Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Logitech Harmony remotes

This is a general review of Logitech Harmony remotes. I won't review specific models, other than the 2 that I have owned, and those only briefly.

Whats so special about Logitech Harmony remotes? They're just universal remotes aren't they? Why would you pay $150 for a universal remote? The Shack has'em for $10!

The biggest difference: Those $10 remotes control devices. The Logitech Harmony's control "activities". What is an activity? An activity is "Watching TV" or "Watch a DVD". With today's complex home theatre setups, you have multiple devices that you need to control.

With standard universal remotes, you have to "press the TV button, then ON, then the DVD button, then ON, then the Receiver button, then ON, then switch the receiver to DVD, and the TV to DVD.

With the Harmony remotes, you press "Watch DVD".

Now, you may be wondering, how to we program the remote to do what we want? Well, we use the absolutely craptacular Java-based Logitech software. It works, its functional, but its a royal pain in the ass. The first problem is that its web-based, so you have to 'log on'. I'm programming a remote, why the hell do I have to log on? Then you need to add your devices.. Once the devices are entered, you add activities. The software attempts to lead you through the process, but even for someone who's been writing software, building computers, hooking up home theaters for years, its confusing. You'll spend a lot of trial and error.

Once you have the remote programmed, its AMAZING. The WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is very high. They only need ONE remote to control your man-cave HD TV, 100000 watt DTS/DDigital/MegaSound receiver. One button turns it on, or off, or to watch that Mamma Mia DVD she's been wanting to torture you with.

I started out about 6 years ago with a Harmony 550.. I liked that remote, except for some of the buttons. The ones that are the number keys (0-9) and a couple others are of the 'soft squishy' type. Half the time, they wouldn't register, and eventually they just stopped working. I took the remote apart a few times and cleaned it, and they would work again for about a week.

I currently have a Harmony One remote. This remote's buttons are all the hard type, with a solid feel. Much better than the old 550. It also has a color touch screen and rechargeable batteries. The touch screen is nice, though I wish there was more visual feedback. One REALLY nice feature is that you can program your favorite channels into it, and be able to quickly change to those channels. You even get to use the logos for those channels, which makes it very easy to recognize what channel you want.

Other models have different feature sets. The 550 cost me $75 6 years ago, and the One cost me $170 earlier this year. I know I've seen some models as low as $40.

There you have it, a quick review of the Harmony remotes.

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