// Internet Duct Tape

The Best Remote in the World (Logitech Harmony)

Posted in Gadgets, Technology by engtech on September 21, 2006

(This is pure fanboyism. I’m not going to lie to you, it could get a little ugly and/or boring.)

I love my Logitech Harmony Remote 628. I bought it at half-price on one of those crazy online Boxing Day sales last year. I bought it knowing it was an older model, but not caring because I wanted to get out of the five remote hell I’d been sequestered in for no apparent reason for several years. It is one of the best gadget purposes I’ve made in recent times, and tonight it proved itself again.

Sure, the blue casing matches absolutely nothing in my home theatre, and I have to use Internet Explorer instead of Firefox but these are sacrifices I’m willing to make. I even shrug off the Big Brother implications of an Orwellian Logitech that knows the make and model of every piece of equipment in my den, and how often I purchase something new.

This doesn’t sound like me. The reason why might shock you. It’s because They Got It Right.

I’m blogging about it approximately 10 months after purchase because it hasn’t irritated me at all during that time period.

This is one of those kookie remotes that comes with a USB cable. Connect it to your computer, swing over to the Logitech Harmony website, and login to your user account. You’re presented with an easy to use Wizard that knows all the equipment you have. Reconfiguring the remote is as simple as adjusting the settings as much as you want on the website, for as long as you want, clicking Update Remote and then they do their magic on the Logitech website to save it all as an executable file that automatically updates your remote.

And it works. No hassle. It lets you do everything from remapping buttons to deciding which devices can be on at the same time when you do an Activity (watching TV, watching a DVD, playing X-Box, listening to music). Because the list of device is constantly maintained by Logitech, it knows what an X-Box 360 is even though the remote is much older.

It has a built-in 6-button navigable LCD display, but you’ll hardly ever use it — only when you want to turn one device on/off at a time instead of using an Activity button.

This remote is a joy to touch. It ergonomically fits the contours of your hand and the silicon buttons feel like they belong on something kept by the bedside, not by the TV.

But my favorite feature by far is the button in the middle that makes everything light up with a soft blue glow. I especially like how it’s textured differently so it’s always easy to find.

I thought the Logitech Harmony remotes were overpriced before I had one, but now I think they’re worth every penny — especially if you can get an older model on sale.

Full disclosure: Logitech’s never given me anything for free. I’ve just been happy with (most of) their products :)

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  1. Dr. Entropic said, on September 22, 2006 at 1:18 am

    I once tried to use that remote for ten minutes, then gave up and started
    hiding your CDs in retribution. I can only conclude you love it since it allows you
    to feel superior and have unquestioned control of the TV/DVD/Games at gatherings. As a result
    of this control we watch most movies with the actors voices off a few octaves.

  2. Scott said, on September 22, 2006 at 4:53 am

    Isn’t this the one they used in Click?

  3. engtech said, on September 22, 2006 at 9:09 am

    Isn’t this the one they used in Click?

    Hey, it was the one from Click. And I could have seen Click for free because of the remote.

    It’s still a good remote, though.

    Logitech + Click press release


    As a result
    of this control we watch most movies with the actors voices off a few octaves.

    That was the old remote. I didn’t map the octave keys to this one :)

  4. Comments « //engtech said, on September 22, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    […] Scott points out that by promoting the Logitech Harmony Remote I’m inadvertently plugging bad Adam Sandler movies as well. […]

  5. What’s up at //engtech « Beats Entropy said, on September 25, 2006 at 12:57 am

    […] My love affair with the Logitech Harmony remote […]

  6. Jeffrey James said, on October 05, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    I purchased Harmony 829 for about $400. wow. It worked well for simple operations. Then started my problems.

    I connected cable box, VCR/DVD combo, (TV, Sound System) in that order. For some reason, this remote thinks devices are turned-off. May be somebody wrote its software with the verse “in the beginning … everything is turned-off”. If I If I have one of them turned on, Activities automatically toggles that device, so the TV does not show what the activity suggests. I have to go into the closet behind the TV and check which device is culprit and deal with it.

    My VCR/DVD combo takes a few seconds after turning on to read the DVD (if it is in DVD mode). I programmed Harmony to turn-on, switch mode to DVD, delay five seconds, then play. This does not work at all. No matter what activity I select, my TV always starts with the channel on the cable box. Then I have to go to devices and manually do each of these actions. I had easier time programming in C/C++/Java computer languages.

    Updating the Harmony settings is another problem. It fails several times before successfully updating (weird errors like “java null pointer exception”, “error 234”, …). May be their firmware has problems or the software that downloads info from website.

    Only benefit I got out of it sofar is that my son/wife/in-laws cannot operate it without my help, so I feel pretty important. If you are an ignored person and became important suddenly, you feel like you are in heaven :-)

  7. engtech said, on October 05, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Jeff. It’s always good to hear both sides of the story. $400? Wow. I got my low-end old model for around $70-80.

    Some thoughts on your problems:

    – I’ve seen the same problem with everything being turned off. The remote does make the assumption about what state everything is in. Make sure to hide all the other remotes and get everyone in the habit of using the remote for turning things on/off. If you use the Help button it will prompt you about what’s On/Off when things get screwed up.
    – That’s weird that your TV isn’t showing up on the correct channel. I’m sure you’ve gone to the website and checked what you have mapped for the channel when using Activities… but if not that’s what I’d check first.
    – Try following this line and installing the latest Java Runtime (http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp), see if that clears up some of the Java problems. I’ve never seen them, but I always run the latest version of Java.

