different TVs or has multiple controllers lying around the home, a universal remote like the Logitech Harmony Ultimate or the Smart Control 5 could be the ideal solution. Generally, these universal remotes have to be programmed with codes that are specific to different devices. This shouldn’t be as complex as it sounds, though, taking less than half an hour in most cases. Universal remotes are able to handle TVs and DVD players, as well as streaming services like YouTube and Amazon Prime, and even come with smartphone apps as well.
Gaming remotes – You can also buy remotes for almost all next generation gaming systems. For example, there’s the PlayStation 4 Universal Remote, which uses Bluetooth to control the apps and Blu-ray player on the PS4. The Xbox One Media Remote is similar (but more streamlined), enabling you to access the OneGuide media library and run streaming videos. Then there’s the Wii Remote, which is a little different. In fact, it’s completely different. Instead of simply providing access to TV or Blu-rays, the Wii Remote is the console’s major controller. We’ll have a look at how to choose the right one, and the range of expansions for the Wii Remote below.
Remote controlled toys – Many toys also use remote controls, including boats, planes and road vehicles, as well as robots and dolls. There are some pretty wacky remote controlled toys on the market, which could make a unique gift idea. For instance, Light in the Box sell a remote controlled flying shark, while the Gift & Gadget Store sells a remote controlled tarantula – not for everybody, but handy for Halloween.
Smart devices – As smart technology becomes more popular, a new breed of remotes is popping up around the home. We’re all familiar with remote controls for garage doors, cars or security systems, but remotes can also control fridges, air conditioning and ovens. However, the drift in smart tech is probably towards smartphone or wearable-based controls, so these controllers may have a limited shelf life.
Harmony Remote Control and Smart Control
5 Remote Control Specifications to Look Out For
Whenever you come to purchase a new TV remote, there are certain things to look out for. When you browse the HotUKDeals listings, make sure that you have an eye on these attributes, as they can make a big difference to how useful the remote actually is.
Commands – How many different functions can the remote actually do? Obviously, you’ll need basic commands like “play” or “choose channel”, but think about more advanced settings as well. The best remotes can bundle up a number of key presses in activity based commands, allowing you to instantly fire up a stream of DVD by pressing one button, instead of several. This can also be used to start up a group of devices (say, your Blu-ray player, speakers and TV) much more quickly and easily than wrestling with complicated series of key presses.
Button options – Although you’ll probably want as many commands as possible, think twice about buying a controller that is crowded with buttons. For one thing, you won’t be the only person using the control. Newcomers to the device might struggle to work out how to access complex remotes. Many modern remotes actually minimise the number of buttons, relying instead on on-screen menus, where you can select the options you need. This can make the remotes smaller and more efficient, something that users could really appreciate.
Size – Size matters, but not always in the ways you might think. Smaller remotes can be slightly less functional, but as we’ve seen, the functions can be transferred to the target device. However, smaller remotes can be easier to misplace. If you are the kind of person who regularly struggles to locate your remote (be honest!), clunkier models could actually be preferable.
Compatibility – Do you want a streamlined remote that is dedicated to Amazon Fire alone, or one that can work across hundreds of TVs and media players? Do you want a remote that can work with both the Xbox One and PS4, one that links up to your smartphone, or just a replacement for the original remote that came with your Sony TV? Think about signal types as well. Older infra-red models are more common, but Bluetooth enabled controls can operate over longer distances (and even through walls), although they may be less compatible with ordinary TVs.
Battery charge – A key consideration when buying any wireless product, battery charge is crucial when purchasing a remote. Many high-end models feature ion batteries, instead of standard batteries, which deliver much longer charge periods (though they come at a price). Some also have recharging stations included, which can be a help if they are more complex controllers. However, for most people, standard battery powered controllers will be fine – just have a box of spare batteries in a draw in case the charge runs out.
Can Your Remote Control Be Repaired?
Sometimes, remotes stop working for mundane reasons. The infra-red light could have failed, or a button or two has worn out. In the vast majority of cases, users instinctively respond by purchasing a new controller, but is this really the only option?
Not at all. Many remotes can be easily repaired at a lower cost than buying a high-end modern alternative, and some of the fixes can even be carried out at home.
If your remote isn’t working, the first thing to do is check the infra-red transmitter. You can do this surprisingly easily, simply by looking at it via a digital camera (which can pick up infra-red light).
