Saturday, December 24, 2005

Remote Review

So I picked up a Logitech Harmony 520 remote control, as some other users of the system cannot learn how to set inputs correctly, or make sure that various devices are off or on.

It works great, and duplicates every single button on the various remotes. It's also smart enough to control the channels on the TV (cable card so no box) and the volume on the receiver at the same time. You hit a button that says: "Watch TV" and it sets everything up. The same is true for "Watch a DVD" and "Watch VCR." All use different TV inputs, 2 use different AV inputs, and it even mimics the on-screen TV Guide buttons. Alas, this is after I spent around 10 hours setting the thing up.

The software is the worst I have ever tried to use, for anything. They force a lot of unnecessary network traffic since Logitech apparently enjoys wasting my day, and they make sure to have the software bog down even when there is no need for any sort of network traffic at all.

At times it takes 5 minutes for a page to come up where I can set some button options. Then it takes 5 minutes to sync with the remote over the USB connection. Then it has to be repeated, since it randomly forgets things. After about 50 cycles and some button learning it's fine, but those 50 cycles took forever between the horribly slow software and the lethargic USB updates.

Another time factor was in the remote's uncanny desire to do the opposite of what you want the very first time after an update, forcing you to walk through the remote's built-in "fix things" interface. That's pretty neat, though "Did that fix it?" after it sends some secret IR codes to the systems isn't a very helpful message. After a few trials of that after each update I was able to find out what else I needed to set.

Another issue is that when I had to enter my device part numbers (so it would know how to set itself up), the sample codes it gave for each manufacturer were exactly what I had. Apparently everyone with my setup has a 50" DLP from Samsung, the exact model receiver from Yamaha, and the same (and very old) DVD/VCR combo thing. Given this, it made no sense that I had to spend so much time manually teaching it different commands. But oh well, the thing works now.

After it's set up, the remote is terrific, and I'd rate it (in working order) as being a 10/10. The software is a -14 on a scale of 1 to good, though, and actually makes me happy that I didn't buy one of the costlier models (like the $250 880). I would have been very irritated dealing with something that bad that cost that much, regardless of its ability to save headaches in the future.

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