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Discussion Starter #1
Sorry for the rant, but one of things that's bothering me about my local area is the over abundance of Crestron remotes and the like. Now please don't get me wrong, they can make for an AWESOME setup, and I do like them a lot in their proper settings, but from what I've witnessed, these custom-programmed remotes (not just Crestron) are being pushed way too much by some of the local outfits for customers who simply don't need it for their simple AV/home setups. So often, these remotes (with all the associated setup costs) can cost more than the gear they're meant to run!

Where this is becoming an annoyance to some of the property managers I know is how they have remotes lose their programming for one reason or another, or the home owner simply wants to swap out a TV or something. Thus, they end up having to make a service call to the AV company who did the programming, send a tech out (from an hour away), and it ends up being VERY costly, and to me, kind of unnecessary. I'm not joking...I'm seeing Crestrons for a simple TV/Blu-Ray/AVR setup in a livingroom. As good as some these high end URCs can be, If a customer isn't planning on expanding functionality much, they seem like total overkill if you ask me, and a waste of the customer's money in some cases. From what I've seen, some companies just kind of make sure to bundle it in whenever a customer asks for a media room or whatever to be set up. It's just kind of the standard for certain 'hoods.

SO, my main question is, are there high quality, versatile, RF universal remotes out there that don't require a freaking programmer or some super sekret, difficult software? The customers around here DO like high end, but the Crestrons and other similar brands are kind of a PITA for some. Some of these people would really like the simplicity of the Harmony programming. Now I'm sure that the Harmonies are far more limited in their overall capability compared to the high end custom-programmed competition, but perhaps they would do great for at least half of the setups I've seen.

What are YOUR favorite remotes in that category? I'm just starting out, and certainly won't be hiring a programmer any time soon. Like I said, the property managers would LOVE something that works well, but doesn't require a freaking service call to reprogram a remote, and I would love to be the one to offer them that, but without the ultra-exorbitant set up and follow up service charges. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to offer custom remotes and programming in the future, but I'm the kind of person who likes to use the best tool for the job, and for some people that's a more simple remote. Correct me if I'm wrong, but IMO using some of these remotes I'm seeing out there for a cheap Costco TV and a blu-ray player is like using a diamond-plated sledgehammer to pound a needle into a hole. Like driving a Ferrari through a school zone. Like...well you get my point.
 

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Check this out: http://www.universalremote.com/whats_home_control.php
and this: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/universal-remotes#

I totally hear what you're saying. I see it as two types of people. There's the people that just want it done for them and the people that want to do it themselves. I know people that are plenty smart, but couldn't be bothered setting up anything and are happy to pay an installer. Then there's someone like me, like you, that wants to do it themselves. I think if you're working with an installer, it's something you'd have to negotiate before they install the system.
 

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If it hasn't been discontinued, the URC RFS200 would be perfect IMO.
http://www.universalremote.com/product_details.php?id=65&s=diy&c=bundle_package&p=URC-RFS200

Otherwise, although Harmony is four letter word to integrators, the Smart Control is cheap, simple and RF, plus has a smart phone app.

Having said that, high end customers should really just stick with Crestron. No programming required on their part, and keeps people employed. Spending a grand or two whenever they replace a BD player is no big deal.
 

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....SO, my main question is, are there high quality, versatile, RF universal remotes out there that don't require a freaking programmer or some super sekret, difficult software? The customers around here DO like high end, but the Crestrons and other similar brands are kind of a PITA for some. Some of these people would really like the simplicity of the Harmony programming. Now I'm sure that the Harmonies are far more limited in their overall capability compared to the high end custom-programmed competition, but perhaps they would do great for at least half of the setups I've seen.

What are YOUR favorite remotes in that category?
There are not too many user-programmable remotes left for the more advanced DIYer. 3-5 years ago there were a lot more options but the manufacturers seem to be moving away from the consumer market. I don't like the Harmonys as i have never been able to get them to do everything i needed to do (i've had two different models a few years back and gave up on them).

