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Throw Away All Those Remotes - Make Way for Logitech's Harmony 890

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January 10, 2007 12:44:51 PM

Tired of the gaggle of remotes cluttering your living room or den? Sick of crummy "universal" remotes? Logitech's Harmony 890 computer programmable remote control may be just the thing to cure your remote blues.
January 10, 2007 2:09:26 PM

As someone who bought the 550 I see one flaw in Logitech's adoption of the Harmony line. There is very little differentation between the models, except for the 890's RF and the new 1000's lack of buttons. The 550, btw, has a wider field of send for its IR beam. It controls my rack and my tv just fine. And it takes the exact same programs as the 880/890, it just, to me, has a more logical layout of buttons. Its non rechargable batteries last just fine. At its 1/3 the price.
January 10, 2007 3:53:39 PM

And what happens if the device you want to program is NOT in the equipment database?

I would like to see a solution where you can just line up the old remote with the programmable remote, zap the frequency across and assign customized keys to the new remote.

When you are trying to find a universal remote that can simulate the "windows" key on an MCE remote control, things get interesting...
January 10, 2007 4:00:42 PM

Never fear, all Harmony remotes can do that. They have a learning IR port on the bottom of the remote, and support learning codes. Plus the database is constantly updated, so tell them something is missing, and it might just get added.
January 10, 2007 10:06:15 PM

I was looking at buying one of these... but then I bought an Onkyo A/V receiver (the 803: http://www.us.onkyo.com/model.cfm?m=TX-SR803&class=Rece... ) which comes with a really nice backlit remote and since it is a true upconverting (to component, with HDMI switching) A/V receiver, it is easy to switch between things.

The remote is fully learning (meaning you can beam into it) and has 3 macros. I have macro 1 set to turn on the TV -> Turn on the receiver -> set the receiver to input 1 -> turn on the cable box -> set the remote to the cable box. This way you press one button and everything is ready to go. Macro 2 does the same for DVDs and Macro 3 turns off whatever has been turned on.

Also, the backlighting is superb, with the button actions printed on the clear buttons and when you press the backlight button (which is a big plastic button on the side of the remote) they are illuminated from below until you press the backlight button again (or 30 seconds).

Here's a picture I found: http://elektroraj.pics.eternity.cz/530_hifi/onkyo_tx-sr...

Not too shabby for a freebie that came with a receiver.

Anyway... at some point I still might end up getting one of these. If I add more devices I'm going to need some more programmability. Anyone know if there is a remote out there that can send bluetooth signals... for turning on my Wii ;-)

Friedmud
January 11, 2007 3:41:35 PM

I have an older Harmony as well (688 off the top of my head) - This replaced a Philips Pronto.

The Pronto was very flexible in terms of how things were laid out on the touchscreens, UI pages, more Macros than I could possibly want, etc. The problem was that it was all up to me to program it. After spending probably 60+ hours I had it most of the way, but still had missing features that were needed often enough so that the 5 other remotes were still usually on the coffee table. It also really didn't get along with my Sony CD Jukebox...

Also, the Pronto didn't have any intellegence built-in, and the programming doesn't allow braching, dialogs, or other complex features. So, if an IR command missed, or the system wasn't in the state that it should be in (DVD player auto shutdown if idle, for example), I had a whole slew of buttons to manually fix it - but the user had to know what they all did. Half the time, it was easier just to grab the original remotes and fix it.

My fiancee was overwhelmed by all of this. Even after trying to teach her how to use it, and adjusting the programming to suit her, she just couldn't figure it out. More often than not, she would get the system so out of whack that it was tricky for me to get it right again. Eventually she refused to use the system at all unless I was there to run it.

When I got the Harmony, it took about 15 minutes for the initial programming. Told it what equipment I have, and what inputs things were connected to, and what activities I wanted (7 of them). Everything worked correctly the first time.

I handed it to my fiancee and said "Here ya go!"

Her first reaction was a displeased look (at me, not at the remote) that she was going to be in for weeks to frustration.

I simply said, "Just look at the buttons at the top."

She looked at the remote for about 5 seconds, then pushed the "Watch TV" button. And smiled. :p 

Sure it occasionally messes up - but it has the "Help" button that walks right through fixing it, and it works. (One button)

I have probably spent another two hours tweaking it, adding things like aspect ratio control and tweaking some button operations. The other remotes now live quietly in a cabinet for the rare occasions that they are needed for a calibration or reset.

A low-end Harmony can be had for under $100. Compare that with $3000+ for a good home theater system, it's well worth it.
January 11, 2007 8:59:34 PM

I got a *completely* programmable remote for $35 from here:

http://www.novii.tv/palm/

Of course, I already had the Palm Tungsten E2...
January 13, 2007 2:32:46 AM

Quote:
I have an older Harmony as well (688 off the top of my head) - This replaced a Philips Pronto.


I had a less than optimal experience with the pronto as well.

