Logitech Harmony universal remotes not good enough for you? Home Theater Master doesn't quite match your AV receiver? You're in luck, because yesterday Denon announced a high-end universal remote with the same sort of PC programmability as those clickers. With the purchase of a special base station, Denon's remote can use radio frequency (RF) to control components through walls and around the house. Both ship in August 2007.
The RC-7000CI ($299 list) itself does seem a lot like the Home Theater master units (like the MX-800), with a monochrome LCD screen and device-centric design, as opposed to Harmony's activity-centric scheme. Denon's press release claims its USB-connected PC programmability incorporates one of the world's largest remote control code databases, but as with any universal remote, the design and ease of programming is paramount. We'll wait to see how Denon's software stacks up against Harmony's.
We don't think too many people will want to choose the standalone Denon remote over the many much less expensive alternatives, but when paired with the RF base station, the package becomes more interesting. The station, called the RC-7001CI ($199), acts as a repeater for the remote's RF signal and allows multiroom control--Denon optimistically specifies that the system can expend to up to 16 remotes and corresponding base units. The 70001CI includes six IR repeaters that can translate RF into infrared to control your gear, allowing you to stash a stack out of sight and still maintain control. The coolness factor ups another notch for owners of "select new" Denon AV receivers and systems, which can allow the clicker's LCD to display status information feedback like volumes, surround mode and metadata (typically song artist and title) from iPods, Internet radio, and XM Satellite Radio. With a complex, ambitious home control product like this, however, the devil will be in ease of use and setup.