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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been using Harmony remotes for 15+ years, so I was initially disappointed they were being discontinued. I say initially because I've since found the URC MX-890 and couldn't be happier.

Tried to go the local dealer route and they quoted MSRP and won't give me the software. That was a hell no for me. Found them on Amazon and Ebay for ~1/2 off retail. You can get 3-year 3rd party warranties for $20-30 if you need that as well. The software is also pretty easy to get.

Feels like going from Lutron's Caseta to full RA2. So many more options and everything can be customized exactly how you want it. I love that each IR hub output is addressable and any button on any remote can be assigned to it. I use one hub for multiple rooms. Never going back to remotes that don't allow 100% customization.

The ergonomics of the Elite are terrific and the MX-890 is the only RF remote I tested that comes close to it.


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These are just my opinions, of course:

Harmony Elite

Pros:
  • Fantastic ergonomics, feels really good in the hand.
  • Compact size with no wasted space.
  • Button location and size for streaming devices is pretty much perfect.
  • Modern and clean interface.
  • Very fast processing with virtually no delay from button press to IR signal being sent.
  • Programming is super easy with the iOS or Windows app.

Cons:
  • The damn touchscreen. There's no way to adjust the sensitivity once an activity is started, so I would have accidental presses all the time. Even my laptop power cord barely touching it would activate a button. I also don't have much need for a touchscreen in a remote. I'd only use it to start and activity.
  • Limited customizability.
  • The "Activities" and "Devices" buttons are touch and not actual buttons for no apparent reason. They can't be custimized, so there's no reason they should be touch. Just contributes to more accidental presses.
  • Server based configuration so there are sometimes issues with setting up the app and hub.
  • Only one touchscreen remote per hub. And if you have a companion remote for a setup in another room, only one room could be used at a time (You can only have one activity active at a time)


URC MX-990
Pros:
  • The dock design is really nice and vertical. Easy to remove and place the remote.
  • Volume buttons are large and have a ridge on them to help with locating.
  • Play/Pause buttons are properly located and easy to find.
Cons:
  • It's HUGE. I'm pretty average-sized (6') and this remote feels really big in my hand. My wife held it and immediately asked why it was so big and had so many finger grooves on the bottom. It's not only long, but wide for something you grasp in your hand. Not ergonomically designed for myself, the wife, and other people that I got impressions from.
  • The Menu button is tiny. This is an issue if you plan to use it with streaming device because you use Menu and the arrow keys 90% of the time.
  • The Mute button is placed too high. The Prev button is typically going to be used far less and it's placed in a lower spot right above the arrow keys.
  • Finger grooves are poorly placed and I was constantly shifting back and forth between them while using the remote. I wish URC would stop using them so much, it's just not necessary.


URC MX-890
Pros:
  • Feels really good in the hand. Nice mix of width and thickness.
  • Finger grooves are also better located compared to the MX-990. It's much closer to the Harmony Elite. You can reach all the relevant buttons with your hand in the first groove. No need to shift around.
  • The Menu button is nice and big and right next to the arrow keys. Makes a huge difference for browsing streaming devices.
  • The Mute button is right above the arrow keys.
  • Screen doesn't flare out like the MX-990. All black, symmetrical design. Much better looking than the MX-990 imo.
  • Wife loves using it, even more than the Elite!! That's pretty much hitting the jackpot in my house.
Cons:
  • The dock is more horizontally angled than I'd like. You can't pick it straight up or it might move the dock with it.
  • Stock button graphics options in CCP are older looking designs compared to the MX-990.
  • Volume keys should be bigger and have the ridges like the MX-990.


Be warned the URC CCP software has a learning curve, it's very Windows XP-ish. The programming MX-890 manual is very helpful and once you get used to the software, it's super easy to use. This series of videos was helpful, but now that I'm familiar with the software, I'd do things a bit differently than he does:


I prefer modern interfaces like the Harmony Elite. None of the stock button options worked for me, so I exported "Agile" buttons from the MX-990. I also deleted a lot of images from the home screen and changed them all to a black background.

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(The buttons are offset because the imported MX-990 buttons are shorter)

I'd also recommend setting the MRF-350 IR port outputs to the max level. I had some issues with a NIles MSU-250 and Anthem not responding and it was fixed by just increasing the output.

