Is the Harmony Smart Control right for me? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-14-2014, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking for advice, left to my own devices I've just about talked myself into the Harmony Smart Control for my Living Room system.

One of my concerns is about apps on Smart devices; the Harmony Smart Control site talks about access to Netflix through a Gaming Console - can I assume the same is true for smart Blu-Ray players?

These are the devices I'd want to program (the Harmony Site shows them all to be compatible):
Plasma HDTV: TC-P50S2 Panasonic (remote code: 1111)
Cable BOX: Motorola DCH6200
Apple TV
Blu-Ray: Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Blu-Ray
Marantz NR1602 AVR

I want to use both Apple and Android devices as the main control.

I want to be able to access the Netflix app on the Blu-Ray like it shows on the commercial with a "Watch Netflix" button (or something similar). I'd like a similar one-touch access to the Pandora and YouTube apps. Can the one-touch icons/buttons navigate learn the various "steps" involved in navigating the smart-apps on devices? Do these one-touch buttons also power-on the devices if necessary - what if the device is already on - is it smart-enough to know? (no pun intended) smile.gif

I'm hoping this remove will solve various problems:
1) I hate the Marantz remote, I'd want the smart control to completely replace it if possible.
2) I want to consolidate the 3 remotes I currently use into one device (TV, Blu-Ray, Marantz remotes)
3) I want access from an iPad, iPhone and Android phone.
4) I'd really like one-touch controls that can perform multiple functions, like source switching and volume control.

Is the Harmony Smart Control right for me?
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post #2 of 16 Old 01-15-2014, 07:55 AM
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The following applies to most decent universal remotes, including Smart and it's companion app. It should help you understand how they work so you can make a decision.
  • Access every function from every remote, plus a few discrete power and input functions which may not appear on your original remote
  • Assign any function or macro to any button
  • Key group mapping (in a given state, map groups of keys to different devices, i.e., vol keys to an AVR, playback keys to a BD player, menu keys to a TV)
  • Learn commands from any IR remote
  • Macros. These are sequences of commands that run from a single button press. "Watch TV", for example, is what Harmony calls an Activity macro. It would send power and input commands to each device involved and map the key groups accordingly.

Within the constraints above, you can see that, if your original remote has a Netflix button, your Smart can too. The only reason Logitech stresses Netflix on a gaming console is that most other remotes can't control gaming consoles like the PS3 at all because it's bluetooth rather than IR.

If you original remote has arrow buttons to navigate, then the Smart can too. I don't know what One-Touch buttons are. I assume they refer to sequence macros. Those cannot be learned, rather you specify the steps. For example, if you want to make a "Pandora" sequence, perform the steps manually and remember or write them down, then put those steps in your sequence. So if the steps are Home, Streaming, up, down, left, right, select, then that's what you put in your sequence. A "Pandora" activity would be a little different. It would power on your devices and select the correct inputs as well, then perform the steps above. That's the main difference between a sequence macro (One-Touch?), and an Activity macro, the power and input commands (and key group mapping).

There are a couple of ways for a remote to be smart enough to know if a device is already on. One way is to use discrete power commands. All the devices you listed except your cable box has discrete power commands available. In this case the remote doesn't need to remember if a device is on or not. Sending multiple ON commands will always turn a device on and never back off. Another way is what I call state tracking. In the case of your cable box, which only has a power toggle, sending that command to a device that's already on will turn it back off. In this case the remote sets a bit to remember it just sent a power toggle to turn the device on. When there is another request to turn the device on, the remote checks that bit. If it's already set, it won't send power toggle again.

The Smart meets all your criteria. So do some other remotes. The Smart would not work for me because I don't want to rely on my phone to control certain functions. I like to be able to access every command and macro on my remote. That's a personal preference. I also don't like the fact that the Smart has no IR capability. Everything it controls must be line of sight with the hub. I don't like the fact that Smart has no display for additional commands. I realize the phone app serves this function, but unlike you, I don't want to use my phone. I find using any remote I have to look at to use to be a distraction. My philosophy is a remote should be a tool that you don't even think about, like the gear shift in a car. You never have to look at or think about the gear shift. You know what it does by feel and can operate it without thinking. Changing gears by touch screen would be cool, but it would take your attention away from the task of driving. It's nice to be able to do just about everything on your phone. But some tasks are better suited to a dedicated, single purpose device.

