I am a strong fan and advocate of smart device app based control systems and have tested seven different types. But I must admit that the LionChief universal controller is really a great design. It's strongest point is its basic functional simplicity. As a long term designer, you develop an admiration for simplicity, many times overlooked in our increasingly complicated world. Lionel deserves a heads up for this first rate product.
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The range on my universal remote seems to be around 25 feet or so.
I have had it lose communication on one end of a portable S gauge layout at a train show. It worked out OK if I was in the middle of the layout, but not at one of the ends.