Suitable replacement for a Harmony 890? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 07-15-2014, 07:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Suitable replacement for a Harmony 890?

I've had a Harmony 890 for years now. Buttons have died over time and I remapped them to the soft-buttons, but now enough are dead (including soft ones) that it's becoming difficult to deal with. Can anyone recommend a good replacement setup? The newer Harmony ones almost seem like steps backwards.

My setup:
  • TV and receiver in main room, currently controlled via IR from the 890 itself.
    • HDMI and SPDIF come from the main cabinet.
  • TV and soundbar in a second room, currently controller via IR from the 890 itself.
    • HDMI and SPDIF come from the main cabinet.
  • Device cabinet with RF->IR containing
    • Monoprice 4x2 matrix HDMI switch, controlled by one port of the RF->IR
    • Inday 4x SPDIF switch, controlled by one port of the RF->IR
    • DirecTV HR21, controlled by one port of the RF->IR
    • DirecTV tivo, controlled by one port of the RF->IR
    • DuneHD, controlled by one port of the RF->IR
    • Xbox360, controlled by one port of the RF->IR

So I just carry the remote from room to room when I want to watch in one or the other.


Looking at the Harmony Ultimate, a couple things bother me:
  • Only 2 IR blaster ports on the base station, and the cable shown has just a single end. My current harmony base has 4 outputs and each cable has 2 IR emitters. I could probably get by with 2 outputs if I could reuse my 2x emitter cables. Are they compatible? Otherwise my 2 DTV receivers share the same command set and it'll really mess things up.
  • No numeric keypad. That feels like an oversight on their part.

With the Harmony Smart, I get the numeric pad back, which is nice. It looks like the same base station, so I'd have the same concerns about the IR blaster outputs. Hopefully they are compatible with my existing cables and I can reuse those. But for this to work I'd want to get 2 of the remotes and 1 base station. That way I'd set up one remote for each room. However I can't find the remote sold as a stand alone. Is it even possible to buy a 2nd remote-only and use 2 remotes with 1 base station?

If not one of those, any suggestions for an alternative? I looked at some of the URC ones, but the popular ones all seem to be discontinued. Am I stuck buying a discontinued Harmony 890 to just exactly replace what I have right now?
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post #2 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 06:10 PM
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I replaced my Harmony remote with Vectir PC Remote Control and two USBUIRT devices. I am controlling all of this from my Nexus 7 tablet. You also need the Vectir PC remote control Android app. With the Vectir PC software you can create your own custom remotes, record IR codes from all of your IR devices and map them to virtual buttons. The Vectir app is also available for Windows Phone and BlackBerry but not sure about iOS.

Last edited by oceansbounty; 07-19-2014 at 06:20 PM.
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post #3 of 9 Old 07-20-2014, 12:04 PM
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Interesting but nothing like an 890. URC and Xsight work like the 890 and have physical buttons the OP wants.
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post #4 of 9 Old 07-22-2014, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestions.

After some more reading I learned that the Harmony Smart can't do IR from the remote itself, so a pair of those with a single hub wasn't going to work. Also, they don't yet support using 2 with 1 hub and don't sell the remote separately. Supposedly that is a work in progress, but no ETA.

The URCs that are most recommended are all discontinued, so it feels iffy going with them.

I guess I will just order a Harmony Ultimate and see if the lack of number pad really bothers me that much. Fortunately I did find that you can use the older 2-IR output cables if you buy a 3.5-to-2.5 adapter, so I think I can work out a configuration that will cover what I need.

Edit to add:
The CS rep from Logitech said I could definitely transfer my 890 setup to the Ultimate in the software. I was concerned because their website only talks about transferring from One to Ultimate, with no mention of the older models. I'll have to wait till the Ultimate gets here to see if the CS rep was right or not.
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-23-2014, 10:14 AM
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Personally I don't like the layout of the Ultimate. The most used buttons (FF etc) are directly over the screen, which means I have change my grip frequently and keep inadvertently hitting the screen. The number buttons don't bother me since I cannot remember the Station numbers anyway and thus use the Favorite or the PVR Guide. The Smart I really like if it weren't for the fact there's no lighting and I kept hitting the wrong button on the hand held, in the dark. The Hub based remotes are too dependent on the router and can be flaky although, in the Ultimate, you can disable WiFi.

