L5 Remote is the Best (So Far)

| In-Depth Review

L5Remote128

The L5 Remote from L5 Technology is the fourth* in a series of universal remote control hardware/app combinations I’m reviewing. Like the first three I tested, it can control most of your electronic entertainment devices — televisions, AV receivers, cable boxes, and such — as long as they use an infrared remote control. Compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad (all must run iOS 3.0 or higher), the L5 Remote wasn’t perfect but was the best remote I’ve tested to date and the only one I’ve used regularly after my testing was complete. 

L5Remote&App

Figure 1: The L5 hardware and app.
Photo Courtesy of L5 Technology

Testing

I don’t have a comprehensive selection of devices for testing this kind of product; all I can do is report on how it performed with the devices I do have, which are: 

Den: 

  •  Samsung Series 4 Plasma TV
  •  Toshiba XD-E500KU DVD Player
  •  Onkyo HT-R410 Audio/Video Receiver
  •  Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD Cable Box
  •  AppleTV

Bedroom:

  •  Phillips 32-inch CRT TV
  •  Sony DVP-NS501P DVD player
  •  Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300 Cable Box

Each of the above devices has its own infrared remote control.  

Setup

Setup is relatively straightforward. After downloading the free software from the App Store, you start by tapping the + button and naming this remote. You’ll see an alert asking if you want to create a Basic or a Custom remote. If you choose Custom you start off with a completely blank screen; if you choose Basic, you start off with a minimal set of buttons that looks like this:

L5Basic

Figure 2: The Basic button set.

Either way — basic or custom — at this point you start designing your first remote by dragging buttons from the drawer at the bottom of the screen out onto the screen itself.   

L5Design

Figure 3: Drag buttons onto the screen from the drawer at the bottom.

There are a good number of button designs and each button can be resized, renamed, and/or given a different icon. 

L5Modify

Figure 4: Change the name, icon, height, or width of any button.

Once you’ve got buttons where you want them you can start training them. Tap the button (TV Source in Figure 5) you wish to train and then aim your device’s remote control at the L5 dongle and press the button on the physical remote control (the TV Source button on my Samsung’s infrared remote in Figure 5).  

L5Train

Figure 5: Training the TV Source button.

If the L5 remote succeeded at learning the button, an alert tells you that either the signal was assigned or to try again. I found that only one or two of the buttons I trained required a second try. Continue this process until all of the buttons you want are programmed and then tap the Done button. 

At this point you can either begin using your remote or repeat the process to create another remote. 

You can create as many remotes as you like. I chose to set up one for each room; my Bedroom remote is shown in Figure 6:  

L5Bedroom

Figure 6: Photoshopped composite of my bedroom remote.

You could just as easily create a remote for each device (i.e. Bedroom TV, Bedroom Cable Box, Bedroom A/V Receiver, etc.)  you intend to control. 

The bottom line is that it’s fairly easy but somewhat time-consuming to design and train the L5. Note that other some iPhone remote hardware/software combinations can use “codes” to program a device remote all at once by tapping a four digit code number. I’ve talked about this technique in my reviews of the FLPR and i-Got-Control remotes (see footnote at the end of this review). For now just note that the L5 requires you to create and train buttons or functions one by one. 

Performance

This was the first remote I’ve tested that I didn’t have a single issue with. I was able to train every function I wanted on all of my components in the den and the bedroom. I had the ability to arrange the buttons any way I liked and all buttons could be named or assigned icons. I used the L5 regularly for several days and it worked flawlessly the entire time. 

That said, the L5 isn’t perfect. For one thing, it was a pain to program over 100 functions one at a time with a device remote in one hand and the iPhone in the other. Not fun. And there are a few things about the design process that could be better designed. I’d like to be able to duplicate buttons. I’d like to be able to designate groups of buttons that would move all together (instead of one tedious button at a time. I’d love to see align and distribute commands (I’m a little OCD that way — I like things lined up nice and neat). There is a snap-to grid but it’s still a lot of work to get your buttons evenly aligned and distributed. Look at Figure 6 again. Will your remotes will be as tidy? 

But those are mere trifles. It’s the fourth “universal-remote-control-for-your-iPhone” I’ve tried and the first one I’d actually use. And I am using it a lot. I’ve still got two more remote control packages to review — the RedEye Remote and the Re Remote. But for now the L5 is the standard by which the others will be measured (at least in my book). 

The Bottom Line 

The L5 is the first remote (out of four* so far) that did everything I asked of it. Unlike most of the others, it gave me the tools I needed to create what I wanted and it let me affix a name or icon to any button. It was more work than I’d have liked to set up my remotes and while I’ve got some ideas about how I might improve my layouts and designs, I’m in no hurry to mess with the first thing I’ve created that worked. 

And it is the lowest-priced product I’ve tested so far.

If you’re looking for a universal remote and are willing to spend a bit of time getting it just the way you want it to work, the L5 is definitely the way to go. 

* My Previous iPhone Remote Control Reviews: 

Product: L5 Remote

Company: L5 Technology

List Price: US$49.95

Pros:

Worked for every function I threw at it, lowest price of products tested, flexible remote designs.

Cons:

Time-consuming setup.

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4 Comments

furbies

Bob

Does the transmitter wigit fit in otter boxed iPod touch(es) ?

Bob LeVitus

Furbies,

I don’t have an Otter box here but I suspect it won’t fit… not much does.

Bob

JoeOutlaw

Excellent review as usual, Bob!
Here are a few questions that come to mind:
(1) Are the remotes backed up via iTunes, and hence transferable to a new phone or recoverable after a full reset and restore?
(2) Can you sync layouts between an iPhone and iPad? I would hate to go through the setup process multiple times.
(3) How good/powerful/flexible are the macros? Can one button press send multiple codes in sequence?
(4) How powerful/directional is the RF transmitter? Did you have to consciously “point” at specific devices?
(5) As the transmitter dongle plugs into the docking jack, thus precluding charging while in use, was there a noticeable drop in battery life?
I am looking forward to your next review in this series and shall delay making a buy decision until you’ve picked an overall winner!

Bob LeVitus

Joe:

Hellish book deadline but I’ll check these things as soon as I can and get back to you. Just know that it may be a few days.

Sorry.

Bob

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