Right now my go-to remote is the URC MX-450 (does both IR and RF) which seems to be one of the last remaining good consumer remotes. It has a pretty extensive pre-progammed onboard code list and also learns directly from the device's original remote and is not PC-progammable. It does have free archiver software to enable you to update the device list and also back up your final programming scheme, and you can edit your macros which is a lifesaver.

I'm using one myself to control my 6 devices in my man-room as well as 3 devices in the little woman's den, and it is doing everything i need it to do. It's controlling all my devices very seemlessly. My man-room is on the main screens 1st page and is device-based since i'm the only one who uses it here. But i have the den on the 2nd main page and i made this screen activity-based to make it easier for the wife to use. You have to plan your main screens and device screens ahead of time because there is no way to relocate any devices or screen icons, but a little careful planning makes it pretty much a non-issue.


http://www.universalremote.com/product_details.php?id=3&s=residential&c=user_interfaces&p=MX-450
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Otherwise, although Harmony is four letter word to integrators, the Smart Control is cheap, simple and RF, plus has a smart phone app.
Why so much hate for the Harmony from the installers? Serious question. I know they have their limitations, but the more expensive ones aren't THAT bad are they? I like what I've seen from the Ultimate Home as it seems to work with a LOT of the different home automation products out there. Are they just not dependable?

Having said that, high end customers should really just stick with Crestron. No programming required on their part, and keeps people employed. Spending a grand or two whenever they replace a BD player is no big deal.
Spending a grand or two when replacing a BD player seems just absurd for a regular Joe Blow setup. I just couldn't recommend that in good faith. Now I understand there are those customers who do just want everything done for them and to whom money is no object. For them and many others, Crestron is fantastic and I'd still hardily recommend it for certain customers. I'm just seeing it being used for too many simple applications where it's total overkill and it appears to be more of a matter of companies taking advantage of the customers. (I had one company try pushing it on ME some time ago-snuck it into the bid-, even though I'm a DIY guy on a budget and in the cheapest neighborhood in town. They push them on EVERYBODY) With some of the other great remotes out there, I'd like to be able to set them up myself. No expensive programmer necessary. That'd be awesome if I DID have a programmer on hand, but I'm not nearly there yet.

I understand that there's a certain customer base of rich people who don't want to do any programming whatesover, and that's great, but I need a product that I can take care of at a moments notice without having to depend on others. It never fails that a family arrives to their second home on the day before Christmas and they find that their fancy, expensive Crestron remotes aren't working. Prop mgmt company calls the company who installed it to get out and reprogram it, which they often can't get to for days/weeks, and when they DO get to it, it costs a bloody fortune to just plug in their laptop and reload the programming. I'd much rather be able to have a nice remote, in which I can run out to a customers house to take care of myself, and at least be able to do the initial programming. Don't get me wrong. I WILL be supporting Crestron some day in the future. I just believe that alternatives are good to have so as to use the right tool for different applications.

There are not too many user-programmable remotes left for the more advanced DIYer. 3-5 years ago there were a lot more options but the manufacturers seem to be moving away from the consumer market. I don't like the Harmonys as i have never been able to get them to do everything i needed to do (i've had two different models a few years back and gave up on them).

Right now my go-to remote is the URC MX-450...http://www.universalremote.com/product_details.php?id=3&s=residential&c=user_interfaces&p=MX-450
That's a shame that the user-programmable remotes are a dying breed. Do your complaints about the Harmony still hold true for the latest models? Either way, that URC MX-450 you're talking about looks PERFECT! Especially with the archiving function I could maybe use to back up customer's programming schemes.
 

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Serious question. I know they have their limitations, but the more expensive ones aren't THAT bad are they? I like what I've seen from the Ultimate Home as it seems to work with a LOT of the different home automation products out there. Are they just not dependable?
I am not an installer but I have two problems with Harmony. The first is that I have a specific way I want my way to work and Harmony simply doesn't work that way. Harmony is great in that almost anyone can pick one up and program their devices into it. The downside is that everyone gets the exact same workflow. If you like it, great, if not you are screwed. My other issue that I have never had a Harmony which provided any degree of durability.