But getting off my soapbox now, the Smart looks like it will do exactly what you want. Just realize you have to build your sequences rather than learn them.
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post #3 of 16 Old 01-16-2014, 05:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Wow, thanks for such a great reply!

Macros and sequences, yes that's what I meant by the "one touch buttons". Discrete power - I wasn't understanding what that meant - so thanks again. You have alleviated many of my concerns. I've only had cheap "Universal" remotes that did little more than power, channel and volume - so I'm really looking forward to the power that these kinds of remotes can give. Perhaps, finally, I can really just use one remote.

But, according to the website, the Smart Control does not need to be in line-of-sight:
The Harmony Hub also allows you to control home theater devices located behind cabinets or walls. You don’t have to point your mobile phone or remote at your devices anymore. You don’t even have to be in the same room.

I'm not sure "How" it does that (IR/Wi-Fi/???), but I assume it's true. I don't need this feature immediately but I plan to put things in a cabinet out-of-sight and I'm hoping this will allow me to do that - as advertised.
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post #4 of 16 Old 01-16-2014, 06:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CubicleCrusher View Post

But, according to the website, the Smart Control does not need to be in line-of-sight:
The Harmony Hub also allows you to control home theater devices located behind cabinets or walls. You don’t have to point your mobile phone or remote at your devices anymore. You don’t even have to be in the same room.

I'm not sure "How" it does that (IR/Wi-Fi/???), but I assume it's true. I don't need this feature immediately but I plan to put things in a cabinet out-of-sight and I'm hoping this will allow me to do that - as advertised.
I said the "hub" (or blasters) needed line of sight, not the remote. The Smart can't send IR itself. For example, if you have the hub in your cabinet, and you point the Smart at the TV in front of you, it won't work. The hub or a blaster has to be line of sight with everything you want to control.

As for discrete commands, they do only one thing. A toggle does two things. An input command does lots of things. Send power toggle twice, and your device turns on and back off. Send discrete ON twice and your device turns on and stays on. Send input 3 times, your device goes from HDMI 1 to 2 to 3. Send discrete HDMI 2 three times, your device goes directly to HDMI 2 and stays. That's the beauty of discretes. They're not on your original remotes, but they're often in the Harmony database and your devices will respond to them. The behavior of discretes makes your macros 100% reliable and repeatable no matter what state your device is currently in.

Most cheap remotes are very limited as you said, but some cheap remotes, like JP1, are very powerful and even more sophisticated than Harmony. That's why I use JP1 instead of Harmony, for the price and programmability. I'm not suggesting you do that, but just letting you know that not all cheap remotes are created equal.
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post #5 of 16 Old 01-17-2014, 04:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Well, I went for it and purchased the Smart Control.

The simple remote is very simple - but I like that. My wife, for example, has little interest besides turning on the TV and adjusting channels/volume - she uses Air Play to my Marantz for her music. So far it's fitting the bill.

I've installed the android app for my phone, and that's really robust! I'm learning how to work the macros, but was quickly able to set up basic functions like "Watch TV" and "BluRay". I now have to navigate deeper with the macros and figure out how to program settings that will mimic functions like the "Surround" button that changes surround sound modes and the "Netflix" button on my BluRay remote.

But I only had 30 minutes to play with it yesterday, and I found it very encouraging!

Thanks again for all the input!
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post #6 of 16 Old 09-02-2014, 12:01 PM
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Wondering if this Harmony Smart is about to be replaced. Amazon and Logitech still list it, but BandH says it is discontinued and Crutchfield says it is out of stock and they don't know when they're going to get more.

Last edited by bernie33; 09-02-2014 at 12:02 PM. Reason: clarity
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post #7 of 16 Old 09-03-2014, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bernie33 View Post
Wondering if this Harmony Smart is about to be replaced. Amazon and Logitech still list it, but BandH says it is discontinued and Crutchfield says it is out of stock and they don't know when they're going to get more.
Good catch bernie33 -- B&H are simply no longer an authorized Harmony re seller. The Smart Control is alive and well

______________________________________________
I am an employee of Logitech's Harmony division.
Click here to join the Harmony Beta Community!
For questions, help or support, please visit Harmony's support site
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post #8 of 16 Old 09-04-2014, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
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And...I'll add...that it has been a great fit for me.

