If you have a home theater system with multiple devices, then you also have a number of remotes. Running your system with multiple remotes requires patience, time, planning, and did I say patience? After juggling a half dozen remotes for a while, you realize that a universal remote will make your life a lot easier, or at least your life as it pertains to using your home theater system.
There are what seems to be an infinite number of universal remotes available, priced from a few bucks, to………well, really expensive. Some are simple to use, and some require a PHD in electrical engineering just to configure. Having tried many of these devices, and wasted many dollars, my considerable experience has led me to judge the Logitech Harmony series remotes with very high marks, with the exception of one major flaw: they are not indestructible. The Harmony series remotes I have used cannot withstand numerous drops onto tile floors, nor do they survive well when partially submerged in a french vanilla coffee spill. Maybe these two flaws can be remedied someday, but beyond these two points, the Harmony remotes have reached a level of greatness in my eyes.
Having provided “Last Rites” to a number of Harmony remotes for the reasons mentioned above, my Harmony One provided me several years of solid service. Then I added some cabinets to my living room, and in the process moved most of the home theater components 10 feet or so away from my HD television, which in turn increased the firing angle of the IR (infrared signal) from the Harmony One remote. The result of the increased distance and angle for the IR meant that some devices would initially fail to perform when commanded by the Harmony One. Yes, I could sit closer to the components, and all would be well for the Harmony One, but I would not be sitting in my favorite chair/viewing area. This may sound like a little thing, but some things I am not willing to sacrifice. I needed a new remote.
I did not have to look too far. The Harmony Smart Control remote (Model #915-000194) became the obvious choice. First of all, like most of the remotes in the Harmony line, the Harmony Smart Control can power-up, run, and turn-off over 225,000 home theater devices, from 5,000 different brands. This is good for me, because here is what a universal remote needs to control on my system:
Xbox 360, HD TV, AV receiver, Blue-ray player, DVD player/recorder, Personal Video Recorder and fiber-optic TV gateway, Apple TV, Fiber Optic Audio switch, and media computer.
Secondly, the Harmony Smart Control adds WiFi to its IR component. You can download a free iOS or Android app for your smart phone or tablet (Bluetooth 3.0 required), and/or use the supplied remote to send a signal to command a device. The signal is sent via WiFi to the Harmony Hub (a WiFi receiver, and an IR transmitter), and from the “hub”, an IR signal is then sent to the selected component. The WiFi portion of the signal is powerful, and can go through walls and doors. As a result, you could have your components in a cabinet behind doors, and the “hub” will recieve the signal. In fact, I can control my devices from the “other” side of my house (I know, this example has no practical function, but it does show how powerful this device is). Also, once the “hub” receives a WiFi signal, if you have devices that are not being reached by the IR signal, a Mini Blaster (IR extender) is included. The “extender” attaches to the “hub” via a 6’ cable. This should solve most IR problems.
Thirdly, Setup is fairly straight forward. If like me, you already have a Harmony remote, all you have to do is go to the Harmony website, and you can import the settings for your old remote to the Harmony Smart Control. If you are a new user, you setup an account on the Harmony website. Then after filling out a supplied worksheet (Device brand name, model number, etc.), you enter the data onto the forms on the website. You will then set up several functions, like “Watch TV”. In these areas you will provide devices and their configuration settings for their use during the function. For example:
- Turn on Sharp Aquos TV.
- Set TV to Input 6
- Turn on Onkyo Receiver.
- Set Receiver to TV
- Turn on Uverse Motorola PVR
When you are done inputing, you connect the “hub” to a computer via provided USB cable, and the data will be downloaded from your Harmony account to the “hub”. This whole process can be accomplished via WiFi from the cellphone app.
Finally, it is easy to you use. You no longer have to point your remote at any particular direction, just push the buttons. To watch television, simply push the button that says, “Watch TV”. To turn everything off, simply depress the “Off” button. To me, the cellphone/tablet app is very well done, and pretty intuitive; however, most of the time, I find myself using the supplied remote.
Summary. This a solid and well engineered device. I have used it for 3 months now, and my Harmony One sits in its charging cradle gathering dust. Retail price at the time of this writing is $129.99. Street price is around $100.
In the box you will find a Harmony Hub, remote control (with battery), IR mini blaster (extender), USB cable, AC adapter, and documentation. It will work with Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8. For Mac’s, OSX 10.5 or higher is needed.
To find out more about the Harmony Smart Control remote click below: