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I’ve been a big fan of Harmony (Logitech) universal learning remotes for years because they are quality remotes that can control all the equipment I have. They can take time to program because they have so much functionality. However, my cordcutting journey has simplified many things in my home, including my remote needs. I used to dream of the perfect remote. Is the simple, inexpensive Sofabaton R2 really the only remote I need? Read on to find out.
Why I was looking for a new remote
As I mentioned before, Harmony remotes have been my gotos for over a decade. I currently have a Harmony One remote, a Harmony Hub-based remote, and the normally inexpensive Harmony 650 (which for some reason has been shooting up in price on Amazon). They take a little time to learn but come with all the features and capabilities, and have lasted a long time for me.
Unfortunately, my eight year old Harmony One started to show some signs of failure. Sometimes it would get stuck sending a command and you had to reboot the remote to stop it from doing so. The remote is a key part of making things easier for my family and visitors. No one wants to change inputs, turn on a receiver and a TV, and have different remotes for volume and controlling what’s on the TV screen. It would be an exercise in frustration for the family.
Why I can now get away with a simpler remote
Before I cut the cord, I used MythTV as my primary DVR, but I also had a DirecTV DVR. MythTV was installed on a bookshelf computer and connected to a to my Denon Receiver via HDMI. I also had Kodi installed on the same computer, which I used for streaming content. Additionally, I had a FireTV stick that I also used for streaming, and a Chromecast connected to the receiver for when I want to easily send content from my phone or computer to the TV. The Harmony remote was responsible for switching between 4 different inputs on the receiver, turning on the receiver and TV, and using all the right buttons for the DirecTV DVR, Kodi and MythTV. It needed to be able to handle a lot.
Since cutting the cord, I now just have a Roku and Chromecast connected to my Denon receiver. YouTube TV has replaced both the DirecTV DVR and MythTV. It’s just another app on my Roku Ultra, which has replaced my FireTV stick. Now I only have 2 inputs, a Roku and a Chromecast. The Chromecast doesn’t use a remote control, and Rokus have simple remote control commands. All I needed was a remote that could turn the TV and receiver on, control the receiver volume, switch between two inputs, and control the Roku.
Why I chose the SofaBaton R2
It was clear that all I needed was a Roku remote that could control volume and power on my receiver, and power on my TV. It would be great if it could also switch inputs on the receiver, but that wasn’t a requirement. I don’t use the Chromecast a ton, and getting up to switch the input isn’t too much of a burden.
My first thought was to use the Roku Ultra remote. It’s supposed to be able to control other devices through CEC. I tried multiple times to get it to work. I got it to turn on my receiver, but it never was able to control the volume. That was a deal-breaker.
So then I started looking at Roku like remotes that could control other devices. I wanted it to be pretty inexpensive, since I wasn’t looking for a ton of functionality. I also wanted it to be simple, like the Roku remote. The SofaBaton R2, at less than $20 checked all the boxes. It had the Roku remote layout and an additional 13 learning buttons. All I needed it to learn was:
- Denon Receiver Volume Up, Volume Down, and Mute
- Panasonic TV and Denon Receiver Power
- Denon Receiver Chromecast and Roku input selection
I only needed seven learning buttons. So I bought it.
Configuring the SofaBaton R2
Setup was a snap. It came pre-programmed to control the Roku, so all I had to do was grab the Denon and Panasonic remotes and program my seven buttons. Programming follows a familiar pattern for learning remotes:
- Place the SofaBaton R2 about an inch away from the remote it is going to learn from (see above)
- Press and hold both the red power button and the mute button on the SofaBaton for three seconds.
- Then press the desired button on the SofaBaton.
- Then press the button you want to learn on the original remote.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 for additional buttons you want to learn. The SofaBaton stays in learning mode for 30 seconds.
That’s it, you’re done.
Using the SofaBaton R2
Well, there’s not much to this one I just use the power buttons at the top to turn on the receiver and TV (Roku is always on) and then use it like a Roku remote. I can control the volume with the learned in side buttons, and change inputs with the learned in source button. This sub $20 remote easily replaces my three figure Harmony remote.
This remote works great and has a lot of positives. There are a few cons as well:
In my opinion, the pros greatly outweigh the cons, but you should be aware of the cons anyway. If you are in the market for an inexpensive but capable universal remote and you have a Roku, I highly recommend the SofaBaton R2.
Has cordcutting simplified your remote requirements? What remote are you using? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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