I use the basic remote a lot - "most of the time" even. I find it easy to configure and customize. I use my cell-phone to control volume and power functions when I'm not in the same room. I still have some troubles with the volume control as it doesn't always work, but for the most part this can fully replace the other 4 remotes I was using in rotation.
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post #9 of 16 Old 09-08-2014, 10:54 AM
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Would you recommend a specific remote to control a Denon X4000, Sony VPL-HW50ES, LG LED TV, and Comcast Cable Box (ran through an Xbox One).
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post #10 of 16 Old 09-08-2014, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ebase131 View Post
Would you recommend a specific remote to control a Denon X4000, Sony VPL-HW50ES, LG LED TV, and Comcast Cable Box (ran through an Xbox One).
Well, not really - but I can point you to the Harmony Device checker so you can see if the Harmony remotes support your existing devices.

A quick check revealed it at least supported your Denon and Sony. If you have model numbers you can check those other devices too.
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post #11 of 16 Old 09-09-2014, 08:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CubicleCrusher View Post
Well, not really - but I can point you to the Harmony Device checker so you can see if the Harmony remotes support your existing devices.

A quick check revealed it at least supported your Denon and Sony. If you have model numbers you can check those other devices too.
When people say you need to "program" some of these remotes, are we talking you need to be a computer programmer to figure this out? Or can the average Joe HT figure it out with minimal efforts? Or does it depend on the device?
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post #12 of 16 Old 09-09-2014, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Ebase131 View Post
When people say you need to "program" some of these remotes, are we talking you need to be a computer programmer to figure this out? Or can the average Joe HT figure it out with minimal efforts? Or does it depend on the device?
Harmony is very simple to program. Just follow the prompts and answer a few questions. Their simplicity is the reason for their popularity. This is actually a disadvantage for those of us who want advanced programming capabilities, which Harmony lacks.

If you intend to do a lot of customization, it gets more complicated, but not much. If there is an easier remote to program than Harmony, I don't know what it is.

If you get one, and it's still over your head, the Geek Squad will be glad to program it for you, although you could do a much better job yourself.

By the way, all the devices you listed work fine on Harmony. Cable through the Xbox One will be a little tricky to set up on the Harmony, but you can do it.
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post #13 of 16 Old 09-09-2014, 10:39 AM
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Harmony is very simple to program. Just follow the prompts and answer a few questions. Their simplicity is the reason for their popularity. This is actually a disadvantage for those of us who want advanced programming capabilities, which Harmony lacks.

If you intend to do a lot of customization, it gets more complicated, but not much. If there is an easier remote to program than Harmony, I don't know what it is.

If you get one, and it's still over your head, the Geek Squad will be glad to program it for you, although you could do a much better job yourself.

By the way, all the devices you listed work fine on Harmony. Cable through the Xbox One will be a little tricky to set up on the Harmony, but you can do it.
What type of customization would we be talking about here? Any real world examples of situations where a Harmony remote won't cut it?
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post #14 of 16 Old 09-09-2014, 11:11 AM
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What type of customization would we be talking about here?
Dragging and dropping some extra functions to different buttons or different places on the screen. Adding extra commands to the start/end of activity macros (i.e., to go straight to a Pandora app with one button press). Making sequences (macros) to perform other complex tasks with a single button press (toggling PIP on a DirecTV receiver, for example - normally 11 steps). Importing channel logos.

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Any real world examples of situations where a Harmony remote won't cut it?
Harmony doesn't cut it if you need variables, branching, two-way communication, custom protocols, signal analysis, global macros, pronto hex import, custom icons for commands. Example, if the volume level on your receiver is greater than 30%, lower it to 10% and raise the lights when you press a button, otherwise do nothing. That sort of thing. If you don't know what any of the above stuff is, then you won't miss it when you get a Harmony.

Basic stuff, Harmony does fine - turning groups of devices on and off and switching inputs, mapping groups of buttons to certain devices, performing simple macros (up to 25 steps I think).

Harmony would work for most of what I do, but simply don't like jumping through hoops to get there. For example, to add an extra input command to an activity macro on Harmony, you have to teach the command to another remote, learn it back under a different name, then add it. On my JP1 remote, I just add the command. My hands aren't tied. I can also save a lot of programming time by using global macros, which Harmony can't do. For example, if I want the same 20 step sequence (macro) in 10 different activities, on Harmony I have to program it 10 times (that 200 steps). With my JP1 remotes, I program it once and can use it anywhere. If I need to import pronto hex codes or make a custom protocol, I can easily do that myself with JP1, not so with Harmony. If I need to add my receiver's zone 3 commands, I change a single byte on my JP1 remote in about 5 seconds. But with Harmony, I must go through the setup wizard, verify commands and maybe even learn 100 new commands if they aren't in Logitech's database.