    The biggest thing is to get into the habit of only using the Harmony and not other remotes/manually turning things on/off. It does keep a state history of what state it thinks things are in and can get confused.

  8. Boxing Day is coming « //engtech said, on December 25, 2006 at 7:03 am

    […] my review of my Logitech Harmony 628 […]

  9. Joe said, on January 07, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Can someone pls help as I havent had a response from Logitech.
    I have a Harmony 520 and an LG TV 32FS2ANB-TE. I have set this up to respond to power toggle on/off. These commands work when they are sent from the device setting on the remote but dont work from the activity setting (all other devices work)
    I have used the TV remote to teach the Harmony remote. I have specified Power Toggle mode rather than separate ON and OFF. I have used the HELP function on the remote. However nothing works.
    One other point is that when I save the settings for the TV the model number seems to change from 32FS2ANB-TE to 32FS2ANB-TP. This model is fairly new, could it be that you do not have this in your listing.

    Is there a way to access the commands on the remote on the PC and manually making changes?
    I live in Sydney, Australia.

  10. engtech said, on January 24, 2007 at 11:10 am

    They have an option for “learning” from another remote. You point the IRs together and press buttons. The manual has more info.

  11. Gadget said, on January 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Hey Joe, Im having the same problems with the same TV – wont turn on/off, wont learn the command. Have you gotten it to work?

  12. Mike said, on March 24, 2007 at 12:28 am

    Screw Harmony, the iconRemote Rocks!

    My mom isn’t exactly what I would call technologically gifted (she still needs me to help check her email.) So, when I set out to find a universal remote for her, I wanted something SIMPLE that could handle a few devices. She doesn’t have much of a home theater system, but what she does have is pretty basic – TV, DVD player, and stereo. After a few hours of research on the internet, I finally settled on the Logitech Harmony 550 Universal Remote. Big mistake!

    I picked it up at the store and I had to bring my laptop to her place so that I could program all the codes in. It was a little annoying to have to hook it up to the computer, because I kept imagining her changing the batteries and me having to go through the whole process again. Then, right after I finished the set up, she was skeptical because the buttons are so freaking small. Her nails are long and she kept hitting two buttons at once. Plus, although she can read the newspaper fine, she had troubles with the printing on the buttons, because most of them blend into the remote casing.

    That wasn’t the only “vision” problem, either. The reason I bought the Harmony is that I liked the idea of macros. It has functions like “Watch TV” and “Watch a DVD” that I thought would make things easier for her. Boy, was I wrong. The buttons worked, but it was hard for her to see the labels, because the LCD screen is pure crap! Logitech has done the same thing that every manufacturer does and made an LCD screen where the black lettering barely stands out from the blue background. I can barely see the thing myself.

    So, I tried to teach her how to operate the thing, but she just kept making those subtle “mom” comments like, “I really appreciate it, but I just wish the buttons were bigger” and “Which button do I push to play a DVD again?” I took the hint and told her I would find something else.

    Back to the drawing board. The next day I got an email from X10.com that said that they were testing a new remote called the iconRemote. It looked like it would work, so I decided to give it a try. They were only releasing 100 to customers, but I was one of the lucky few. (I had my mom sign up too, so we could both get one.) It does a lot of what the Harmony does, only much better. It solved all my mom’s problems and has some awesome features that we didn’t even know we wanted.

    The major issue was solved – my mom can actually see this remote! Call me crazy, but that seems kind of important to me. The iconremote is laid out much better and the buttons are big and easy to see. Plus, the LCD screen is full color, which solved the visibility issue there, too. And, when I say full color, I mean FULL color. It’s like a mini plasma screen!

    After I set it to control the TV, DVD player, and Stereo in the living room, I still had plenty of room for my mom’s kitchen and bedroom televisions. She loves this remote so much that she carries it with her all over the house. Plus, the iconRemote has a bunch of other cool features, too . . .

    Like the Harmony, the iconRemote has an easy to follow set up Wizard, but the iconRemote never needs to be hooked to a computer. It has every code built in. I even had my mom set it up and she had no problem at all. So, when she changes the batteries, I won’t have to come running back to her place so that she can watch her soap-operas.

    Also like the Harmony, the iconRemote has macros, but the iconRemote lets you program them to do whatever you want them to. You’re not limited to 4 preprogrammed macros like “Watch DVD”. I have set up all sorts of different functions for her, which means I don’t get nearly as many “tech-support” phone calls as I used to.

    Here is the big difference: It has a feature that lets you pick all of your favorite channels and display their logos (NBC, ESPN, etc.) on the LCD screen. When you want to change channels, you push a button next to the screen and then the channel jumps to whatever logo you pressed. I don’t have to skip through the crappy channels anymore, unless I want to. I programmed all of my mom’s favorites into her remote and she skips from Oxygen to Lifetime to whatever she wants with the corresponding button. I have mine set up for my favorites, and I even have profiles set up for my wife, a kid-safe one set up for our son, and one set up for the babysitter. You can set up to 10 custom profiles, including a HIS and a HERS button right above the display. It’s like a “his and hers remote”!

    The iconRemote blows the Harmony out of the water, or, rather, out of the living room! It is easier to set up, to see, and to use. Sorry, Logitech, but next time, maybe you should put some actual thought into your design process like X10 did.

    The iconRemote isn’t for sale to the public yet, but there is an email list for updates and info at: http://www.X10iconRemote.com . It looks like it will be on sale soon.

    There is also a Knowledge Base at:

  13. Cool Gadgets said, on April 16, 2007 at 7:08 am

    ya,,,your right i think its now the best remote of today….very innovative

  14. […] my review of my Logitech Harmony 628 […]

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