I’ll just get this out of the way right now, the Harmony One universal remote is the best remote I’ve ever used, period. This remote is just a joy to use. It’s a great size, it’s comfortable in the hand, the button layout is wonderful, it’s completely customizable, you can add a ton of buttons via the touchscreen, you never have to worry about batteries because it comes with a rechargeable battery and a dock to charge it, battery life is excellent, the online database of codes supports more than 225,000 devices from more than 5,000 brands making programming the remote incredibly easy, if the database doesn’t happen to have your device it can learn them and the “Activities” makes using this remote a real pleasure. It is simply the best remote I’ve ever laid my hands on.
Setting up the remote is done on your computer, you install the Logitech Harmony software and then from within the software you tell the remote what devices you have, if memory serves me correct, their database of codes had every single device that I own in it, so I didn’t have to teach the remote anything. The wizard within the program makes everything a breeze to setup. I had a rough setup of my admittedly complex system setup within half an hour. I have gone back in a tweaked things several times to my liking which added more time to the setup but once you get a handle on the software, that is very easy to do.
The real beauty of the remote is it’s use of “Activities”. I have nine activities setup on my remote, they are “Watch TV”, “Watch Little TV”, “Watch a Blu-Ray”, “Watch a DVD”, “Listen to MP3”, “Play Playstation 3”, “Play XBOX 360”, “Listen to CD” and “Use HTPC”. This is how activities work, When my system is completely turned off and I press the “Watch Little TV” on the remote the following happens: My Toshiba TV turns on, My Integra processor turns on (which automatically turns on my amp), the TV is set to the HDMI 1 input, the Integra is set to cable and the Integra is set to output the signal from the secondary HDMI output. All that is done with the touch of a single button. After that, the remote buttons will control the cable box, the volume buttons controls the Integra and the touchscreen shows my favorite channels. The remote is smart too, it keeps track of what is turned on or off so if I were to press the “Watch Blu-Ray” activity on the remote the remote knows that I use my projector to watch Blu-Ray movies so it will turn off the Toshiba TV, (it could turn on the projector but I prefer to control when the projector turns itself on and off), it will change the Integra from cable to Playstation 3, it will turn on my Playstation 3 (which I use to play Blu-Ray), it will lower my Da-Lite screen and it changes the HDMI output on the Integra to send it to the projector. How cool is that?
About the only complaint I have about the remote has to do with the software. The software has a tendency to log you off if it thinks you aren’t doing anything. I remember spending a considerable amount of time as I fine tuned some of the buttons in one of my activities, when I finally was finished and went to save my work I hit save and instead of being greeted with a nice your activity has been saved I was told that I had to login, I ended up losing all my work which was greatly frustrating. There is a way around this though, just save your work often. Other than that though I really don’t have complaints. I do wish the remote was RF, Logitech just released the Harmony 900 which is essentially the same remote as the Harmony One but with RF and some Blu-Ray specific buttons. I am tempted to get one but I am going to wait till the price comes down a bit.
The Harmony One can’t control the Playstation 3 out of the box (no universal remotes can that I know of because the PS3 uses Bluetooth) but thankfully Logitech came out with a device called the Harmony Adapter which allows Harmony remotes to control the Playstation 3. I wrote about it right here.
Those of you familiar with my home theater may remember that I used a tablet PC running Netremote as the remote in my system for a long time. It was a great setup and had a lot of wow factor, but it wasn’t without it’s faults. The biggest problem I had with my old system was tablets dying on me, I went through three of them before I finally gave up. I know that I was partially responsible for them dying, I like my theater as dark as I can get it so I would set the tablet to turn off the screen after a couple minutes every time I used it, this put a lot of wear and tear on the screen and eventually the screen always died on me. The other problem I had was that I either had to leave the tablet on 24/7 or I had to wait for it to boot up whenever I wanted to use it, this got old if I just wanted to check the news real quick or something like that. It was a cool system but since getting the Harmony One, I don’t really miss it. I do still use Netremote on my PC when I am, I love being able to control my media player while I am sitting at my computer working, it’s cool being able to see the album cover of the current song playing, rate music, change playlists, etc.