Well, things have come a long way since then. The latest remotes go far beyond the push of a button, and they're coming with more and more "smart TVs." Consumer Reports wanted to see whether they actually make watching TV any easier.
You use one from LG like a wand. It moves a cursor on the screen to navigate the menu. But it's not perfect. The remote makes it harder to navigate the usual TV menu and to perform normal functions such as change the input from the cable box to the antenna. It also has voice recognition. That's fine for searching the Web but id din't work well for regular TV viewing.
A Panasonic TV comes with a traditional remote and one that performs basic tasks such as volume and channel changing and a touchpad for smart-TV functions such as searching the Web. Though the second remote looks cool, like most remotes that come with TVs it's not universal, so you can't control your cable or satellite box.
Samsung also has a set that comes with two remotes. The touchpad one can be used as a universal remote. Plus the Samsung set has gesture and voice controls. But Consumer Reports finds that they make some things more difficult, such as turning up the volume.
So do the newest TV remotes really make watching television easier? They're really designed to help you navigate apps, do searches, and surf the Web. And from what Consumer Reports has seen, they do it pretty well. But if you're just trying to catch the latest episode of "Mad Men," you're better off with your regular old remote.
More televisions are coming with Internet capability, and that's where touchpad remotes shine. Consumer Reports says that although those remotes have some kinks to work out, you can expect to see a lot more of them in the future.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website.