Alternative remote controls
The remote control is a key factor in making your digital product easy or difficult to use. Hopefully, the remotes that came with each of the digital products that you use are up to the job. However, if you're struggling with a poor or overly complicated remote, or just fed up with using different ones for your TV, set-top box and DVD player, you could consider an alternative remote. Also, check the instructions for your existing remote controls to see if any of them can be programmed to operate all of your digital TV products.
Remote controls fall into one of three categories:
- simple - with just a few buttons
- simple plus - a few buttons, plus concealed extra buttons
- full functionality
Of the ten remotes that we tested, we recommend two simple remote controls as the best remotes for being easy to use. They're both really simple products with just a few buttons - to switch on and off, change channels and volume, etc. The others we looked at were more complicated, and ranged up to fully functional remotes that replace all the controls of your TV and other kit. If you have Sky digital TV, there's also the Sky+ Remote Easy Grip, designed for people with sight or grip difficulties.
Our testing programme took place between 2006 and 2011. If you want to compare more recent models, you can look at the same features that we tested to work out what will be best for you - see our Test methods (below). For buying tips, see What to look for in a remote control.
- simply and logically laid-out and comfortable to hold
- See full review of One for All URC6210
- easy-to-use learning remote for basic features, with good-size buttons
- well laid-out and labelled
- See full review of Doro HandleEasy 321rc
This product from Sky is to help their customers with grip or sight difficulties. Here, we must declare an interest: Rica carried out research with older and disabled people on its prototypes and Sky clearly took on board our findings. The markings and labels are easier to see - large and with good colour contrast - and there are more tactile indicators. The textured back and sides of the remote are easier to grip, as are the higher and concave buttons - and you know for sure when you have pressed them. There's also a version with a hand-strap. For more information, see Sky Accessibility - Remote Control.
We focused on simple remote controls with just a few buttons for people who have difficulty using a full functionality remote, perhaps because of poor dexterity or partial sight. The six selected looked the easiest to use, with four that operated a single product and the other two operating more. We also assessed a fully programmable, universal remote that could replace a number of your existing controls for a TV, DVD player and so on.
Three types of assessment were carried out on each remote control:
- a features inventory that included dimensions, weight, batteries required and, most importantly, their ability to operate UK brands of TV and digital TV products.
- functional tests for correct operation of a small number of iDTVs, set-top boxes and digital TV recorders
- ease of use - two experienced assessors checked this, programming and using the remotes to operate both basic commands and, where possible, advanced commands to access digital TV features
Last updated: July 2013 (test reports December 2011)
Main page: TV remote controls