If you are right-handed, a little internet savvy, and have a little patience, the Harmony is the ultimate universal remote control.
The Harmony Internet Powered Remote Control (model SST-768) by Intrigue Technologies is the size of a cell phone, and one of the most compact universal remotes on the market. It only has 13 buttons on its face, plus a scroll wheel and one more button on the right side. It naturally fits in the palm of your hand, and can be effortlessly controlled in your right hand. The scroll wheel is easily navigated by your thumb to select a list of commands.
Simple commands at your fingertips
The most used commands, e.g. channel or volume up/down, are large triangular buttons and placed right where they need to be. A two year old could figure out how easily these buttons work.
The power of POWER ON
Are you always looking for 3 or more remotes just to get your equipment turned on? With the Harmony, one click can turn everything on or off all at once. That’s right, everything! It can turn on a TV, receiver, dvd player, cable box, vcr, etc… with just one press of the power button.
A smarter way to get started
It gets simpler. A graphical LCD display helps you select an activity. Want to just watch TV? Just select “Watch Television”. Other options can include:
- Watch a DVD
- Play a Videotape
- Listen to CDs
- Listen to Radio
The Harmony will only turn on the components needed for that activity.
Few buttons, lots of functions
How can so few buttons control so much? Once you have selected an activity (Watch a DVD) some of the buttons on the remote are re-configured to match what you are doing. Suddenly the Harmony is controlling your DVD player with functions like play, pause, stop, fast forward, reverse, etc.
Why the internet?
When you first get your remote, you must create an account on the Harmony website. Here you select the manufacturer and model number of every component you have. A custom configuration file is generated, sent to your computer, and then to the Harmony remote via a USB cable.
Patience and planning
I wish I could say the configuration process was flawless. It took me about 30 minutes to input my components and step through an online questionnaire about my system. Then it takes about 3 minutes on a standard dialup (56k) to send the configuration to your Harmony. Once I thought I was done, I was a little distraught when things didn’t work perfectly on my first try. Only a few commands were causing many problems. The configuration must be perfect.
Trial and error
So it’s back to the Harmony website to find out what went wrong. You can step back into any part of the setup. Another hour later, I was able to figure out what the problem was. Usually it comes down to a user entered error or a missing command. In my case, I had to teach the Harmony a correct command by aiming my current TV remote at the Harmony and pressing the correct button.
Unlimited learning capability
You can teach the Harmony any command from any infrared remote control. Your remote will be configured with most commands you need, but I found it helpful to teach every command from all of my remotes. This way you can be sure, you will never need your old remotes again.
Programmers will love this
Once you get past the basic operations, you can tweak this remote control to your personal taste. There are tons of advanced options and settings for experts. Serious programmers even have the option of hand coding XML for further customization. You can actually re-program any button to any function.
Something to get used to, is that this remote has no number keys. So how do you select a channel? The LCD screen displays the channel number and name. Simply select a channel with the scroll wheel, and the Harmony sends the channel number to your TV, cable box, or satellite receiver. For example, select ESPN and the channel is changed to 206 on a DirecTV system.
TV guide in your remote
Instead of selecting a channel, you can select a TV show. When you get your configuration from the internet, it automatically includes a program listing. Somehow it knows the current time and tells you what is on. Now you can select from a list of current shows, e.g. Survivor, Friends, WWE SmackDown, etc.
Can it get any better?
The keys to any remote are ergonomics, usability, and customization. The Harmony shines in each category. It is the best remote control I have used to date, but it could get better. Here is my small wish list of improvements:
- Move LCD screen to top (since that is what I am used to with my cell phone and other remotes)
- Make shape more form fitting to your hand (possibly curved or larger at one end)
- Make a left-handed option which moves the scroll bar and select button to the left side
- Improve configuration website (could be a lot more user friendly)
- Add an RF transmitter/receiver (so you don’t have to point directly at your components)
The Harmony excels in so many areas, putting a few minor personal gripes aside, it truly is a state-of-the-art remote control. The Harmony brings universal remote controls to a whole new level. At just $199 US, it’s competitively priced, and well worth the investment. It’s the simplest universal remote control the whole family can use. Now you just have to decide who gets to hold it.
Remember I am just one man with one opinion. If you own this product, or have a comment or question feel free to add your thoughts below.
Founder & CEO