5. Nearly infinite macros.
Macros, the fifth programming stage, are used to tie everything together. The MX-900’s macro capabilities have come a long way since the first MX-500, with every button on the remote now able to hold a full-length macro with up to 255 steps. Two different types of macros can be used: normal, and press and hold. Conspicuously (but not surprisingly) missing are the MX-950’s advanced variable macros – although we’ll learn later in the review how variables can in fact be used with the MX-900.
(Update: URC has added support for up to 8 user-configured variables on the MX-900. Click here for more information.)
Normal macros are what you’re probably used to – push the button and the macro simply transmits. Press and hold macros are slightly different in that you can assign two different macros on any single button: one that will transmit when the button is pressed normally, and another for when that button is held for the specified amount of time (1 through 5 seconds). This is an improvement on the old MX-700 trick of adding a delay to the beginning of a macro to make it a push and hold, although I would still like to see additional hold time options for the MX-900 (I prefer 0.3 to 0.5 seconds).
A macro’s sequence of commands is created through a combination of the “Record” button, which lets you navigate the remote using the file tree and Simulator and add any number of commands from other devices, along with several specialty functions shown at the top of the macro recording window. These functions include adding a delay of 0.1 through 30.0 seconds, adding a page jump, or transmitting any number of commands from the preprogrammed database. Page jumps have improved since I last looked at URC’s software: buttons can now move unambiguously through a device’s screens (page up/down) and can also navigate forwards/backwards through a user’s browsing history. Once added, macro steps can be easily dragged around the list.
It’s possible to lengthen the time a particular command is transmitted with the “Repeats” option, which normally defaults to 3. So, if your television or projector requires a long hold of the [Power] button to switch on or off you’ll be able to easily automate this – although you may have to play around with the repeats number in order to figure out how it relates to actual seconds, since MX-900 Editor doesn’t automatically calculate this. Repeats can only be adjusted when a particular preprogrammed command is first added to a device or a macro, and will not work on learned codes or aliases to other commands.
6. Punch some buttons through.
The MX-900 doesn’t support key aliasing, which was a method of directing one button to perform another button’s commands. That capability has instead been turned over to macros, which technically works fine except that programming a macro is slower than the old aliasing process. So, for routine situations where you need the same commands duplicated over several devices, the MX-900 provides a versatile punchthrough capability to speed up the whole programming process.
Punchthroughs are available for six different clusters of hard buttons: the two power keys, volume and mute, channel and jump, the nine menu related keys, seven transport keys, plus the numerical keypad. These can be enabled device by device and feature by feature – just select one or more devices and then use the drop-down list to choose what new device a key cluster should punch through to.
The MX-900’s buttons can hold a total of four different types of data: a learned command represented by an “L” icon, a macro represented by “M”, a preprogrammed command represented by a small red dot, and a punchthrough represented by a “PT” icon. Punchthroughs override everything, but if one button contains all three other types then the learned command will be sent before the macro and the preprogrammed command will not be sent at all.