Although it doesn't receive as many recommendations as the Logitech Harmony remotes, the Universal Remote Control (URC) Digital R50 is a good alternative at a much cheaper price. Instead of a web-based setup, the URC Digital R50 uses an internal programming wizard -- reviewers say this setup system is relatively easy to use, but getting advanced options and macros right can be a bit complicated and require a bigger time commitment. The remote contains built-in codes for thousands of home theater components, but it can also learn how to work with your component if a code isn't available.
The URC Digital R50 has a color screen and backlit keypad and can control up to 18 devices. Reviewers say they especially like the comfortable keypad layout. On user-review sites, several owners say the inclusion of a quick-start guide instead of a thick user manual is a disappointment. If you prefer a web-based setup, the more expensive Logitech Harmony One (*Est. $140) gets excellent ratings overall. Logitech also offers the Harmony 650 (*Est. $55) , which costs a little less than the URC Digital R50 and offers web setup. However, the Harmony 650 is more limited and can only control up to five devices.
We found the best reviews of the Universal Remote Control Digital R50 at CNET, RemoteCentral.com and HomeTheaterReview.com. Each site thoroughly tests the universal remote and provides a lengthy article that includes their overall impressions. RemoteCentral.com has one of the most detailed reviews, complete with just about anything you would want to know about the URC Digital R50. Wired, BigPictureBigSound.com and DigitalTrends.com also offer moderately detailed single-product reviews. Amazon.com is the best source for user reviews.
John Falcone at CNET gives the URC Digital R50 a "very good" rating, although he still prefers the Logitech Harmony remotes overall. However, he thinks the R50 is a great choice for those who don't like Logitech's computer-based setup.
Review: URC Digital R50, John P. Falcone, Oct. 19, 2008
The URC Digital R50 impresses Daniel Tonks at RemoteCentral.com. He calls it a solid choice for those who aren't ready to invest in a more expensive computer-programmable remote. Tonks provides details on just about anything you would want to know about how the Digital R50 works.
Review: Universal Remote Control Inc. Digital R50, Daniel Tonks
HomeTheaterReview.com praises the URC Digital R50 for an easy setup and sturdy design. Like other reviewers, editors here say they find macros a little difficult to program and they would prefer a rechargeable battery.
Review: Universal Remote Control R50 Review, Editors of HomeTheaterReview.com, March 11, 2009
The Universal Remote Control Digital R50 gets a very high rating from Wired's Christopher Jones, who says the remote is "remarkably easy to setup." He does say he would have preferred to see a user manual instead of just a short setup guide.
Review: Universal Remote Masters Your Ceremonies, Christopher Jones, Feb. 10, 2009
5. Big Picture Big Sound.com
Chris Boylan finds the Universal Remote Control (URC) Digital R50 easy to program for his multi-component system, although macro setup takes a little bit more patience. Overall, he calls it a "reasonable alternative" to Logitech Harmony remotes.
Review: URC Digital R50 Universal Remote Control Review, Chris Boylan, Dec. 19, 2008
DigitalTrends.com gives the URC Digital R50 an Editors' Choice award, and reviewer Krissy Rushing says it is "one of the easiest remotes we've ever attempted to set up." Rushing says she would have liked Bluetooth compatibility for the PS3 but thinks the R50 is a great choice overall.
Review: Universal Remote Control URC R50 Review, Krissy Rushing, Dec. 5, 2008
About 140 owner-reviewers give the URC Digital R50 an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Most say they are thrilled with the capabilities of the R50, but many -- including some otherwise happy owners -- say setting it up can be a challenge, and one that's not made any easier by the inclusion of a short setup guide instead of a full user manual.
Review: Universal Remote Control URC-R50 Digital R50, Contributors to Amazon.com