If your house has started to look like an orphanage for abandoned remote controls, you might like to think about consolidating them into just one simple remote. The way to do this is, as you'd imagine, with a universal remote control.
Often, though, single controllers do the opposite of helping, instead serving to confuse and disorientate. Some of them are also prohibitively expensive, costing hundreds of pounds. But One For All thinks it's got the solution in the form of the £120 Xsight Touch.
Possibly the Touch's biggest advantage is that it comes pre-programmed with hundreds of control codes for all manner of devices. In order to control your selection of hardware, you simply press the 'settings' button on the device's LCD screen, and enter the device set-up menu. From there, you choose the type of device you're trying to control.
Once you've selected, say, TVs, you pick your manufacturer from the list and the remote will help you find the correct code for your model. It does this by asking you to turn the TV on, then cycle through a series of settings until the power button on the remote turns the screen off. At that point, you've found a code that works and you're done. As that meerkat on TV says: "Simples."
If you want to add devices that aren't listed, or want to customise the remote, you'll need the EZ-RC software that comes in the box. If you lose the CD, the good news is you can download the software from the One For All Web site.
Of course, most people will only plug the remote into one computer, so losing the CD is unlikely to be a problem. When you have the software installed, you still have to visit a Web site to log in. From there you can plug in your remote and adjust its settings. It's all something of a faff, and in stark contrast to the comparatively simple initial set-up.
At the top of the controller is a small, colour LCD touchscreen. This display is used to help guide you through the process of selecting a device and then controlling it. Beneath the screen are some handy buttons that enable you to quickly select a specific 'activity'. For example, one button is a shortcut to a list of all your devices. This makes it much faster to select, say, your Blu-ray player and start controlling it.
The LCD screen is small enough to fit onto a slender controller like this while being large enough to present sufficient information and allow you to select appropriate devices or functions to control. In addition to the touchscreen, there's a little strip beneath it. This is used to scroll through the 'pages' of remote commands -- you get about 6 on-screen at once. You simply drag your finger across the strip from right to left or vice versa.
Although it's the cheapest universal remote we've seen with a colour LCD screen, the Touch is still one of the most pleasant-feeling. Because it's a traditional shape, it feels good in the hand. It weighs about the right amount and the gloss surface has a pleasing feel too. That said, it's a fingerprint magnet, and that can spoil the aesthetics slightly.
Along with the remote comes a rather good docking cradle. When the remote is in this stand, it's charged automatically, although you can also charge it via a USB connection, which is handy if you're fiddling with the EZ-RC software. The cradle can easily be put out of the way and used simply to store the controller overnight.
Although we like the overall feel of the Touch, we aren't crazy about some of the buttons, which are recessed too far and can be hard to press properly. The worst keys are the small option buttons below the screen. That said, it's not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination.
As well as the feel of the controller, we like the price. Setting it up is simple, as long as you're equipment isn't too obscure. If you do have the one remaining Betamax player in Western Europe, you have a couple of options for using the Touch with it. The first is to use the existing infrared remote to program the controller, which is quite time-consuming. The other option is to use the software to update the controller with the correct control codes. Because these codes are updated via the Internet, it means pretty much every device you could hope for is available.
We also like the fact that you can program the remote with logos for your favourite TV channels, and the option to let different family members have different profiles is really handy. It makes the controller feel much more personal, and it makes the built-in display look quite funky too.
Supplying the software on a CD but not offering a download too is unforgivable. The One For All Web site is a pain to use too, and the Touch seems to live separately from the company's other controllers.
We don't like some of the keys -- they don't feel very positive when you press them, and some of the smaller buttons are recessed too far, making them difficult to press. As with most universal remotes, the physical buttons are often labelled differently to those on the original remote, and they have to be fairly generic as a result. To some extent, the LCD screen makes this less of a problem, but there are still some configuration options that don't appear on-screen. With our Onkyo AV receiver, for example, we couldn't find a way to get into the menu from the remote, but everything else worked brilliantly.
Worth the money?
For £120 or so, we think the One For All Xsight Touch is a good product. It feels pleasant and has loads of built-in codes that should mean you'll be able to control all of your hardware without too much bother. It's also less expensive than most of the competition, and the touchscreen makes it much more useful than One For All's cheaper models. If you've got too many remote controls, it should improve your life.
Edited by Charles Kloet
Update: A previous version of this review stated that the Xsight software couldn't be downloaded from the One For All Web site. The company has since corrected this and we've updated the review to reflect that.