HDMI CEC or Universal Remote

I am searching for an appropriate AVR and speakers to build a modest system around a Samsung ES8000 flat panel. Simplicity of use for the basic functions is an important criteria to get final approval! I have a PS3 and Sky satellite box to connect. Do I really need to limit myself to products displaying an Anynet+ label in order to minimize the number of button presses required? Just how standard are the implementations of HDMI CEC today? Or would a universal remote control make such concerns irrelevant?

Simon Leach

HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) is a bidirectional communication protocol that sends command and status codes between multiple devices connected via HDMI. (The computer screen shot above is a representation of a CEC message.) This allows one remote to control all the connected devices—at least in principle. As far as I've seen, the most basic functions, such as power on/off, channel up/down, volume up/down, and mute, are widely supported. However, manufacturers can choose to implement any, all, or none of the CEC codes in their products, so there's no way to know ahead of time which ones will work with a given set of devices.

As you allude, different manufacturers have different names for CEC—Samsung calls it Anynet+, LG calls it SimpLink, Sony calls it Bravia Link or Bravia Sync, and Panasonic calls it HDAVI Control, EZ-Sync, or Viera Link. If all the components are from the same manufacturer, their operation from any one of their remotes is usually more tightly integrated and comprehensive than if they are from different companies, though the basic commands mentioned above will probably work.

I think that a good universal remote is a better solution, since it does not rely on how CEC is implemented in each device. For do-it-yourselfers, I recommend the Logitech Harmony remotes, which are based on activities, such as Watch Satellite, Watch Blu-ray, and Listen to CD. They are programmed online by specifying the make and model of each device as well as which device changes channels and controls volume for each activity. The software then downloads the appropriate codes to the remote via USB.

Most installers I've talked to prefer the remotes from Universal Remote Control (URC) because they offer more flexibility. However, they are much more difficult to program.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

icepik1234's picture

I also own a Samsung 8000 model (mine is the d series plasma) which has hdmi-cec on it. It works well with my bluray player and avr. It still takes me 3 remotes to get my tv on. I also recommend going with a Harmony remote, specifically the Harmony One or if RF functionality is needed the Harmony 900.

Rob Sabin's picture
In my custom install work, I have encountered all kinds of inconsistencies using HDMI CEC, such as powering up a Blu-ray player and having the TV switch automatically to that input, only to find that turning off the Blu-ray player after use switches the TV erroneously to the unused antenna input instead of back to the HDMI input it was last on (usually the one for the cable box). The one and only way to guarantee simple, one-remote operation is with an activity-based universal remote like the Harmonys. I'm also a fan of the One and the 900, though they are not without their foibles. They do lack the last word in programming flexibility for really complex systems compared with higher powered remotes like those from URC or RTI, but a good programmer can figure out go-arounds for most situations and what the Harmonys lack here they make up for in relatively low cost and overall ease of programming compared with the others. The 900 is also notorious for not living up to its 100 foot range specification in some cases; how far you can move away from the receiver and whether the signal will pass easily through walls depends heavily on how much additional RF interference there is in the area. But this is by far the better choice than CEC for simple, one-touch operation for all family members. On the flip side, it usually costs nothing to try out CEC in a simple set up before you opt for a sophisticated universal. If you do end up with a universal remote after all, make absolutely sure CEC is disabled in every single product in the system, or you'll undermine your universal and throw it out of whack.