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An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: Robert M
Date: September 05, 2007 01:06PM
An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote

Hi everyone,

I happened to have a VISA Debit card that is just about to expire and since I really didn’t need anything per say, I decided to use it towards an item I would find useful and handy but not purchase under normal circumstances. That’s more fun than blowing it on groceries and such. Since I heard so many great things about the Harmony Universal Remotes, I decided to buy one for use with the following items:

1 qty ProScan 27” TV (aka glorified RCA)
1 qty Sony 27” TV
1 qty RCA 19” TV
1 qty Toshiba VCR/DVD Recorder
1 qty Toshiba TIVO DVD Recorder
1 qty Yamakawa DVD Player
1 qty Mitsubishi VCR
1 qty Onkyo Home Theater system
2 qty Pioneer Cable Boxes

Although these devices aren’t in the same location in my house, I wanted to make sure the Logitech had profiles for all of the devices since that is one of the most important features of the Harmony remote. Logitech has profiles for devices which makes it a cinch to configure the remote for using it with them. So, I gave Logitech a quick call. The rep at Logitech confirmed they had a profile and 100% support for each device on my list and that the Harmony 670 is the most appropriate remote for my hardware since it’s designed for use with DVRs. With that in mind and the VISA debit card in hand, I purchased the Harmony 670 from Circuit City for $149 and change. It was supposed to have a rebate that brought the price down to $119 and change but the rebate slip didn’t print out. Circuit City refunded me the $30.00 on the spot. Kudos to them!

After I brought the Harmony home, I noticed it felt flimsy when compared to some of the remotes offered by its competitors. I saw this at the store but really couldn’t confirm it until I had a chance to compare the feel of the Harmony to the OEM remotes that shipped with my devices. The plastic seemed lighter in weight and the buttons a tad jiggly. Despite this, I wanted to give the Harmony 670 a chance to prove itself. So, I followed the instructions and began the configuration process. That meant installing the software for the remote in my G5 and putting batteries into the remote itself. No problem. Easy enough. Kudos to Logitech for including batteries and a USB cable. I connected the remote to the tower via the supplied USB cable and powered up the software. The first thing it asked me to do was create an account with Logitech.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems a bit weird that I needed to create an account on their systems to configure a remote control. The software doesn’t simply connect to the Logitech web site, get the necessary device information and download it to my computer and remote? They need more than just the make and model of each device? Somewhat leery, I went through the process. The remote software downloaded several updates and then allowed me to begin the actual configuration process.

The software asked me for the number and types of devices I planned to use with the remote. Easy. Next, it asked me to plug in the manufacturer and model number of each device. No problem. I had all of the information readily available. The only piece of hardware that was obscure and possibly a problem was the Yamakawa DVD player. Funny... The software found a profile for each device _except_ the Toshiba TIVO DVD Recorder. You’d think the problem device would be the Yamakawa DVD player. At that point, the software told me to point the remotes at each other and start having it match button presses to help it find a compatible profile as well as teach it how to control the Toshiba TIVO DVD Recorder. I was surprised and annoyed because this is very similar to what I would have had to do with an inexpensive learning remote.

Logitech confirmed they had a profile for the Toshiba TIVO DVD Recorder. That meant it should have recognized the make and model and chose its profile from the database with no potchkeying on my part. Despite redoing the configuration several times including placing the machine into other categories just to be certain, it appeared I was going to have to teach it how to control many but not all of the functions of the Toshiba TIVO DVD recorder. I searched the Harmony FAQs and forum for assistance and they contained nothing useful. I could have contacted tech support but felt I shouldn’t have to for this particular device, especially when considering what the Harmony is designed to do and how much I spent on it.

That said, I can attest that using a computer to configure a universal remote is easier and definitely a step up from the methods used by its inexpensive non-computer based siblings. Profiles make it a snap. Plug the make and model into the appropriate field and the device gets recognized if there is a profile. Even teaching it how to control non-recognized devices is easier. The software guides you through the process and even recognizes when you push the button on the OEM remote. The ability to control groups of devices for specific activities is nifty. It’s nice pressing the power button and watch it turn on the receiver and TV simultaneously. I tested this just to see how the remote would work if I decided to keep it.

However, that the Harmony remote whose flagship feature is ease of configuration via device profiles didn’t support the Toshiba TIVO DVD Recorder without custom programming was enough for me to reset it and return it to Circuit City for a refund. If I wanted to spend time teaching a universal remote control the commands for a specific device, I could have purchased any number of inexpensive learning remotes. I bought the Logitech Harmony to avoid that nonsense.

