Acoustic Research ARRU449 Universal Remote Control
High Wi-Fi (Not Wifey)
From the waist down, Acoustic Research’s ARRU449 looks like the stereotypical universal remote control with a symmetrically arranged layout of small, backlit buttons. From the waist up, though, there’s a bright and colorful LCD screen that quickly catches your attention. Invisible to the eye is the remote’s other distinguishing feature: Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows the remote to access the Internet through your wireless network in order to download Electronic Program Guide (EPG) information along with news and weather highlights. In addition, the ARRU449 can periodically download software updates as they become available.
Even though the ARRU449 can access the Internet, it doesn’t include a Web browser. That means you can’t go online directly. Instead, the remote uses something called click365 technology to download the EPG and other data—including news, weather, and sports stories—in the background.
Although the ARRU449’s internal battery isn’t removable (as far as I can tell), the remote does come with a charging cradle that holds the ARRU449 nearly vertical. It looks for all intents and purposes like a modern-day equivalent of King Arthur’s sword stuck in the stone, daring anyone in the room to pull it out and become the rightful ruler of the home theater. (There isn’t any lady in the lake, though.) Unlike some remotes with LCD screens, the ARRU449 is not sensitive to motion, so you have to push one of the buttons to rouse it from standby mode. All of the buttons on the front of the remote are backlit, but you have to push the Backlight button on the side of the remote in order to get it to light up. The backlight then stays active for about 20 seconds after the last button press. The LCD screen remains backlit for at least 60 seconds after the last button press before going dark.
We Don’t Need No Stinking Computer
The ARRU449 is unusual among the higher-priced universal remotes in that it does not require a computer to program it. You can add devices either by using the remote’s built-in database of components or by teaching the commands from your old remote to the ARRU449. The internal database is fairly extensive, but strangely so. For example, it doesn’t list Sunfire, so I had to manually teach the ARRU449 the codes for my Sunfire Theater Grand III surround processor. Surprisingly, though, there were codes for Sanyo and Coby in the receiver category.
Although brands are listed, models are not. Once you find the brand of your device in a particular category—Satellite/Dish Network, for example—you then have to test each set of codes under that brand until you find the set that works best with your component. The process is partially automated, but you have
to sit by the remote as it churns out IR commands so you can stop it once it finds one that controls your device. Since the ARRU449 sends out a new command about every three seconds, it wasn’t bad going through the 16 code sets associated with Dish Network satellite receivers. On the other hand, sitting on the couch while the remote cranks through the DVD player code sets will require more patience.
In those cases, it’s probably easier to teach the codes from your old remote to ARRU449. All of the keys on the bottom half of the remote are programmable, but the bluish keys under the LCD screen are reserved for navigating through the LCD’s menus. The learning process itself is very quick, but it can be slow-going to use the number/letter pad to type in the names that the LCD will display for special keys that don’t have a hard key analog on the face of the remote.
The EPG and Me
The best part of the ARRU449 is the integral EPG that displays on the LCD. You can scroll through it in much the same way as you would using your satellite or cable box. However, you won’t be able to see as many channels at one time due to the small screen. When you find the show you want to watch and click on the listing, the remote sends the appropriate IR commands to your tuner. If you notice a program that’ll be broadcast later, you can set a reminder that makes the ARRU449 beep when it’s time to change channels.
I’m less thrilled with the other “benefits” of the ARRU449’s click365 service, which includes access to news, weather, sports, and shopping information. When you press the click365 button, it brings up screens that let you scan through short versions of top news, weather, and sports stories. If you want to know more, you can press another button, and click365 will send an e-mail with a link to the full story online to the e-mail address you submitted when you registered the remote. You can also peruse Amazon Top 10 lists via the remote’s LCD screen, and it’ll send you an e-mail with a direct link to the Amazon product page.
At $400, the ARRU449 is a little pricey for what it does. During my time with it, though, there were several updates to its software. It’s possible that the performance and features will improve over time. I really liked having the EPG on the remote, but other than as a novelty, I’m not sure I understand the point of its delayed-gratification link-by-e-mail feature. Doesn’t anyone just watch TV anymore?