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Need help finding the right Universal remote.


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17 replies to this topic

#1 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 01 2009 - 05:33 PM

Hi All,

I could use some advice regarding a universal remote for my set-up. I'm running:

BenQ PE-8720 projector
Oppo 981 DVD Player
Panasonic RP-82 DVD Player
Yamaha RX-596 Receiver

Basically, this is all I want the remote to do:

I want to be able to set macros. A chain like:

1. Flip projector from Componant to HDMI input
2. hit play on Oppo
3. Switch receiver from CD to DVD input
4. Set projector aspect ratio to "real" - which is a button on my projector remote.
5. turn panasonic dvd player off.

I have a straight path to my equipment. So no need for anything with a base station.

The cheaper the better of course Are there any cheaper universals out there that with do the above?

This is the last piece I need to complete my home theater room. There's a lot of really knowledgable people here. I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks for your time.

#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted February 01 2009 - 06:00 PM

Any of the Logitech Harmony models. If you want cheap then get 610/620 (Target) or the 670, IMO. 610 is cheapest of the 3 but has a 5 device limitation that might become annoying if you expand your system.

#3 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 01 2009 - 07:08 PM

Hey Stephen,

Thanks for the post. I was looking at the Logitechs awhile ago, but I got confused. It doesn't say they have programable macros. It says that they have "activitiy buttons". I couldn't figure out if that means I can program several steps into these activity buttons (ie: macros) or if this is just a preset activity set hardwired into the remote.

So, I can program all of the steps I listed above into one of these activity buttons?

I find Logitech's site a bit vague.
Any help is appreciated.

#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Ed Moxley

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Posted February 01 2009 - 10:59 PM

Harmony remotes don't do macros, but are one of the best remotes out there.
Example of how they work:
Say everything is off, and you want to watch a dvd. On the Harmony, push the button that's labeled "Watch A Movie". The remote turns on the tv (projector) and puts it on the right input, turns on the dvd player, and turns on the A/V receiver and puts it in DVD mode. You put the disc in and watch movie.

After the movie, you want to watch tv. On the remote, push the "Watch TV" button. The remote makes sure the tv (projector) in on the right input, Turns on the cable/sat box, turns off the dvd player, and makes sure the A/V receiver is on the DBS/TV mode. Want to listen to a CD? Push the "Listen To Music" button. It turns on CD player (or DVD player), turns off TV, etc...... you see how it's going?

Most dvd players start movie discs automatically, but you'll have to push play button to start a cd. As far as the "Real" button, I can't swear to it, but it can probably be done from the small buttons beside it's LCD screen. The Harmony should do what you want. Sam's Club sells the Harmony 659 for around $79. If you get it home, and it doesn't do what you want, take it back to Sam's and tell them it doesn't do everything you need it to, and get a refund.

My wife loves ours. It's so user friendly, it's ridiculous. If the one we have ever dies, we will get another one.
Good luck! Posted Image
Samsung HL61A750 (LED DLP)            Onkyo TX-SR805
Oppo BDP-83 Blu ray                                  Polk Audio LSi9
Polk Audio LSiC                                  Sony SS-MB100H
SVS PC12-NSD (Sub)                       ...

#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted February 02 2009 - 12:54 AM

I use a Harmony 880 because I wanted custom labels on all of my buttons. I don't use the generic Watch TV because that isn't specific enough since I use 3 high def DVR's. My activities are Watch HR-20, Watch HR-22 and Watch HD TiVo. It's specific enough to know which DVR you need to pick.

Yes, the Harmony is 'activity based' but that is basically a macro with logic built into it. The remote knows what pieces of equipment are on and off so it sends the appropriate on/off commands based on which activity you choose. I configured my remote to always leave my DVR's turned on. It's as simple as choosing a different option in the setup software.

-Robert

#6 of 18 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted February 02 2009 - 01:04 AM

Harmony remotes are much better than macros, because macros can get confusing if they are used from different starting "states". For instance, say you want to switch from watching TV to watching a DVD. You have a macro to watch a DVD, but it is programmed from the "All Off" state, which has all components off. By pressing this macro while watching TV, you could end up with some components off (TV, receiver) and others on (DVD).

Harmony gets rid of macros, and instead uses activity buttons. The idea is the Harmony always keeps the current state of the components in memory, and only changes the items that need to be changed for the activity chosen. So if you hit "Watch DVD" while watching TV, the Harmony knows the TV is already on, so it skips turning the TV on. It knows the receiver is on, so it skips turning the receiver on. It knows the DVD is off, so it switches the DVD on. On the other hand, if you hit "Watch DVD" starting with all the components off, the TV and receiver would be switched on and the sequence continuing from there. Get it?

In addition, the Harmony is much easier to program than tediously plugging in macros. You simply enter your model numbers, then tell the remote what components and what settings you need for each activity, and the Harmony does the rest. You can customize activities and buttons to your heart's content, but you will be surprized how functional it is using the defaults. I love my Harmony, it's one of the only "from my cold, dead hands" items I own.

#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted February 02 2009 - 01:39 AM

I've been using universal remotes for many, many years, and agree with all the wonderful things said regarding Harmony remotes. I currently own a Harmony 880, after several years using a Harmony 659 (which died last year). The devices are very user friendly, easy to setup, can be customized to meet most tastes, and there are models available to meet just about any need.

