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Selecting the right Harmony

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I just picked up a Harmony 676 to replace a 550. Feature-wise, the 550 is great. Does just about everything I wanted it to do. But comfort-wise, it stinks. The remote is uncomfortable to hold, the layout is not very intuitive, and the buttons are tiny and some of them click.

The 676 is better. But, it has some negatives as well the biggest being:

1) Can't change the order that activities appear on the remote LCD screen. It seems to randomly order them. The 550 had a "reorder activities" feature in the software. The 676 doesn't give you this feature even though it's the same software. So you might have to scroll thru 3 screens on the remote just to get to "Watch TV". If that's the thing you do the most it gets old

2) The 4 way round thing around the OK/Sel button clicks! Arg, this thing is comfortable and the buttons are good, except this stupid round 4-way thing. click-click-click! Finger fatigue.

I saw the 670 at CC, I like the layout even better than the 676 but again there is a turd round clicking thing around the ok button.

So now I'm considering the 659. From the pictures, the buttons all look soft, I don't see any hard clicking buttons - can anyone confirm? What about activities can I order them how I want? The buttons look like a harder plastic than the 676, but are the 659 buttons still comfortable and easy to press without making noise?

I've already ruled out the 880+ - I don't want a rechargable remote. Besides, the buttons on those monsters look even less inviting than the 550.

Thanks for any suggestions.
post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmytop View Post

I just picked up a Harmony 676 to replace a 550. Feature-wise, the 550 is great. Does just about everything I wanted it to do. But comfort-wise, it stinks. The remote is uncomfortable to hold, the layout is not very intuitive, and the buttons are tiny and some of them click.

The 676 is better. But, it has some negatives as well the biggest being:

1) Can't change the order that activities appear on the remote LCD screen. It seems to randomly order them. The 550 had a "reorder activities" feature in the software. The 676 doesn't give you this feature even though it's the same software. So you might have to scroll thru 3 screens on the remote just to get to "Watch TV". If that's the thing you do the most it gets old

2) The 4 way round thing around the OK/Sel button clicks! Arg, this thing is comfortable and the buttons are good, except this stupid round 4-way thing. click-click-click! Finger fatigue.

I saw the 670 at CC, I like the layout even better than the 676 but again there is a turd round clicking thing around the ok button.

So now I'm considering the 659. From the pictures, the buttons all look soft, I don't see any hard clicking buttons - can anyone confirm? What about activities can I order them how I want? The buttons look like a harder plastic than the 676, but are the 659 buttons still comfortable and easy to press without making noise?

I've already ruled out the 880+ - I don't want a rechargable remote. Besides, the buttons on those monsters look even less inviting than the 550.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Do not understand your desire to reorder the activities. The software default is to put the "Watch TV" on one of the four buttons at the top. So you do not even have to go to the LCD to select three activites along with the 4th button displaying all the activities on the lcd screen. There is an option to put any activity on any one of the buttons. If you haven't discovered this feature, just give it a try. Sounds like it would solve your first issue.

I don't like the center control of the 676 either but have gotten use to it.

Don't think you will like the 659 if you are controlling a Tivo or other DVR. The transport buttons are at the bottom of the remote and difficult to manage.
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmcewin View Post

Do not understand your desire to reorder the activities. The software default is to put the "Watch TV" on one of the four buttons at the top. So you do not even have to go to the LCD to select three activites along with the 4th button displaying all the activities on the lcd screen. There is an option to put any activity on any one of the buttons. If you haven't discovered this feature, just give it a try. Sounds like it would solve your first issue.

I don't like the center control of the 676 either but have gotten use to it.

Don't think you will like the 659 if you are controlling a Tivo or other DVR. The transport buttons are at the bottom of the remote and difficult to manage.

I see what you mean about the top 4 buttons. Having come from the 550 which had all the activities in the LCD screen (no separate activity buttons), I was not used to using the buttons at all so was just ignoring them on the 676.... But I will try your suggestion and see if I can get used to that. Thanks
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmytop View Post

I've already ruled out the 880+ - I don't want a rechargable remote. Besides, the buttons on those monsters look even less inviting than the 550.

Well, I'm at the point of taking out my frustrations with the 880 using a hammer. So yes, I will confirm that one of its many issues is horrible horrible buttons. Why oh why won't URC make a <$300 IR remote with variables? If they did, there would be no reason for anyone to ever buy a Harmony.
post #5 of 15
^^^ YOu need to check out a JP1 remote.