Are Harmony remotes worth the money? A hesitant yes for many but definitely not all. Logitech updates the database with profiles of devices regularly. So, if you buy the remote, it should support devices you have and new devices as they are released by their manufacturers. That’s very cool. But, should is the operating word. It lacked a profile for my Toshiba TIVO DVD Recorder despite what Logitech told me before I purchased it. I’d be a bit more understanding if this was a cheapo device produced by unknown manufacturer, i.e. Yamakawa DVD player (for which it did have a profile!). This is not the case as Toshiba and TIVO are big names.

I’m also a mite annoyed Logitech requires you to create an account with their company to configure the remote. Logitech doesn’t need my contact information and such to configure a remote control. It simply needs manufacturer and model information for each device. It should take the info, connect to their online database, get the data and disconnect. Anything else is absolutely unnecessary and should be optional in my opinion.

Lastly, the remote does feel a bit flimsy when compared to its competitors. At well over the $100.00 mark, you’d think the device would feel rock solid. So, if you buy a Harmony, I would consider purchasing an extended warranty for it or make sure to purchase it with a credit card that provides “double the manufacturers” warranty. At least that way, you have a fighting chance of getting it repaired or replaced in the event it goes kablooey.

So, in the end, the Harmony is definitely not for me. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to work well for others. The idea that Logitech maintains a database of profiles for devices and updates it regularly is very appealing as is the ease of configuring the remote. That means the Harmony may support devices like my Toshiba TIVO DVD recorder in the future. That and the remote is vastly less likely to become obsolete as you replace your existing hardware. This is a significant feature and very cool feature. I just wish it supported my TIVO DVD recorder and didn’t feel flimsy. I know I can accidently drop the remotes for my current hardware and not worry that they’ll break. I cannot necessarily say the same for the Harmony. It just doesn’t feel that sturdy.

Robert
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: Will Collier
Date: September 05, 2007 01:24PM
I've been using one of these for almost two years now. Quite happy with it; the initial setup (as noted) is a huge PITA, but after that it's been pretty sold. Certainly haven't had anything break on it, and I'm not exactly gentle with remotes.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: John B.
Date: September 05, 2007 01:42PM
I continue to follow Harmony discussions, but have not yet purchased one, given my past experience with universal remotes that turned out to be less-than-universal. Robert, I'm curious as to whether, had you called Logitech tech support, they might have had a workaround code for your Toshiba TiVo (espeically since presales support said the device was supported), although I suppose that's a moot point now. I ask because I've heard people who have had multiple TiVo boxes stacked in the same room say that they've needed to call Logitech support to have then enable TiVo 0, TiVo 1, etc on their remotes so that they can work with the multiple boxes. So it seems from time to time there are functions that aren't readily available through the programming interface.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: Robert M
Date: September 05, 2007 02:16PM
Hi John,

The Harmony supports the Toshiba TIVO DVD recorder, just not via a dedicated profile for it. My guess is the remote controls some of the functions via a different profile since it handled a bunch of them without special programming. I would have had to spend a time customizing it for other features, which defeats one of the reasons for purchasing a Harmony remote. The idea is to avoid programming nonsense.

I did contact tech support about my experience, if only to let them know they didn't have a profile for the Toshiba TIVO DVD recorder. They confirmed my suspicion during our conversation and didn't understand why I was told otherwise by their sales rep. It's unfortunate since I love the idea behind the remote. It is very cool.

Robert



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2007 02:19PM by Robert M.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: bazookaman
Date: September 05, 2007 03:09PM
Like Will said, its a major PITA to set up. But once I did, I loved mine. I got the 880 mainly b/c of the rechargability. Also, by creating an account with logitech, you now have a saved remote online. So if mine broke, or i bought a new one I could connect to the site and download my remote settings and be off and running in seconds. If i didn't have an account, i'd have to sit there and reprogram anew. I have to say, mine does feel a little flimsy. Something broke off inside and it rattles around all the time. But it doesn't seem to affect anything. As far as tech support goes, i sent them an email b/c I could not get mine to switch devices without turning other devices off. So some techno dude at logitech accessed my online remote settings (another reason to have an account), fiddled with them and emailed me telling me to download the new settings and try it. Worked like a charm.



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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: Robert M
Date: September 05, 2007 03:30PM
Bazooka,

The programming would have been more than just a pain. The Harmony didn't even support commands like fast forward without custom programming. We're talking basics here. I'd've had to program fast forward, rewind, skip, etc. Definitely unacceptable.

That said, it is nice that Logitech stores the programming of the remote on their systems for easy restoration. Yet, I ask myself, it would be just as convenient if not more so to simply store it on my local computer. That way, the remote settings gets backed up regularly with my docs and such. Still, it is very cool that the tech support was able to modify the settings store on their systems, which you in turned downloaded to your remote. Definitely cool.

