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Xantech URC-2 Remote Control Review
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Xantech URC-2
Click to enlarge. (64kb)
The URC-2's case, though lightweight, is strong. I found some lateral flexing was possible, but overall it has a high-quality feel with tight-fitting moulded plastic and a slightly bottom-heavy center of gravity. The exterior surface is textured with a charcoal black matte tactile coating that I usually find agreeable, but in this case it seems to be of a variety that marks easily with scratches or fingerprints. Optionally, the URC-2 is available in a hard platinum silver finish as the URC-2P (more details later). Although its footprint is quite rectangular with few curves, the sides do taper inwards towards the bottom around the battery compartment, providing a comfortable grip in either hand.

The large battery cover conceals four AAA batteries, in a 2 by 2 arrangement along with the PC programming interface connector. Generally well engineered, the only physical design glitch I could find is with the battery lid. Two little "hinges" must fit into corresponding holes just right for the lid to swing shut unhampered. Most of the time I started to feel resistance at the half-closed position, requiring me to reseat the fragile hinges and try again. I fear that someone in a rush may not stop at the first sign of resistance and could break off the only things keeping the lid from a date with some Scotch tape!

One unique inclusion with the URC-2 is a group of six different label templates for the bottom 12 "general purpose" keys. One of the templates is for television functions, another covers preamplifers, the third is for home automation, then amplifier speaker levels and remote setup, while the final template is void of labels - just in case you feel that none of the others will serve your needs. Each template is backed with a sticky adhesive that allows you to mount it permanently, meaning of course that they aren't exactly interchangeable. Although an interesting idea, the value of these labels is limited as each template is geared to only one device and, even if there are blank spaces, don't include anything else. In the end I found the "amplifier" or "blank" options to be the most functional.

Xantech URC-2
Click to enlarge. (53kb)
When less is more.
Though svelte in form, the URC-2 packs an operational wallop. To understand the reasoning behind the URC-2, you must first consider that it has been designed for the custom installation market - a segment where the more you pay, the "less" you get. We're not talking less devices, less quality or less value - we mean less bother! A remote like the URC-2, when paired with accessory products, needs to be capable of fully automating an entire room of audio and video devices, without any hassle to the end user. So, much like many expensive touchscreen remote controls, the URC-2 is effectively a blank slate that can be programmed to do almost anything the customer desires.

There are two ways to configure the URC-2. The first is by itself - with just the base remote. Since this is what most users would be planning to do, we'll cover this method first. The second and more advanced alternative, which we'll deal with shortly, is in conjunction with the optional Dragon Drop-IR software and accompanying PCIR-1 interface module.

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