Just think, variables for under ~$50

Alos, I'd recommend the 659 or the 670. I've programmed and used many 659s. People say they don't like the DVD controls beiong at the bottom, but I have not problem with this.
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by poormanq45 View Post

^^^ YOu need to check out a JP1 remote.

Just think, variables for under ~$50

I can't find a hard button JP1 remote that has 8-10 soft keys with multiple pages that I also need to configure in each "activity". If you know of one, please, please, please point me at it.

Dave
post #7 of 15
Hahah. How many functions are you actually needing?

Example: Lets say you're watching a DVD. What would you like control of?

Here's what I see. All Play functions. Volume for Receiver. What else? You can make a macro that has the receiver go into a certain sound mode if that's what you're thinking.

Or if you absolutely need it you could use some spare buttons that most JP1 remotes have for direct sub adjustments(if your receiver has it).

Is this what you're thinking?

Let me know what all you're looking for

*edit* BTW, on a JP1 remote EVERY button is a soft key. If you want the number keys to control sound modes for the receiver when in DVD mode you can do it.
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by poormanq45 View Post

*edit* BTW, on a JP1 remote EVERY button is a soft key. If you want the number keys to control sound modes for the receiver when in DVD mode you can do it.

BTW, when I use "soft key" I mean it in the typical device sense (like your cell phone manual uses it and such). Here are the terms I use:
hard button/key - a physical button with printed text.
soft button/key - a button or touch screen icon with programmable text.
programmable button - a button which can be programmed to send any code.
nonprogrammable button - a button which cannot be programmed to send any code.
macro enabled button - a button which can initiate a macro.
variable - a boolean variable that can save state information (is device A on, are the lights off, etc).

As you will see when you read my requirements, a URC MX-950 would fit them perfectly, but that is too pricey for me to buy two of (for the wife/babysitter I like the same remote in the theater and family room).

Quote:
Originally Posted by poormanq45 View Post

Hahah. How many functions are you actually needing?

Example: Lets say you're watching a DVD. What would you like control of?

Here's what I see. All Play functions. Volume for Receiver. What else? You can make a macro that has the receiver go into a certain sound mode if that's what you're thinking.

Let me know what all you're looking for

What drove my VERY unwillingly to the Harmony (what a piece of junk) was the need to make the systems simple for my wife (although she doesn't really need this, it stops her from complaining ) and the babysitter (they need this as I figured out when I sat down to write two pages of instructions on how to use the MX-600 to control the system downstairs).

I do appreciate the help, so here goes.

Let's take the "Watch FiOS" "activity" for the family room system. This is the macro that needs to run on "activity" entry:
1) If the STB is not on, turn it on (TOAD device, so state must be preserved).
2) Turn on receiver.
3) Turn on TV.
4) Set receiver to proper input
5) Set TV to proper input (input cycle device, so input state must be preserved).

These are the minimum functions that need to be active on the remote at one time in an intuitive way (most common ones should be there, uncommon ones should be an intuitive single click away):
DVR/tuner control:
1) Transport keys for the DVR
a) play
b) rew
c) ff
d) pause
e) rec
2) Skip (30 second skip forward).
3) Replay (8 second skip back).
4) Guide
5) Info
6) Exit
7) List (list of recorded content).
8) Live (jump to current broadcast position)
8) 4 arrow keys.
9) OK/Select
10) The number pad sending the numbers
11) previous channel
12) VOD (video on demand)
Receiver control
13) Volume +
14) Volume -
15) Mute
16) Night Mode
Lighting Control
17) Dim lights
18) Raise lights

That's 34 buttons that should be labeled appropriately.

The nice to haves:
Receiver Control:
1) 3 sound processing mode buttons
Channel Access:
2) 16+ favorite channel direct access buttons.
3) Ceiling fan speed

URC remotes that cost less than the MX-950 can't handle the activity entry script but they can do everything else. The best they can do is leave the TOAD device on all the time (which I don't like) and have a button for you to cycle through the inputs (not user or babysitter friendly).

So, I have the Harmony 880 doing this like this:
1) Pushing the "Watch FiOS" button runs the entry script without a problem.
2) The remote contains hard buttons with appropriated labels for everything above except these (which are on the buttons next to the LCD appropriately labeled):
Page 1:
a) Recorded Programs (this is the "List" function but "Recorded Programs" is more babysitter friendly)
b) Live
c) VOD
d) Raise Lights
e) Dim Lights
f) Night Mode
g) Fan Speed +
h) Fan Speed -
Page 2:
a) Dolby/DTS
b) THX
c) Extended Surround
d) Lights - Fav (scene 1 for the lighting control)
3) Pushing the Media button gives access to a page of 8 favorite channels (with 8 more available by paging)

One nicety of the contextual "Media" button is my wife lights to listen to the FiOS music stations pumped through the whole house. So, the 16 favorite channels available when in the activity are all music channels (even the MX-950 does not have contextual favorite channels, just a single list of 50 available at all times).

