I started with with a Mercury II and added a CW600S Premium later. I'm really happy with the Mercury II but I don't have a lot of FTA experience yet. One thing I do like about the CW is that on the antenna setup menu you can scroll through transponders and scan one individually. I found a way to do the same thing with Mercury II but it's not as easy.
On the subject of remotes, my brother got a free DVR with no remote so I suggested to him the Logitech Harmony line of computer programmable remotes,
I did some checking and was surprised to see that the database has quite a few FTA receivers listed. He downloaded the codes for his FTA receiver (Mercury II) and it does work. I'm not trying to push the Logitech but I was under the impression that it would be pretty difficult to use anything other than a factory remote with most FTA receivers. I was proven to be wrong again.
I have both the logitech and pronto I highly recommend them.. I recommend the logitech more because it actually fits in your hand and has buttons.. the other is all touch screen which is cool but gets annoying quickly..
Boxes I've owned: Fortec Merc II Fortec Lifetime Classic NA Coolsat 5000 Captiveworks 600 Pansat 3500sd newly aquired Viewsat Ultra
Ranking of each in my use for my needs and some reasons 1. Pansat 3500sd: decent blind scan, SD card for music, channel list editing etc 2. Fortec Merc II: nice box to learn on for me, best blind scan I have used 3. Coolsat 5000: Another first one that I learned on, blind scan ok, but fast 4. Fortec Lifetime Classic NA: only because I barely used it to learn it, but it was nice 5. Captivworks 600: Blind scan was funky and didn't work right at first. Remote was spastic and box felt kind of cheap
I can't rank the ultra yet as I haven't played much with it. I am waiting to get my testing setup running so I don't mess with my main motorized setup. I am curious to see how the ultra handles the motor.
Also, I am thinking of getting the new coolsat 7000 pvr model in the future.