#8 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 02 2009 - 04:31 AM

Thank you everyone for your advice. Sorry for being dense, but I'm still not clear on how the activities work. Can I program the steps listed in my first post exactly into a Harmony remote? I don't watch TV or DVR, I only watch movies in my theater room, and only need the remote to do what I've specified above. Thank you.

#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted February 02 2009 - 05:13 AM

The Harmony activities are macros except that the web site automatically sets them up for you instead of you actually specifying each step of the macro. Plus with the "smart state" some macro steps can be intelligently skipped if your equipment lacks discrete power codes, so that your macro doesn't send "power toggle" turning off something you wanted on.

You can tweak which equipment gets turned on, left on, powered off, etc., and what input they get set to. You can also add sequences of commands like play or stop to be executed either at the beginning or end of an activity.

Yes, you can do all the steps you listed. But they may not get executed in exactly the order you thought of them in, which rarely matters; the Harmony tends to rearrange the commands depending on the "inter-device delay" settings to optimize the total length of the macro. (E.g., you don't really know from their software interface whether the receiver will get switched before or after the projector input) If it really matters you can tweak the delays to get the order you want.

On the list you stated, basically items 1,3,5 would happen in an indeterminate order, followed by 2, 4.

#10 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted February 02 2009 - 05:15 AM

Jason,

Yes, you will be able to setup a Harmony remote to perform the tasks listed in your original post. It could be done via a single "activity" (in Harmony terms).

You will probably end up with two activities -- something like "Watch Oppo DVD" and "Watch Panny DVD" -- when you are done, though. That is assuming you use both players in your home theater.

You can download the Harmony software for free from their website and attempt to setup an activity. This will give you a feel for how the programming of the remote works.

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 02 2009 - 08:54 AM

Thanks a lot for the wisdom Stephen and Scott! Looks like I'll pick up a Harmony 550, and get to work learning how to program it. Does anyone have the Harmony 550? I notice all of these different models (550, 670, 880, 890, 1000) Will all of the models allow the specific activity set-up like I need. The 520 looks to be the cheapest and I only need to control 4 devices, but I'm curious as to what the difference between all of the models are besides number of controllable devices allowed and looks.

Thanks for the help.

#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted February 02 2009 - 09:45 AM

The Harmony site has a breakdown somewhere of the different features.

1000 - completely touch screen. Also WiFi enabled so you can surf the web.
890 - RF capable. Controls 16 components with 16 activities.
880 - Same as the 890 except it is IR only.

Others are the same but in a different shape. The 880 had a more rounded shape that fit my wife's small hands. I also like the gyroscope activated light. Pick it up in a dark room and the button back light automatically comes one. It also uses rechargable batteries.

The nice thing is the ability to move your current configuration to a new remote. My wife dropped our theater room 880 in a glass of tea. I grabbed the living room 880 and had it programed for the theater room in 30 seconds. When the new one came in I programmed it for the theater room and put the living room programming back on the old one.

-Robert

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted February 02 2009 - 08:12 PM

Assuming the Harmony approach works well for you, some of the cheaper ones seem to have pretty poor ergonomics though. You might want to factor that into your consideration.

If you end up wanting to go back to something more traditional, probably check out something from Universal Remote Control instead. In your case, maybe something like the RF10 would be good enough -- and that would also offer the option to add a RF-to-IR base to work around potential obstructions in the future.

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#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted February 03 2009 - 12:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonT
Thanks a lot for the wisdom Stephen and Scott! Looks like I'll pick up a Harmony 550, and get to work learning how to program it. Does anyone have the Harmony 550? I notice all of these different models (550, 670, 880, 890, 1000) Will all of the models allow the specific activity set-up like I need. The 520 looks to be the cheapest and I only need to control 4 devices, but I'm curious as to what the difference between all of the models are besides number of controllable devices allowed and looks.

Thanks for the help.

I setup a Harmony 550 for my brother-in-law. Personally, I did not care for the design compared to the two Harmony remotes I've owned -- the 880 and the older 659. My bil loves it, but it's the first universal remote he's ever owned, so he has nothing to compare it to.

All Harmony models, though, will allow you to setup activities to meet your needs. The different models just have different button layouts, LCD screens, number of activities supported, etc. Some also have a rechargeable battery and cradle, while others require AAA batteries.

#15 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 03 2009 - 11:19 AM

Thanks again all for the help. Ended up picking up a Harmony 880 for $99 shipped. Not bad. Can't wait to get it and start setting it up

#16 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 18 2009 - 05:07 AM

Hey Guys,

Got the 880 today. Had a couple of last questions:

1. How long do I charge it the first time?

2. Does the charger shut off or go to trickle after the remote is fully charged? AKA: Can I overcharge it by leaving it on the cradle for 10 to 12 hours the first charge?

Any help is really appreciated.
Thanks

#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted February 18 2009 - 11:55 PM

There is a crude battery meter on the remote that will indicate when it has a full charge. I do not recall how long I charged mine the first time, but I don't think it was more than a couple of hours.

You cannot overcharge the remote, though, so leaving it on the cradle overnight will not be a problem. I do that all the time when the remote needs to be recharged.

#18 of 18 OFFLINE   JasonT

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Posted February 19 2009 - 08:57 AM

Thanks Scott!