So, I know of no JP1 remote that can handle this functionality in even close to intuitive way (not needing a cheat sheet to operate the remote). However, after reading the JP1 stuff out there, it does seem like I could program it to handle all the things the MX-950 can do but in a less intuitive way. This would be good because with the Harmony I had to jump through hoops and do some serious hacks to make it correctly control the theater and the 880 is quite simply the biggest ergonomic cluster f*** ever created.

As I understand it, with a JP1 remote:
1) Every button is a programmable button.
2) Every button is macro enabled.
3) They have variables (how many? I need 6)
4) No hard button JP1 remote has soft keys
5) JP1 remotes an VERY non-intuitive (in other words you will not find labeled hard buttons for many of the things you need and you have to set up very cludgy control of some functions, for instance use the "VCR" device button to really controls the lights (volume up and down are lights up and down) and fans (channel up and down are fan speed + and -).

1, 2, and 3 are why I'd love to find a JP1 remote. 4 and 5 are what is stopping me since I can't find a remote without these severe limitations.

Thanks again,
Dave
post #9 of 15
BTW, the One for all Kameleon URC6690 looked like the only possible candidate, but it problems: Touch screen--as with most, I hate touch screens but would live with one if frequently used keys were hard buttons, which leads us to: it seems on this remote, the transport keys are on the touch screen--definitely a no go.
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Person99 View Post

Why oh why won't URC make a <$300 IR remote with variables? If they did, there would be no reason for anyone to ever buy a Harmony.

What are variables? Is that just the state I hear mentioned? If so, does this mean it keeps the state of all the components? If so, I guess it means if I manually change the state (turn the TV on myself god forbid) then the remote will be forever screwed up?

Why do we need variables? Is this for components that don't support discrete codes? And by the way, I don't even know what I'm saying here. I assume discrete codes are things like On and Off as opposed to a toggle. Is that correct?

Thanks,
Nick
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Person99 View Post

Why oh why won't URC make a <$300 IR remote with variables? If they did, there would be no reason for anyone to ever buy a Harmony.

I just purchased the URC MX-890 for $349.00. While it's not <$300, maybe it's close enough. I haven't started using it yet, but it sure looks like a nice remote.

Nick
post #12 of 15
Didn't want to start a new thread, I really do want to discuss Selecting the right Harmony!

I have 6 activities (maximum) I want to control:
1. Watch DVD (from Sony mega-changer)
2. Watch HD DVD (from A3)
3. Watch TV (Off air via STB)
4. Listen to Radio
5. Listen to iPOD
6. Dim Lights

I think one would really want each of these Activities to be on the Harmony Screen, mapped to a hard button. I think makes the choices:
a. Harmony 720
b. Harmony 880
c. Harmony One

The 880 makes my hand sore just looking at it. The 720 looks slim but you don't see it much so I worry that it wasn't a success. And the One is most $$ and not yet released.

My equipment is a Z4, A3, SonyMega and Onkyo 605.

Thoughts? Experience with the 720 v 880?
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyingSaucer View Post

The 880 makes my hand sore just looking at it. The 720 looks slim but you don't see it much so I worry that it wasn't a success. And the One is most $$ and not yet released.

My equipment is a Z4, A3, SonyMega and Onkyo 605.

Thoughts? Experience with the 720 v 880?

- The 720 isn't as widely available in stores as the 880. The only difference between the two is their design and button layout. Some people like the 720 more and some like the 880 more. It's a VERY personal choice. I can't stand the button feel on the 720 and prefer the 880. You'll see the same number of people who feel the exact opposite.

Plus, you can fit up to 255 Activities in the LCD, you just have to use the left/right arrow next to the screen to see more.
post #14 of 15
At $149, the 880 is $30 cheaper than the 720 (on amazon).
Some reviews say it doesn't sit well in its charger; and it looks clunky.
Is the ONE that much better & refined at $249?
post #15 of 15
I am considering the Harmony 550.
It's not a color screen, but it will probably do the job.

Has anyone programmed their Maestro Dimmers into a Harmony Remote?

Are the A & B buttons at the bottom of the 550 programmable? Seems like a good location for the light control.
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