It seems like there should be a market for a user programmable remote with hard buttons but it seems like everyone has exited the market. I can only assume that the market is tiny.

I am still using URC Complete Control even though the software is not very accessible. It is the only thing I have found that meets my needs.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I am not an installer but I have two problems with Harmony. The first is that I have a specific way I want my way to work and Harmony simply doesn't work that way. Harmony is great in that almost anyone can pick one up and program their devices into it. The downside is that everyone gets the exact same workflow. If you like it, great, if not you are screwed. My other issue that I have never had a Harmony which provided any degree of durability.

It seems like there should be a market for a user programmable remote with hard buttons but it seems like everyone has exited the market. I can only assume that the market is tiny.

I am still using URC Complete Control even though the software is not very accessible. It is the only thing I have found that meets my needs.
Good to know. I have heard about the durability issues. The truth is, a lot of homeowners I've seen only spend a couple weeks a year at their house, so maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal then? A lot of them like to get new crap every year or two anyway just to have the latest and greatest. Another reason why Crestron setups sometimes annoy the property managers. They have to make yet another expensive service call that takes forever to get taken of. Whereas they'd really like something they could reprogram themselves, or call me to do quickly worst case. But like you said, the one-size-fits-all approach in the Harmony's work-flow could get seriously annoying. I can see that.

Weird how, as you correctly pointed out, so many have exited the market. Think they were pushed out (or bought out) by the big boys like Crestron? With as much freaking business as Crestron gets, you'd THINK there'd be more of a market, but I could be wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
On Universal Remote brand remotes that DO require programming, such as the MX-980, is the software pretty easy to figure out compared to Crestrons? From what I can gather, URC has a few options that I think could work VERY well for what I envision. Getting the software from the company isn't the problem (I just need to show my license apparently), but rather a matter of programming. I used to be into C++, but just don't have the time to learn a new language. I've had friends who were professional computer programmers and even THEY had a heck of a time with their Crestron remotes being that it wasn't their full time job and they were just dinking around on the side. So you can understand how I could find them intimidating to want to deal with without having a designated programmer on hand.
 

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Weird how, as you correctly pointed out, so many have exited the market. Think they were pushed out (or bought out) by the big boys like Crestron? With as much freaking business as Crestron gets, you'd THINK there'd be more of a market, but I could be wrong.
They have a very different market then the custom installer market so I don't think they were pushed out. I think that Logitech dominates the consumer and DIY market.

On Universal Remote brand remotes that DO require programming, such as the MX-980, is the software pretty easy to figure out compared to Crestrons? From what I can gather, URC has a few options that I think could work VERY well for what I envision.Getting the software from the company isn't the problem (I just need to show my license apparently), but rather a matter of programming. I used to be into C++, but just don't have the time to learn a new language. I've had friends who were professional computer programmers and even THEY had a heck of a time with their Crestron remotes being that it wasn't their full time job and they were just dinking around on the side. So you can understand how I could find them intimidating to want to deal with without having a designated programmer on hand.
Getting the software requires more than showing your license as an end-user. In the complete control line you need to get the software from whomever you buy it from. URC will not provide it to an end-user.

If, however, you are planning to become an installer/reseller you should be able to get access to it. I looked into it a few years ago and all it took was a minimum purchase to start a relationship with URC. That may have changed since then but worth looking into it.

The programming is nothing like crestron. It is barely "programming" at all. It is more like configuration with simple concepts like "if..then". The software is highly unintuitive but once you learn how to use it is is fairly simple.
 

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I lucked out a few yrs. ago when I purchased my MX-980. I traded in a defective 950 for the 980 from URC. I also paid the difference. Someone sent me the software and it's huge. It included not just the 980 but all the URC remotes. I saved it all to a disk. As far as the programming goes there are programming manuals. It's not like you have to figure it out yourself, all you have to do is read the manual.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Getting the software requires more than showing your license as an end-user. In the complete control line you need to get the software from whomever you buy it from. URC will not provide it to an end-user.

