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How to Choose the Right Remote Control for Your Home Theater PC?


 So you've got yourself a kickass, play-everything home theater PC, but you're not so keen on controlling it from your couch with a mouse and keyboard. I get that. I'm somewhat of a media center enthusiast, so I've tested practically every remote possibility with my media center. Here's how to wade through the sea of remote controls out there and pick the perfect one for your PC.

  Windows Media Center's popularity and ease of use means there are a lot of remotes out there designed specifically for itand a lot of them work well in programs like XBMC. It's hard to find Microsoft's official remote these days, but you can find a lot of good off-brand ones for a low price, and most even come with their own IR receivers.

  While each third-party MCE remote has its own little quirks, they should be mostly hassle-free, letting you plug it in, perform a tweak or to, and get straight to watching your movies. Different remotes work differently on Windows and Linux, so you'll want to pick the right one for your OS .

   Not all MCE remotes are created equal, and some will take more tweaking than others to get working properly. Make sure you do your research before buying one, and find out which works best with your OS and media center software. Some will even work out of the box with no extra tweaks. The other main disadvantage is that none of these remotes are universal, so they can't control other devices like your speakers and TVthey'll just work for your home theater PC.

  Logitech's Harmony series are an extremely popular line of universal remotes; in fact, they smoked the competition in our Hive Five on the subject. What's great about them is that they're pretty easy to configure: Instead of typing in codes like old school universal remotes, you plug it into your computer, tell it what kind of TV and peripherals you have, and drag the functions you want to the buttons want.

  The Harmony software, while not perfect, is very easy to set up, and gives you a fair amount of control over what you want each button to do. You can control all of the devices in your living room, from your TV to your speakers to your DVD player and home theater PC. When it comes to programmable universal remotes, this one's at the top of the heap.

  The Harmony series has an awful lag that, for some people, makes it near unusable, particularly when browsing through media center software. However, a quick call to customer service allowed me to change the "Delay" setting on my buttons to 1, cutting the lag nearly in half. I don't like that I had to call customer service to get my problem half-fixed, but it at least made the remote usable.

  If you don't like the Harmony, you can use nearly any other universal remote, but it will take a lot more setup, and there's no guarantee that it'll work perfectly. You'll need to use software like EventGhost on Windows or LIRC on Linux to program everything. It may be tedious, but if you already have a favorite remote, this'll get it working with your media center.

  This option lets you use any remote you want, whether it's a $15 remote from RadioShack, a high-end universal remote, or even the Apple Remote that comes with Macs and Apple TVs. It also lets you assign the buttons to nearly any action you can think of, meaning the customization options are endless. This option gives you the most control (no pun intended) over your media center, so if you're the kind of person that likes everything just so, this method will make it happen.

   It takes a ton of work to set up your remote with this method. You're going to spend a lot of time fiddling with the remote, getting your PC to recognize it, and assigning each button an action, and doing it all over again when something goes wrong. In addition, I've found that sometimes it doesn't work all that well with certain remotes or programsone of my remotes, for example, would occasionally register two button presses even though I only pressed a button once. Sometimes you can fix quirks like this, but it's a crapshoot, and it takes another couple of hours out of your day.

  I know what you're thinking: using your phone as a remote is lame. I used to think so too, until I actually tried it. After futzing with universal remotes for nearly a day, dealing with double-button presses and unusable lag, I tried the official XBMC remote for iOS and was very pleasantly surprised. It may just be a smartphone app, but it works fantastically wellno lag, no mapping buttons to specific actions, and it only takes a few seconds to connect to your HTPC.

  These apps are designed to work with your specific media center software, so there's no programming neededevery button will be mapped to the correct function right away. And, since it doesn't use infrared, you don't need to buy a receiver. Plus it works on any operating system, and does so without any lag or other quirks whatsoever. You can even choose your movies right from the remote and play them on your screen, instead of clicking through menus. It is, by far, the most hassle-free way to control your media center from the couch, hands down.

  It can't control any of your other devices, and it requires you to turn on and unlock your phone every time you want to use it. Furthermore, you can't feel the buttons when you use your smartphone or tablet, so you have to look at the remote whenever you use it, which can get annoying.

Keywords:choose right remote control,choose right pc remote control,pc remote control
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