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12 Days of Gifts - Day 10

December 20, 2011 - Dave Hecei

Ultimate Control. I have been a big fan of the Logitech Harmony line of universal remotes. If you have one then you know what I mean. There are several Harmony models to choose from and can range in price from $50 to $350. But to say that a Harmony is just a universal remote is like saying a Porsche is just a car.

For those who have a fairly complicated home theatre system, there can be five or more remotes you have to use to watch or listen to something. The Harmony remote should replace all of them. The only time you should have to pull out the remote for a device is if you have to change some deep menu settings – things you probably only have to do once or twice a year.

The idea behind the Harmony line of remote controls is two fold – programming and usability. Most universal remotes have a huge table of codes that you have to program in to get it to work with your device – TV, VCR, DVD, receiver, etc. This can be a tedious ‘trial and error’ process.

To program a Harmony remote you connect it to your computer with a USB cable, after installing the Logitech software. The software will then walk you through an extensive, but easy to follow, setup procedure. You will need to know the make and model numbers of all the components in your home theatre and how they are interconnected. This is probably the hardest part.

Once you have the Harmony properly programmed the magic starts to happen. The best part of a Harmony remote is the function buttons. The number of function buttons varies on the model, basic ones have four and upper end remotes can have six or more. The function keys are used to perform, well, a function. It really depends on your system, but on my Harmony I have function buttons set for – Watch TV, Watch DVD, Watch Blu-Ray, Watch Netflix, and Listen to Music.

What really happens when you push one of these function keys is all part of the magic. On my system when I press the ‘Watch TV’ button it goes through these steps: turn on TV, turn on receiver, set receiver to TV input, turn on cable box, set TV to HDMI input 2. With just one button, the Harmony remote performs the same functions that would of taken three remotes and a whole lot of buttons being pressed. The idea behind all this is that anyone in your house doesn’t have to know how your system is connected – like which device is plugged into what HDMI port on the TV and what input the receiver needs to hear the audio from the cable box. Someone visiting your home won’t know all these things and the Harmony eliminates the confusion.

There are two Harmony remotes that I recommend. The best deal is on the Harmony 650. It can control up to five pieces of equipment and has a nice color touch screen. If you have more than five components to control then take a look at the Harmony One. The Harmony One also has a color screen but can control up to 15 devices and uses a rechargeable battery. The 650 is a bargain this holiday season with a street price around $55. The Harmony One with battery and charging cradle is priced around $140.

 
 

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