Nonetheless, based on my experience, the Harmony is definitely not suitable for me, especially not at a price tag of over $100.00. For that much cash, I want a solid device that supports all of my devices without custom programming. I'd be more understanding if the Toshiba was an obscure piece of hardware sold by a relatively unknown manufacturer but that is definitely not the case. The Toshiba RS-TX20 may not be a common device but Toshiba and TIVO are definitely not obscure manufacturers.

Robert
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: bhaveshp
Date: September 05, 2007 04:13PM
Robert,

Having used a Harmony 676 remote for about 3 years, I would recommend against one now. While the concept of web programming / storage is great, it is a PITA and very slow to program.

Also, Logitech silently removed key functionality on a software update about 6 months ago - Custom macros of learned commands (for functions not in their Db). Gone, no longer progammable. Many complaints on their web forums.

I haven't replaced mine yet as it still handles our basic needs, but I'll be getting an alternate brand down the road.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2007 04:14PM by bhaveshp.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: Harbourmaster
Date: September 05, 2007 05:38PM
One remote that will work with your 10 devices and your complaining that you have to manually set some commands for 1]/b] of them?! Perhaps your expectations are a little too high?

Good luck with ANY other universal remote...


I love my Harmony and the one I bought for my 80yo MIL has stopped all the phone calls from her about "I can't get the DVD to play or The VCR is on but there is nothing on the TV screen" worth it's weight in gold...



Aloha, Ken


“I have developed significant attachments to several members even though I wouldn't recognize them if I sat next to one on a park bench. I'm often tempted when in an airport to walk around, hollering "The Løpe", to see if anyone other than the Homeland Security people will acknowledge me. ” - The Løpe

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us." Justice Robert Jackson



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2007 05:41PM by Harbourmaster.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: davemchine
Date: September 05, 2007 06:04PM
I bought one and it is "ok" at best. It does alot of weird stuff. Like when I hit the "watch tv" function, if the tv is already on it turns it off. doh! The controls are all very slow and it is somewhat complex, which frustrates me and my wife. In retrospect I probably would not have bought it. Something more simple would have been better for me, although I don't know if it exists.

For my other room I'm going to purchase the remote MacMagus recommended, the all-in-one learning remote and see if I like it better (at a much much lower price point).

Dave



Ukulele music I couldn't find anywhere else.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: olnacl
Date: September 05, 2007 06:23PM
I have four Harmony remotes and use 2 880s regularly. Yes, if I was in on the design process I'd have made changes, but having purchased, configured and used at least a dozen programmable remotes, I use the Harmony. The others sit in a drawer waiting for me to find the time to photograph them and put them on CL.
I'm an invenerate "techie" frequently changing out pieces of my entertainment systems to try something newer, shinier, better featured or performing. This entails reprogramming episodes and I can do them in a few minutes, courtesy of an old iBook that resides on the couch arm, something I wouldn't manage easily with most of the other learning remotes.
All in all, a remote is a personal thing and every one has drawbacks (I could write volumes on that) including the Harmony models. In the end, I haven't found anything that does things as well overall as the Harmony. Is it worth the money?



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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: Robert M
Date: September 05, 2007 06:28PM
Harbour,

If you feel asking the Harmony to handle some of the most basic operations of a device produced in conjunction by too immensely popular well known brands without custom programming is too much to ask, then yes, my expectations were too high. Personally, I feel otherwise. The Harmony 670 was designed with DVRs in mind. At the least, it should support the fast forward feature of the Toshiba TIVO DVD recorder without custom programming. It didn't.

Robert

P.S. OL, based on what you said in your post, the Harmony is definitely a very suitable device. It's in a situation like yours that the ever expanding collection of profiles is postively golden!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2007 06:30PM by Robert M.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: tortoise
Date: September 05, 2007 07:25PM
As a novice to this subject I might add my thoughts. Just bought my first Harmony 880 and after a few hours of programming I have it functioning fairly well. Like any powerful tool it does not happen instantly and takes some work to get it dialed in, that is the nature of technology. I have to say that so far the Harmony is an improvement to the five individual remotes it is gradually replacing. I am sure that as time goes on I will learn how to do additional custom features to fill in the several missing links currently evident.
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Re: An experience with a Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote
Posted by: MacMagus
Date: September 07, 2007 01:40PM
Quote
davemchine

For my other room I'm going to purchase the remote MacMagus recommended, the all-in-one learning remote and see if I like it better (at a much much lower price point).

There are a couple of tricks to making best use of that remote. Lots of people max out the remote's memory with IR learning and then gripe about the limited memory preventing them from doing everything they want to do.

If you have a device for which there is no code, don't waste the remote's memory on IR-learning. Instead, call the number in the manual and have them find the appropriate code and reprogram the remote over the phone. It takes very little time and effort and it's really cool that they can do that.

'Same goes for when you want to remap keys or use one of the device-buttons to control an entirely different class of device... there are functions built into the remote for remapping keys and swapping device-keys so you don't need to waste memory on IR learning.
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