Remote controls are the flotsam and jetsam in an ocean of high-tech gadgetry. In my house I have remote controls for my video recorder, DVD player, TV, digital box and stereo. Only five – that’s pretty good going, I think; it used to be more. But I would like it to be less, like maybe one. The Harmony remote is a programmable remote control with a difference. It has a USB connection for easy programming with your Mac.
The first thing I need to tell you about the Harmony remote is that it is a US product, and while it knows all the US hardware it’s less familiar with the local TVs and DVDs. That isn’t an insurmountable problem. The Harmony Remote can cope – but straight out of the box, you’re likely to run into these issues. The good thing is that the remote is programmable, so there’s always a solution; it just takes a little time.
To set the remote up, you need a Web connection and USB. Once you’re connected to the Harmony Web site, it’s straightforward, if a little long-winded. It took me the best part of an hour fiddling around before I got it working to my satisfaction. But the more time you put in to the setup, the better it will be. At first, using the remote was odd: the buttons aren’t labelled in the same way as the native remote controls. For a while I was using the Harmony Remote as a sixth remote, with the other five as backup for when I forgot how to do something. But as time progressed and I added more functions to the Harmony remote, the others were less important. I still keep them in a drawer nearby, but they’ve been retired.
The controls are quite sophisticated, using a lot of buttons, plus a scroll wheel to control what goes on in the LCD display. You can make single button clicks do multiple things, such as switch from watching TV, or listening to a CD to watching a DVD. With mine it turns off my digital box, selects DVD from the surround system, switches inputs on the TV and could probably put the popcorn on if I had the bits. This is where the remote really comes into its own.