If, however, you are planning to become an installer/reseller you should be able to get access to it. I looked into it a few years ago and all it took was a minimum purchase to start a relationship with URC. That may have changed since then but worth looking into it.
Not an end-user. I meant showing them a contractor's or dealer license. I'd like to be an installer if I can find a product that I can really like and can provide customer support myself without hiring a computer programmer.

The programming is nothing like crestron. It is barely "programming" at all. It is more like configuration with simple concepts like "if..then". The software is highly unintuitive but once you learn how to use it is is fairly simple.
I lucked out a few yrs. ago when I purchased my MX-980. I traded in a defective 950 for the 980 from URC. I also paid the difference. Someone sent me the software and it's huge. It included not just the 980 but all the URC remotes. I saved it all to a disk. As far as the programming goes there are programming manuals. It's not like you have to figure it out yourself, all you have to do is read the manual.
Nice!!! Just what I needed to know.

With these URC remotes, it seems that they're pretty dang customizable. So is there any real advantage that Crestron has over them? Just unlimited customization capability? From what I can gather, I'm not really seeing a need for Crestron since the URCs seems be able to do everything that I've seen home owners want around here. What I am I missing?
 

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URC remotes are pretty easy to setup using their CCP software. There's no "programming," everything was drag and drop. First time I used it I had a decent one room setup with variables, etc setup in a couple of hours (if that) using an MX-6000.


Since this seems like some type of business venture, you can look into iRule or Roomie remote as well. iRule configuration is done via internet, so any changes could be done remotely by you and all your client would need to do is re-sync their iPad etc.
 

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With these URC remotes, it seems that they're pretty dang customizable. So is there any real advantage that Crestron has over them? Just unlimited customization capability? From what I can gather, I'm not really seeing a need for Crestron since the URCs seems be able to do everything that I've seen home owners want around here. What I am I missing?
With URC you are working within a framework. This is why they are so much easier to setup. There definitely limits to what you can do. Based on what you are describing above I don't think you would be getting anywhere near those limits.

With Crestron you have a system that can do virtually anything via custom programming. If I was selling ultra high-end complete home automation solutions I would look hard at Crestron. The downside is you either need to be big enough to employ a full-time programmer or contract with one.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
With URC you are working within a framework. This is why they are so much easier to setup. There definitely limits to what you can do. Based on what you are describing above I don't think you would be getting anywhere near those limits.

With Crestron you have a system that can do virtually anything via custom programming. If I was selling ultra high-end complete home automation solutions I would look hard at Crestron. The downside is you either need to be big enough to employ a full-time programmer or contract with one.
I think you hit the nail on the head. Now there ARE some people who want ultra high-end complete home automation. I've seen people whose Crestrons will do everything from raise and lower their automated blinds to lowering concealed projectors and more. Makes great sense for them, and for those kinds of customers, I'll likely need to find a programmer who will contract to a small operation like myself. No way can I employ a full-time programmer any time soon, if ever. I guess that's a big advantage that the giant A/V companies have over myself.

That said, it sounds like some of the URC products are a perfect fit for the other 99% of home owners I've seen who DON'T have crazy elaborate custom home automation/AV setups.
 

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I've seen people whose Crestrons will do everything from raise and lower their automated blinds to lowering concealed projectors and more.
URC and others can do all of that too. I actually do all of that and more with my $3 JP1 remotes.

But are Crestron integrators allowed to sell and support competing products like URC, and vice-versa? Seems like if you're selling URC, Harmony and the like, then you probably wouldn't be doing Crestron as well. Maybe I just don't understand how the business works.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
URC and others can do all of that too. I actually do all of that and more with my $3 JP1 remotes.
Woh! Awesome! Then I suppose a better question may be what CAN'T they do?!

But are Crestron integrators allowed to sell and support competing products like URC, and vice-versa? Seems like if you're selling URC, Harmony and the like, then you probably wouldn't be doing Crestron as well. Maybe I just don't understand how the business works.
Hmm. That would be good to know. I'll have to check into that. I'm not a big fan of non-compete agreements.
 
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