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PoGo Products VRC-400 review: PoGo Products VRC-400

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The Good Voice commands simplify long key sequences; nearly identical layout to Scientific-Atlanta's popular cable-box remote.

The Bad Voice control still requires pushing a button; controls don't extend beyond basic cable/TV/DVD commands; no learning function.

The Bottom Line PoGo's VRC-400 adds voice-command capability to an otherwise unremarkable universal remote.

5.9 Overall
  • Design 4
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

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Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

PoGo Products has cloned the familiar Scientific-Atlanta cable-box universal remote control and added voice activation. You can program the VRC-400 to respond to 80 voice commands--or 20 voice commands for up to four different people. This feature is handy for accessing triple-digit channel numbers or changing channels in the dark. Whether it is worth $50, however, is debatable.

The Scientific-Atlanta cable remote is designed to control, primarily, your cable box (natch), and, secondarily, three other devices (TV/DVD/Auxiliary). The VRC-400 does not improve on this simplistic approach since it is nearly a replica of the SA remote. As such, the VRC-400 is not recommended for users with a complex home-theater system. For instance, you can program the Auxiliary button to control the power and volume on an A/V receiver, but you won't be able to change inputs. Neither can you use the VRC-400 with any DVR-equipped cable box.

Programming the language- and accent-independent voice commands presents an initial challenge. The directions on the back of the packaging and those in the more precise instruction manual are subtly different--enough to cause confusion. Once we figured it out, we programmed the three-digit key sequence for the HBO HDTV channel, pressed the Voice button, and said "HBO" in the same voice we used to program the sequence; the cable box then switched to the correct channel, even over the noise of the TV. After that, being able to change channels without futzing with the keypad was not only convenient but fun. Of course, those looking for a fully automated, Star Trek-inspired lifestyle will resent having to precede their voice commands with even a single button press.

In addition to changing channels, the VRC-400 can be voice programmed to activate other functions, such as power, volume, or any other keystroke command. You can even program macros. The Voice button is luminous, making the feature even more convenient when the room is dark.

One drawback of the VRC-400 is its inability to learn new codes. Even though it comes preprogrammed with codes for devices from more than 300 manufacturers, its functionality is inherently limited to products available when it was manufactured. For instance, it did not list codes for Gateway, so we couldn't control our Gateway 42-inch plasma TV, the most popular plasma TV on the market. Since the VRC-400 is incapable of learning new codes, it will be hard to get it to control new devices--a fatal flaw.

Instead of listing individual manufacturer codes by device, Pogo supplies one code for each manufacturer. After inputting the code, you point the VRC-400 at the device you want to control, then step through the internal codes with the channel-up key until your device turns off. This makes it somewhat easier to program multiple devices from a single manufacturer. For instance, while searching for the code for our Pioneer A/V receiver, our Pioneer DVD player shut down, confirming that code instead.

The ultimate deciding factor on purchasing this remote is how valuable you consider voice commands. Adding learning capability and the ability to control more devices would vastly improve the product, however.

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