We finally got a universal remote for the video setup at home. We’re not early adopters and this is a pretty mainstream category, so quite likely you know all about it. In case you don’t, just wanted to say that Logitech Harmony 650 is a super-nice product and works really well for us.

Our setup is totally vanilla: a big 2010 Insignia TV, a new Motorola cable box, a middle-aged Toshiba DVD player, and an elderly NAD amp. Some of the remotes were broken, others claimed to be universal, ha-ha-ha. I’d tried universals a few years back and they basically just didn’t work for whatever I’d had.

Anyhow, you program the Logitech on your Mac or PC with a nice little program that lives in the browser and talks to the USB. It asks you a set of plain-English questions that seem about the minimum possible, then blasts your setup into the remote. It pretty well Just Works.



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From: jsled (Jun 25 2011, at 16:09)

The Harmony remotes are awesome, up front. The "web"-based programming interface is both obvious and brilliant. The simplicity for common operations coupled with the quick access to addressing individual components is a great balance and useful. And physically, they're well shaped and laid out.

I hope yours lasts longer than the one year each of our previous 3 have lasted. :(

I've had both hardware and software failures along the way. At their price-point, it's kinda ridiculous. :/

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From: Andrew Molyneux (Jun 25 2011, at 16:38)

I have a similar Logitech universal remote (Harmony One) and I agree 100% that it Just Works. It's made it possible for my wife and 6-year-old daughter to operate our admittedly overcomplicated home entertainment system, which is no mean feat.

The web-based configuration software bothers me a bit, though. Specifically, the fact that I'm reliant on Logitech continuing to operate the service. If they stopped it for whatever reason, I'd never be able to reconfigure my remote again. I'd prefer to see a more traditional arrangement, where the software runs locally and downloads updates as required.

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From: Ryan Cousineau (Jun 25 2011, at 17:34)

Even nicer considering how well it "just works", you can nerd-tweak the settings to your heart's content to get all your systems working just right. I use and love the Harmony (we're on our second, the first remote having survived several years of hard use), but I think it requires enough setup tweaking that I wouldn't recommend it to technophobes, unless they have a techie who will set it up.

Also, you will grow to hate any devices in your system that don't have explicit, separate power-on and power-off IR commands. Most modern devices do (for exactly this use case), but the remote can easily slip out of power-state sync with devices that only have a power-toggle command. It is only slightly fussy to fix this, but it is tedious. The Motorola PVR Shaw Cable uses is one example of a power-toggle-only device, so I set it to never be turned off. Which is probably bad for the PVR drive...

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From: Matt Ginzton (Jun 25 2011, at 18:33)

Having been down with the Harmony for a couple years, I halfway agree, and feel the need to comment.

The remote itself, the hardware, is great.

The software for programming it is atrocious. Anything but "a nice little program". It suffers from a million small and medium sized usability flaws, makes you answer the same questions over and over if you need to make small changes, makes easy tasks hard, and I've never seen it get the setup right the first time. Then you have to transfer the configuration to the remote which takes like a minute and a half (to transfer what should be a couple KB of information?), go test it out, and repeat the whole process.

In addition to the shoddy software, there's one other flaw worth noting: it's way too stateful. Some devices don't have separate remote commands for "turn on" and "turn off", but only a "toggle power" command. In such a case, if the remote drops a command or a person or cat walks in front of it while it's transmitting or someone dares turn on the TV without using the remote, the remote won't know it, and it'll do the wrong thing next time you invoke a command. This would be just an annoying truth and not really Logitech's fault were it not for one addendum: I have a couple devices which have remote codes for all 3 power commands (on, off, toggle), and the Harmony software knows about all 3, and chose to use the toggle one by default!

All in all I've found it to be a weird mix of thoughtless and thoughtful. Every time I have to reprogram it I curse it, but once it's set up it works pretty nicely.

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From: Jeremy (Jun 26 2011, at 08:59)

I'm guessing you meant to say "not early adopters" - although maybe "early adapters" works in this case? :-)

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