Harmony has improved a lot though. Until just a few months ago, the longest sequence macro you could write was 5 steps, and some models couldn't do sequences at all. Now those limitations are gone on current models. But they've inexplicably introduced new limitations, as in my input example above.

For most systems, Harmony is plenty.
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post #15 of 16 Old 09-09-2014, 11:32 AM
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Dragging and dropping some extra functions to different buttons or different places on the screen. Adding extra commands to the start/end of activity macros (i.e., to go straight to a Pandora app with one button press). Making sequences (macros) to perform other complex tasks with a single button press (toggling PIP on a DirecTV receiver, for example - normally 11 steps). Importing channel logos.

Harmony doesn't cut it if you need variables, branching, two-way communication, custom protocols, signal analysis, global macros, pronto hex import, custom icons for commands. Example, if the volume level on your receiver is greater than 30%, lower it to 10% and raise the lights when you press a button, otherwise do nothing. That sort of thing. If you don't know what any of the above stuff is, then you won't miss it when you get a Harmony.

Basic stuff, Harmony does fine - turning groups of devices on and off and switching inputs, mapping groups of buttons to certain devices, performing simple macros (up to 25 steps I think).

Harmony would work for most of what I do, but simply don't like jumping through hoops to get there. For example, to add an extra input command to an activity macro on Harmony, you have to teach the command to another remote, learn it back under a different name, then add it. On my JP1 remote, I just add the command. My hands aren't tied. I can also save a lot of programming time by using global macros, which Harmony can't do. For example, if I want the same 20 step sequence (macro) in 10 different activities, on Harmony I have to program it 10 times (that 200 steps). With my JP1 remotes, I program it once and can use it anywhere. If I need to import pronto hex codes or make a custom protocol, I can easily do that myself with JP1, not so with Harmony. If I need to add my receiver's zone 3 commands, I change a single byte on my JP1 remote in about 5 seconds. But with Harmony, I must go through the setup wizard, verify commands and maybe even learn 100 new commands if they aren't in Logitech's database.

Harmony has improved a lot though. Until just a few months ago, the longest sequence macro you could write was 5 steps, and some models couldn't do sequences at all. Now those limitations are gone on current models. But they've inexplicably introduced new limitations, as in my input example above.

For most systems, Harmony is plenty.

Very interesting. Thank you for the detailed reply. I am not sure my system is sophisticated enough to require such things, but at the same time, it might be good to have as an option. I am also not looking to spend $1000 on a fancy Harmony remote at this time anyway. The biggest pain right now is switching the zone 1 and zone 2 outputs from my X4000 quickly and so far I have not found a better way to do it than changing Zone 1 to a 3rd output, then selecting the output previous in zone 1 into zone 2, then selecting the previously output zone 2 signal as zone 1. Needless to say, kind of annoying and cumbersome, but I can do it in about 5 to 10 seconds. It'd be nice to speed it up, especially for Football Sundays when I want to switch one game on a side TV to the main projector where the sound is if something exciting is happening.

Adjusting volume and adjusting projector picture settings would also be nice to compile all into one remote. As it is now, with multiple xbox 360s running side TVs as well, I probably need to keep as many as 7 or 8 different remotes/controllers near me at any one time to adjust volume, channels on media extenders, input sources, zone allocation, projector picture settings, cable box channel, and possibly more. Since the setup is new, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to bring it all together into one remote and what's appropriate for my needs. Wouldn't need to control lighting, at least not at this stage.
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post #16 of 16 Old 09-09-2014, 12:16 PM
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No need to spend $1000 or even get a $100 Harmony. A $10 universal (like the JP1 remote I mentioned) can do everything you listed and more, but isn't as easy to program as Harmony and probably doesn't have the styling you'd want in a high end home theater.

In any case I wouldn't recommend the Smart Control since is has no LCD display for all those extra functions and no IR for local control. A cheap 650 will suffice as will the higher end Touch or Ultimate. I recommend you get your feet wet with a 650. If/when you outgrow it, move it to a bedroom and get a Touch.

If your heart isn't set on Harmony, the best value by far is an Xsight Touch from ebay for about $30. Programming is very similar to Harmony, and it's 18 device, rechargeable, touchscreen and RF with optional base. These were $250 remotes originally and functionally equivalent to the old Harmony 900. I have several of them.
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