Electronic Design

Logitech Harmony 1000

I anticipate the day when gadgets like Logitech’s Harmony 1000 Universal Remote will be less in-demand. That will mean HDMI interconnects have finally allowed one device’s remote to serve multiple functions. Since that day is far off, I found the Harmony 1000 invaluable with my mix of devices, including Sharp’s Aquos LC52D64U HDTV, its BD-HP20U Blu-ray player and and Samsung’s BD-P1400 Blu-ray player. These new devices support HDMI that allows bi-directional communication between HDMI devices. This allows a remote from one HDMI device to control another HDMI device. There will likely remain functions that can only be invoked by a particular device’s remote, but hopefully that can be changed through setup options. In any case, having a device like the Harmony 1000 allows you to control each device directly and in concert with each other. A number of universal remotes can perform similar actions but USB-based devices like the Harmony 1000 are more easily configured. The Harmony 1000 is not used to program itself even though it has a large LCD screen and plenty of buttons. Instead, everything is done using the Windows-based application. The only gripe I have is that the program must be connected to the Internet to operate. This has the advantage of having access to the latest configuration support, but it also tells Logitech what devices you have. It can also be a pain if you don’t have a laptop or PC with Internet access near the devices you’re controlling. Luckily, configuration tends to be relatively easy even for complex environments like mine, where audio from some devices goes to an amplifier while other audio does not. The configuration application asks you to confirm the kinds of devices you have and how they are connected. It then asks you to configure a set of activities which may incorporate one or more devices. For example, my DVD/VHS player has its video routed through a multimedia switch and the audio output is connected to my amplifier. After configuring the Harmony 1000, all it took to watch a DVD was a single button press. Even using my other universal remote required two or three key presses depending on the state of the system. Even with a relatively complex and changing environment (with the Sharp and Samsung additions), the Harmony 1000 worked like a champ. I suspect things might have been a little different if one of the devices had not been in Logitech’s database though. The downside of the Harmony 1000 is the same for all infrared remotes. They are unidirectional devices. They have to assume certain states for each device, so if you don’t aim the unit in the right direction, the device may not receive remote commands. This can be a problem if your devices are not clustered. Also, if you grab another remote and use it, things may fall out of sync. Still, the Harmony 1000 handles recovery well. It is intelligent enough to detect if things are working properly and will prompt you if it detects something is amiss. It can then send out the appropriate command again. Common functions like channel or volume up/down are dedicated buttons, but most actions are soft buttons accessible via the LCD touch screen. The icons are large enough to easily select one of nine menu options. The system is hierarchical so a button can present another screen of selections. At this point, custom additions like selecting a TV channel by name manifest in text buttons rather than the more colorful graphic icons for standard activities. It’s a minor issue, but a graphical icon for ESPN would be nice. Since that’s a software issue, additional functionality could be installed the next time you reconfigure the system via the Windows/Internet application. If you only have a pair of devices like a TV and a DVD player, then the Harmony 1000 will probably be overkill. But if you’ve got a complex home entertainment system, the Harmony 1000 could save time and effort. Just think: you won’t have to explain to your spouse or kids how to watch a DVD. Related Links Logitech

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