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Acoustic Research bows two new universal remotes

These are the closest we've seen to potential Harmony killers in a long time.

Acoustic Research XSight ARRX18G
The Acoustic Research XSight Touch AARX18G (with cradle) may give Harmony a run for its money. Acoustic Research

Acoustic Research (a brand of Audiovox) has unveiled two new universal remotes that users can program directly (using a built-in code library) or via a PC. Both new models--dubbed "XSight"--look to be worthwhile contenders to our current favorite universal remote, the Logitech Harmony One.

Acoustic Research XSight Color AARX15G
The XSight Color AARX15G is the step-down model, but it still packs a wallop.' Acoustic Research

Like that Logitech model--which costs between $200 and $250--the designs of the Acoustic Research XSight remotes mix hard buttons and color screens, and allow for task-based macro programming ("watch TV," "watch Blu-ray movie," etc.). But the XSight models one-up the Harmony with multiple user profiles and favorite channels lists, and the flexibility to be programmed directly from the remote or via a PC, depending upon the user's preferences. The built-in setup wizard lets you choose the make and model of your components, and cycles through possible control codes until it hits the right one.

The top of the line XSight Touch (model ARRX18G, $250) includes a 2.2-inch color touch screen and controls up to 18 devices. It includes a rechargeable lithium ion battery, and the included charging cradle is angled so the remote can still be operated even while it's docked. But the big improvement over the Harmony is the inclusion of built-in RF capability; add the $100 RF Extender Kit, and you can operate components outside your line of sight (such as those in a closed cabinet, or even in another room).

The XSight Color (model ARRX15G, $180) is the step-down model. It's the same basic design, but it controls 15 devices rather than 18, its color screen isn't touch sensitive, it uses standard AA batteries (no charging cradle), and it's got no RF option.

Both remotes should be available in the spring of 2009. We'll have complete reviews of them once they're released.