Even after I got the thing running well, I never found the interface to be particularly friendly. The entire user interface is based on sight, rather than the mor familiar touch. The problem was that each menu was a touch screen that you had to look at to find the right button. Compared to the typical cheap remote up down volume control, four arrows + a center "select button, and raised surface play, stop FF or reverse keys - the more expensive Pronto was not finger friendly.
January 13, 2007 2:41:40 PM

How well does this work with Windows Media Center 2k5 and/or Vista? I've heard that a lot of learning / programmable remotes have problems with MCE because it uses alternating codes for each button. Press once, and it sends one code. Press again, and it sends a second code (to prevent accidental repeats). Press a third time, and it sends the first code again.

Do the Harmony Remotes do that?
January 13, 2007 6:11:11 PM

Quote:
How well does this work with Windows Media Center 2k5 and/or Vista?


The real issue is that it uses IR instead of blue tooth or a standard computer wireless protocol. This is why the Nokia 770 is so hot amongst a lot of home theater buffs and audiophiles.
January 14, 2007 8:22:17 PM

Well I have had a Harmony 676 [pre-Logitech] for a long time and I have been very happy with it. However, its had a ruff time with my kids [they have put it into the toilet twice and into a glass of milk]. So, needless to say I have had to take it apart to clean it a few times. However, that last time with the milk caused some of the buttons to become flaky, since I did not get to it in time [I was a work when it first happened]. Then the 676 has rubber buttons where the writing has has just able all rubbed off. Also my LCD screen has not been 100% since they second trip to the toilet. ;) 

So, I picked up one of the 880's and its nearly the same as the 890, other than the RF. I like the new addition for Favorite Channels with it's logos but the screen resolution is a little lacking - IMO. While I like the new back lit threw the buttons and text [no more rubbing off of the text] I find the buttons over all worse than the 676's. I find it rather hard to figure out where stuff is at while not looking at it. It's seems that they are all to close together and a little to small.

I think over all I like 880 remote better than my 676. But it feels "cheaply" made to me. It does look very nice to look at but I think the 676 had better usability.
January 15, 2007 1:34:42 AM

I was a Harmony user for a while trying to integrate a Sharp Aquos with a Sony AV receiver, Pioneer DVD player, Sony VHS recorder, Directv HD DVR and a networked PC. I was able to get everything programmed to my satisfaction, but my wife has tech phobia, and I could never get her to use it. After one too many trips to the family room to calm her and set the system properly, I was looking for another solution.

The solution actually came with a new Pioneer AV receiver (VSX 1015TX) and a Monster Cable power center (HTS 3500) after a lightning strike fried the Sony receiver. The remote packaged with the Pioneer receiver is all I use now. It had codes for everything but the Directv DVR, but this is a learning remote and was easily programmed for that.

The Monster power center came into play for turning the Sharp TV on/off when the receiver is turned on. The Pioneer receiver has an auxilliary AC outlet, but it doesn't have the capacity to handle the current needed for a TV set. The Monster power center has a plug that goes into the receiver's AC outlet. It then senses when the receiver is on and turns on the outlet the Sharp is plugged into. The TV monitor now turns on and off with the receiver.

The integration and simplicity comes from routing all video (even the PC) through the AV receiver. This also leads to the only downside - the receiver only handles component video and not HDMI or DVI. The Sharp Aquos has inputs for HDMI, DVI and multiple component sources, however everything is coming to it via one component input from the AV receiver. Of course I could have spent a lot more for a receiver with HDMI in/out, but this was a much pricier option. I honestly can't tell the difference between HDMI and component input to the Aquos anyway.

The result is a solution that is much easier and more intuitive to use than the Harmony. It also doesn't get "out of sync" thinking a component is on rather than off etc. Best of all, my wife uses it without any complaints!
January 15, 2007 11:03:19 PM

Your pioneer sol'n doesn't sound bad, but for me a solution needs to be able to drive MCE. Otherwise, it just won't do enough.

Someone posted about using a Nokia. I have an HP iPaq with Windows Mobile and wifi that I can use to drive the computer, but I don't want my wife to have to use my phone to change channels or inputs (e.g. if I'm away from the house). I also have a couple of remotes that came with the computer case and tuner card, but those don't drive other components. So the goal of a universal is to be able to drive MCE and everything else. If the Harmony can do that, I'd be pretty happy.
January 15, 2007 11:55:08 PM

I tried using MCE for a while, but gave up on it. The functionality is much too limiting. I turned off the media center function and just use a gyration mouse and keyboard from a regular XP desktop when I access the PC. Of course I'm not using the PC for TV functions since it can't do HD or integrate with the Directv HD DVR. I just use the PC for a music and video juke box and occasional web brousing. MCE sucks for those functions.
January 16, 2007 10:48:46 AM

Quote:


I would like to see a solution where you can just line up the old remote with the programmable remote, zap the frequency across and assign customized keys to the new remote.

When you are trying to find a universal remote that can simulate the "windows" key on an MCE remote control, things get interesting...


This is old tech, they are called "learning remotes" and came out around the same time the universal remotes did, if not a little before. My old JVC reciever had one, they work very well.
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