For some reason, I also found the Apple TV 4K responds quicker to button presses when using the front IR blaster vs the ports and individual blasters. This is most apparent when scrolling using the arrow keys.

I'd recommend using the MRF-350 base station. It's awesome that you can place the RF receiver module in the room where you're using the remote and just run a 3.5mm stereo cable (or any cable) to the MRF-350 somewhere else. Separating the antenna from the base station ensures that you can move it wherever you need to get good reception.
 

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Thank you very much for this write up! This was extremely well detailed!

I admit I misread your line to be "It's HUGE. I'm pretty average-sized (6") and this remote feels really big in my hand."

Can you compare the battery life? I have to charge a new Elite nearly as often as my cell phone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you very much for this write up! This was extremely well detailed!

I admit I misread your line to be "It's HUGE. I'm pretty average-sized (6") and this remote feels really big in my hand."

Can you compare the battery life? I have to charge a new Elite nearly as often as my cell phone.
Haven't tested it with a timer, but I'd guess it would need to be charged every couple of days. I just keep it in the dock.
 
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My MX-990 battery will last a couple days without being charged if I forget but I just toss it in the dock every night. A 3 pack of new batteries is $10 and each battery will last for several years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Can you program with a Mac, or is this PC-only?
PC only, use Parallels with a Mac. Make sure to set it to "High DPI Override. If you don't, everything is smaller and it's much harder to use the program.


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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Looked at those and the button size and layout didn't work for me. They do have a following though.
 
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Yeah I agree with your conclusions. I have been a harmony remote user for a long time. I was worried when Harmony cancelled their support for the remotes. It gave me the shove I really needed.
 

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The only downside to these URC remotes is that they don't have the smart functionality built in to connect to all my Smartthings/WiFi switches/other stuff. I've got a MX-450 and I'm debating building a little Raspberry PI based device that can take in IR codes and interface with my smart house stuff. Whenever we watch a movie I tell my Alexa to turn of this, turn off that, arm the alarm, etc etc. I guess I could and should set up a routine so Alexa does a good amount of that with one command, but I want a button! lol. I also hate the touchscreen on the Harmony remotes and it seems like every new fancy remote has one. The URC customizable screens with physical buttons is the way to go IMO.
 
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The only downside to these URC remotes is that they don't have the smart functionality built in to connect to all my Smartthings/WiFi switches/other stuff.
If you want to pay then some of the URC Total Control devices can do that. If you had Insteon, Z-Wave or X10 lighting then you could control your lighting and switches with a ISY994i ZW+/IR PRO with a 2413s PLM.

In our house we have Alexa, Google, Honeywell, Nest, X10 (many control items), Z-Wave Plus (lights, locks, door opener, fan control, etc) and Zeebee (lights). In the home theater I use a URC MX-980 and MRF-260 RF base station to control 19 devices including all X10 lighting. In the home theater Alexa would probably never hear the commands :).
 

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I've had the MX-980 & 990 for so many years that the size means nothing. I don't notice it. The same way todays iPhones would have felt "unusably huge" to us back in 2007. :)
 

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Thanks again, I haven't found any new ones for half retail - were you able to get new ones for half? I'm ready to get one if I can find it for half.
 

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Thanks again, I haven't found any new ones for half retail - were you able to get new ones for half? I'm ready to get one if I can find it for half.
Yes. You just have to look. Woot had them new for $200 and refurbished for less. Ebay has some like new ones for reasonable amounts.
 

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Is a 780 still relevant? They’re dirt cheap on eBay. A handful of 2x4s is worth more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Is a 780 still relevant? They’re dirt cheap on eBay. A handful of 2x4s is worth more.
I considered getting a couple for bedrooms, but you can't edit the GUI and it's pretty ugly (to me) with a blue or red screen that I usually avoid. It also doesn't have auto-on for the screen and button lights. If you're okay with that and the additional thickness (because of the AA batteries) compared to the 890, it's a hell of a deal.

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Thanks again, I haven't found any new ones for half retail - were you able to get new ones for half? I'm ready to get one if I can find it for half.
The URC X-8 is the MX-890 rebadged for Best Buy. There’s a listing on ebay for a new one thats almost half off.
 

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Yeah I agree with your conclusions. I have been a harmony remote user for a long time. I was worried when Harmony cancelled their support for the remotes. It gave me the shove I really needed.
must have missed where "harmony cancelled support for the remote".....or..they didn't... :)
 
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