The 900 is still my favorite remote with "minor" flaws. Slight delays after pressing the buttons and no sequences, which I never use anyhow.
Logitech, IMO, should have stuck with the 900 and One design
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post #6 of 9 Old 08-25-2014, 06:24 PM - Thread Starter
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I've been using a Harmony Ultimate for about 3 weeks now, so I figured it was time to follow up and do a mini-review of sorts.

Short version: If I had it to do over again I'd buy a used/refurb 890 rather than the Ultimate. Since I already programed and put the Ultimate in place, I'm too lazy to return it and start over again. As a result I'll live with the various issues until I see a remote that is better by enough to switch. But if you're in a similar situation you should look elsewhere.

Long version of pros and cons:
  • Pro: It was relatively easy to do the basic setup, and since it supports updating over WiFi I no longer have to move the base+remote next to my PC to update them. This is quite nice.
  • Con: Although Logitech does attempt to import 890 settings into Ultimate, it doesn't entirely work. For a couple devices per activity it lost the input setting. As a result I wound up stepping through each device and activity one by one to make everything right. I might as well have started fresh and it would've taken about the same amount of time.
  • Con: The IR codes for my HDMI switch (Monoprice Matrix 4x2) in the Ultimate software were not correct, even though it is listed as supported and was found in the database. I had to dig out the original remote and teach it the commands. I don't recall having to do that for the 890, which is odd. You would think they'd have the same database of codes.
  • Pro: I had no problems using 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapters and using my existing IR blasters. That meant I didn't have to remove and replace them. I thought having only 2 outputs (vs 4 on the 890 base) would be an issue but I figured out how to make due with just the 2.
  • Con: As insync44 said, the layout is poor. The 2 rows of FF/REW/PLAY/STOP buttons on top should be swapped with the 2 rows of DVR/GUIDE/INFO/R/G/Y/B at the bottom. It would be more intuitive, as it puts PLAY/etc right near the channel/volume/arrows. You're much more likely to use those all together and will more rarely use the others. A big annoyance for me is that OFF is directly above REW. More than a few times I have picked up the remote to hit REW for back-8-seconds and accidentally hit OFF instead. You realize it the instant you do it, but you can't take it back. So instead of jumping back to hear the dialog you missed, you sit there for a few minutes while everything gets turned back on and you get back to where you were. *Very* annoying. You also cannot remap the OFF button. If you could, I would make a short press do nothing and require a long press to actually turn things off.
  • Con: Battery life for the Ultimate is shorter than the 890 remote. 890 would go 4-7 days or more on a charge with my typical use. Ultimate rarely makes it 4 days.
  • Con: The range of the Ultimate remote seems to be a bit shorter than the 890 remote. In the setup I described in the OP, the two rooms are about 20-30 feet apart. When in the 2nd room there are frequently issues where the remote can't talk to the hub. Sometimes this gets reported on the screen, but other times it just sits there trying to do something (like start/stop an activity). Once it gets in that state, no button presses are allowed and even physically taking the remote next to the hub doesn't help. You have to hold OFF for ~10 seconds to hard-shutdown the remote and reboot it. This caused other battery issues, because on occasion this would happen when I was turning everything off and if I didn't notice it got stuck (most things, TV/AV, were off), the remote would sit in this state quickly draining the battery. Perhaps the 890 had the same range issues (sometimes I'd have to press a button multiple times), but the 2-way communication used in the Ultimate creates situations where the remote is left in a broken state and needs rebooting. I probably have to forcefully reboot every 1-2 days.
  • Con: Gestures seem like a useless feature. Why would anyone want to swipe their finger up a screen to do channel or volume up when there are buttons right there for it? I would rather they spent the development time for that on making it more stable and improving the layout.
  • Pro: Can be charged with a standard USB cable. I have these in plenty of places around the apartment, so that makes it easy. This is good given how relatively short the battery life has been.
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Any updated recommendations for users with an Harmony 890 that's buttons are done?
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post #8 of 9 Unread Today, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomas21 View Post
Any updated recommendations for users with an Harmony 890 that's buttons are done?
Similar thread with some recommendations. But no, nothing has really changed in the past few years.

Harmony 890 died, suggest a replacement remote please
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post #9 of 9 Unread Today, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdavej View Post
Similar thread with some recommendations. But no, nothing has really changed in the past few years.

Harmony 890 died, suggest a replacement remote please
Thanks.. I'll look into the
Acoustic Research ARRX18G XSight 18-Device Universal Learning Remote Control with Touchscreen Color Display
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