Ultimate Control: Logitech Harmony 895

My home-entertainment system consisting of a 46″ 100Hz Sony Bravia, a Yamaha YSP-4000 soundbar, a Yamaha YSP-150 subwoofer, a PS3, a Nintendo Wii and PVR made me a 4-remote collector. A simple task such as watching a BlueRay movie turned into the ordeal of switching on the PS3, soundbar, subwoofer and TV. Then having to select the correct input on the soundbar and the TV and we are good to go. The same applies when wanting to watch a movie on the PVR – instead of enjoying a movie, I have become the master in remote-control juggling.

Until I found the Logitech Harmony 895:

The Harmony is a (pricey) universal remote control which comes with a charge cradle and a number of remote-blasters (for people who have their equipment in closed cabinets). The remote control has a color display, 8 activity/quick-launch buttons (left and right of the display) and the usual remote control features such as mute, volume, PVR-controls. A cool feature is the built in tilt-sensor which recognizes when the remote is picked up and then automatically illuminates all buttons and switches the display on.

I am not sure how the Harmony software functions on Windows, but the OS X version seems to be browser-based and is painful to work with, if you experience slow internet speeds. What really makes Logitech’s Harmony range tick though is the included software. This provides access to a huge range of control codes for devices. You tell the software what equipment you have, which means getting down and dirty with the precise model numbers, and it then pulls the information from its extensive database. You then plug the remote in via USB and the data is transferred over to the remote. The good news is the database is very extensive and you’d be hard pressed to actually own something that isn’t on there – and of course grows over time. It certainly had no problems with any of my kit – the hardest trick is knowing which category to search in.

The setup was easy, but time-consuming but after 4 hours I reached the level of perfection on the remote:
– Configured 6 activities: Watch PVR, Watch Blue-ray, Play PS3, Play Wii, Listen to radio, Listen to Music
– Assigned 20 graphical icons to my favorite TV-channels (such as M-Net, MTV etc)

Now it is as simple as just picking up the remote, selecting the quicklaunch button “Watch Blue-ray” and within seconds the Yamaha soundbar powers up and tunes into the right channel as well as the Sony TV powers on and changes to the correct HDMI channel. Devices which are not needed for an activity (such as the PVR in this case) will be automatically powered off.

The Harmony works perfectly with the DSTV dual-view PVR and all PVR-buttons such as TV-guide, menu, record, pause etc work fine. I did have to tweak delay of how the Harmony relays the infra-red commands to the PVR (I found that the Harmony did send remote codes too quickly).

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