The Definitive RF Remote Control Guide

There is a lot to say about RF remote control, for example, its design, circuit, quality and many more, while this guide mainly focus on one thing people ask all the time, which is how to choose RF remote control suitable for ourselves?

First things first, we are talking about RF remote control, so we will not cover typical TV remotes, set box remotes, air conditioner remotes, they all use IR infrared remotes, not RF radio frequency ones, the obvious difference is that, for IR systems, you will need to point remote at target device, while for RF systems, you can just press the button, nothing else required.

If you still aren’t sure what is RF vs IR, we have a detailed article on this RF vs IR remote controls topic as well as compare each technology’s advantages vs disadvantages.

If you’re sure RF remote control is what you need, just read on.

We try to answer question people always ask, how to choose RF remote control? what are the factors? is there any difference between different technologies etc.

In real world, we always choose products because we need certain feature points, some is necessary to us, some is not so important, while some others can be additional features, so first we need to divide remote controls into several feature points, referred below as factors.

Factors of RF remote control

As product, it carries common properties, such as price, we will leave that alone, and only talk about features that is unique to RF remote controls.

Basic – distance, size

Choosing RF remote control sometimes is just similar as choosing clothes, you have some decisive factor aka basic features, such as height (165, 175, 185…) and size (small, medium, large, extra large…), also you have some preference, such as color, style, which can be seen as addon features.

We all know how to choose clothes, so it won’t be so hard to choose the correct RF remote control, the decisive factor is remote control distance (as in clothes height) and remote control factor size (as in clothes size), and you can choose what you like in the matching products, sometimes you may need additional features, so you may prefer products with that feature.

When you picture remote control distance as X axis, remote control shape as Y axis, you may get a similar picture as below (the below is the product tree of Solidremote wireless remotes).

You can see, as the remote control distance increases, usually the size increases too, that’s because larger distance do require larger space, especially for the antenna part, the onboard chip also transmit at higher power, which means need more room for heat dissipation, also we are more likely to implement more buttons on larger distance remotes, because according to our market research, customer is more likely to use multiple buttons on long distance remote products, also the room required for multiple buttons provide perfect space for long distance remote parts, they are a win-win situation.

Some people might ask, since remote distance depends on both transmitter and receiver, which is particularly true, is it useful to choose transmitters by their distance? well, we  can say that while it does need receiver to determine the actual distance, the relative distance performance is always true, you can always expect a 500 series transmitter to outperform that of 100 series, and by using our recommended NeoCode receiver, it is most likely you will achieve the designated distance.

You can refer to our blog post on RF remote control distance explained for more details on remote control distance factors etc.

Basic Two – frequency, ook vs fsk, encoder

These are some of the most important features that a typical RF transmitter can have, as follows.

Frequency is the carrier frequency of RF transmitter, usually in MHz or GHz, we usually make transmitters that use ISM frequency, such as 315mhz, 433mhz, 868mhz or 915mhz, they are all sub-GHz bands in UHF spectrum, for more on frequency, check radio frequency on

In common applications, we will use frequency near 433mhz, because it will have longer distance than higher frequency, especially when there is obstacles between remotes & receivers.

OOK and FSK are two most common transmit model of remotes, OOK is more popular because of its simple to implement, while FSK has more advantage for newer systems with higher data rate, frequency hopping capabilities and others, for more details, you can refer to our article here OOK vs FSK transmitter.

Encoder determines what is actually transmitted by remotes, the data, it can be very different depends on different implementation, some most common chip are listed in our identify RF remote controls article.

Additional – waterproof, wall-mount, material and others

The typical additional features we can offer is waterproof, wall-mount holder, metallic strong body and artistic surface design, more features are in development, or provided by request.

Waterproof is important to some applications, because they may use it near water, or sometimes can touch water, but please note, our waterproof remote isn’t necessarily can be submerged, for more details you can refer to our product page.

Wall-mount or car-mount holder is another popular request, because customer might want to put the remote in car, so they can use it more conveniently, so we have new products that can be fitted with holder or visor.

Choose suitable RF remote control

Follow the usual problem solving logic, we decide to write this article in two parts, one part is that you need something new (for example, start a new project that don’t need backward compatibility), the other part is you need something that is compatible with your existing ones (so you first need to make sure you can find the right replacement, for example, you’re working on something that you prefer to do it yourself to replace parts)

We might have a table to show which points is required by which part, either start with something new or need something compatible.

Part One, start with something new.

When start with something new, you can be as flexible as possible, the logic is usually as follows

1. The distance you need

2. The button numbers you need

3. Shape and other features, sometimes customer would prefer waterproof, but it is unlikely to have waterproof in some models.

You might noticed we only care about the basic point, not basic 2 point, that’s common when you start something new.

In this new application, we usually don’t go very deep into inner codec, RF model etc, and is the usual path customer would follow if purchase a whole kit from us, we will take care of the complicated part.

(To be continued…)

Part Two, you just need something that is compatible.

For compatibility, you might need to make sure the following factor is compatible, this time, technology point is more important, while basic point is not so important.

1. frequency must match, if the remote you have get a FCC ID, which is most likely in USA, then you may look up the FCC ID in database, the information is all public accessible, if you don’t know how, please follow our remote control frequency lookup guide for more details.

2. you may need to figure out whether the remote is using OOK or FSK transmitter, they can also be found on FCC website.

3. the encoder must match, although more and more remotes are using rolling code, so you might not be able to make compatible remote by DIY, but still a vast majority of existing remotes (especially those old ones) are using fixed code, so you can just buy same encoder, set to the correct address code and button code, you will be good to go, check out how to identify remote control encoder for more details, for a easier way, you can try one of our remote control duplicator for fixed code ones.

And after you can make sure the remote is compatible, you can choose from our available remotes for correct distance and size requirement, as well as other features.

Still aren’t able to figure out if you have compatible ones available? please leave comment below, and we will offer you some help for free, or if you have product development enquiries, please just tell us, our engineer will work for you to find out.

(To be continued…)