If the light doesn’t flash when the buttons are pressed, you’ve got a faulty infra-red light. All that you need to do is ask a repair shop to install a new one.
If that doesn’t work, there’s a good chance that the problem is internal (if the batteries haven’t run out – something that you also need to check). It could just be a dirty circuitboard, and repairers can remedy this in no time.
So, if you have a remote that you like, and don’t fancy the idea of spending money on a more up to date model, repair is definitely an option. If not, replacement can be carried out as cheaply as possible with the help of HotUKDeals, where you may well find replica of your favourite controller at a bargain price.
How to Buy and Get the Most From a Wii Remote
Earlier on, we mentioned the Wii Remote. As it’s the main controller for Nintendo’s popular console, it really demands its own section.
The unique thing about the Wii Remote is the way it blends the accessibility of classic remote controls with the gaming features of a conventional gamepad and advanced motion sensing technology. As you move your arm in tennis games, the Wii Remote can track its trajectory, translating your movement into shots on a digital tennis court – something that never fails to impress gamers.
If you have a Wii U or a Wii Switch, there are plenty of ways to enhance the basic Wii Remote. Here are some of the most popular options:
The Nunchuk – Designed to be held in your free hand, the Nunchuk is a wireless supplement to the main Wii Remote. It can add a completely new dimension to games requiring the use of two hands, where actions like climbing or dancing are involved.
The Wii Zapper – In the Zapper, your Wii Remote slots into a gun shaped accessory, providing a light-gun experience that can enhance shooters and other action titles.
The Wii Wheel – A must for Mario Kart fans, the Wii Wheel involves slotting the Wii Remote into a steering wheel setup.
The Wii Motion Plus – A neat little addition that connects to the base of the Wii Remote, the Motion Plus makes the controller even more accurate.
What About Smart Devices? Are Remotes Becoming Obsolete?
The rise of smart technology is making it possible to control a vast range of devices from your smartphone, including speakers, fridges, cookers, windows, locks, security systems, TVs, lights, radios and media players. The question for remote buyers is, with so much technology becoming “smart”, is there really a place for advanced remotes in the home of the future?
Many people think that the remote’s days are numbered, and that smartphones will inevitably make them obsolete. After all, when you can browse TV listings, access reviews, and queue recordings from your phone, it seems natural to use it to turn your TV on or off and to change channels.
However, the remote is still very much alive and well. Smartphones generally still struggle to interact directly with TVs in the way that infra-red remotes can do. Then again, some models like the Samsung Galaxy and LG’s most recent models are equipped with devices called IR Blasters, which can send infra-red signals to TVs. Some smart TVs come with apps that allow you to use your phone to control them via your domestic wi-fi network. If this trend continues, remotes will have a limited shelf life.
Whether or not you choose a universal remote or try to use your smartphone will depend on familiarity and convenience more than anything else. Yes, smartphones are developing into substitute remotes, but many of us are used to old-style remote controls that are designed for TV operation, and nothing more. With a specialist design, they make it easy to focus on changing channels, running DVDs – without the distraction of web browsers and call notifications.
How to Buy a Remote at the Best Price
Whether you are looking for an ultra-modern touchscreen equipped universal TV remote, or a new Wii Remote with a Zapper accessory, HotUKDeals is the first place you should look before making a purchase.
At the HotUKDeals listings, you’ll find TV remotes from manfacturers like Samsung, Sony, Amazon, Sky, Panasonic and BT, with device-specific and universal remotes all thrown into the mix. There are also plenty of gaming remotes on offer from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, as well as DVD and Blu-ray and Hi-Fi remotes as well.
Customers in the UK have plenty of merchants to choose from as well, so shop around. With options including John Lewis, Richer Sounds, Currys, Argos, Amazon, HMV, Gearbest, Very, Tesco and Price Drop UK, it makes sense to check them all to ascertain whether they are running promotions on the remote you’d like to buy.
Shop savvy, find the specifications you need and check that your remote is compatible with your TV or gaming console, and you won’t have any problems finding remote deals that slash the price of home entertainment.
Make Big Savings with the Universal Remote Offers at HotUKDeals
Remotes are a huge part of the world of home entertainment. Without them, imagine how much effort it would be to change channels, start DVDs or access streaming services. Finding the right remote is essential, and you’ll find hundreds of deals at the HotUKDeals remote listings, the best place to shop for discounted home entertainment products.