Logitech Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote 
Home Theater Remotes & System Control Remotes & System Control
Written by Ken Taraszka, MD   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007

Introduction
The first TV remote was made by Zenith in 1950. Called “Lazy Bones,” it allowed you to change the channels and to turn the TV on and off. It came with a 20-foot wire connecting it to the set. The first wireless remote also came from Zenith in 1955, using a directional flashlight to activate its then-incredible four control functions; the “flashlight” system meant stray sunlight activated functions at any given time. Within a year, Zenith switched to an ultrasonic remote that added almost 30 percent to the cost of the set. This became the first practical remote control. It wasn’t until the early ‘80s that IR (infrared) technology replaced the ultrasonic remotes and, thankfully for us, now we have IR, RF (Radio Frequency), Bluetooth, WiFi and surely more technologies to come. When the first remotes came out, a single remote for your TV was fine. Fast forward 50 years and we now have a multitude of remotes. My reference system has nine or more remote-controlled devices at any given time. Coordinating all those remotes gets hairy, not to mention impossible for the wife or kids, and let’s not even start with the second coffee table you’d need for all of them to fit together on its top. I have been hunting for the idea universal remote to control my system for the past 10 years. Some have been tolerable, some outright horrible. Due to the complexity of modern home theaters, programming these remotes became so time-consuming and had such a steep learning curve that they became frustrating, even for a tech geek like me.

Enter Harmony Remotes, now a part of Logitech Corporation, one of the largest suppliers of computer peripherals. Harmony took a unique approach to programming a universal remote. They made it simple. Their newest remote, the Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote, offers a three-and-a-half-inch touch screen color LCD display with ability to control up to 15 different devices. It offers motion-sensitive backlighting, IR and RF capability, and comes with a rechargeable base station, so you’ll never need to buy batteries again. The package comes with everything you need to get started for a retail price of $499.99.

The remote comes packed in a stylish satiny green and white box made of heavy cardboard. Opening the box requires freeing up the bottom rear edge that opens the magnetically-held cover over the bottom, front and top of the box. Under that is a cardboard display cover that allows your first sight of your new remote through its window. The remote, charging base station, rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, software CD, startup guide, warranty information, power and USB cables are packed in a two-tied black plastic support system underneath. The USB cable is the standard mini-USB cable used for most digital cameras. The software is both PC and MAC compatible, and is universal to allow optimized performance on the newer Intel-based MACs.

The remote itself is five-and-a-half inches wide, just a hair over four inches tall and three-fourths of an inch thick. The three-and-a-half-inch color touch screen in the upper left side dominates the front of the remote. A slightly recessed half-inch-thick glossy black frame that has the bar-shaped “activities” button in the middle of the bottom edge and small round “off” button in the top left corner borders the screen. The remainder of the front of the remote is a sleek brushed aluminum that smoothly rounds off at the edges, making it very comfortable to handle. On the right side of the display, starting from the top of the remote, are channel and volume rocker controls, then the small round return and mute buttons, the directional keypad and finally the forward and back button. All other functions are controlled with the touch screen display. The remote’s hard keys are backlit in a beautiful bright blue. The backside is a matte black, almost rubberized plastic with a channel down the middle to assist placing it into the base, which holds it at a 45 degree angle proudly displaying its face. When in the base station, a small blue light indicates it is properly positioned and charging.

Technology
Harmony has done a great job simplifying universal remotes, and their newest hasn’t strayed from that model. The basic system used by Harmony sets up “activities,” macros designed to control and set up the various functions of your system. The list of activities you can add is vast, and all these functions can be customized and renamed. The basic ones are things such as “Watch TV,” “Watch DVD,” “Listen to Music,” “Play Game,” etc., but you can easily have “Watch Blu-ray,” “Control Fans,” “Control Lighting” – yes, this Harmony remote will control seemingly any device that uses IR, RF, or Z Wave as a method of control. Lighting, blinds and fan control can be added into your other activities, allowing you to turn up the fans when playing a game or dim the lights and close the blinds when watching a movie. The number of steps allowed in a macro isn’t listed, but I’ve had over a dozen steps in some without incident.

If you are having a problem getting an activity to work correctly, the remote has a help button that will walk you through the steps in the assigned macro, until you find the problem or missed code, as IR isn’t flawless. Should your problems run deeper than that, Harmony’s tech support is one of the best I’ve ever dealt with. While I had no difficulties programming this remote to be used in any of the four systems in my house, I recall when I bought my first Harmony 659 remote years ago. At the time, Harmony’s database didn’t have some of the components I owned. A call to Harmony not only remedied the problem, it immediately added the device codes to their database. In fact, they even found discrete codes for my Linn AV5103, a device Linn claims does not have discrete codes. I highly doubt this will be a problem any more, as Harmony now has a database of over 200,000 devices, with approximately 3,000 new devices are added each week. Should you have some completely esoteric piece of gear, say, one of the infamous Furbys from the ‘90s, the Harmony 1000 can learn the IR codes to control it if you can’t find them on Harmony’s website. Before you ask, yes, Furbys are IR-controllable.

A discrete code allows you to always go to a known state. For example, “On” will always turn the device on; a separate “Off” button will always turn the device off. Continued pressing of the “On” button will do nothing after the device is powered up. This is in contrast to a toggle switch, the more typical power button that turns the device on and off in sequence each time you press it. While discrete codes are critical for reliably programming universal remotes, Harmony has found a way around this with their Smart State Technology®. This technology allows the remote to control your entertainment system by knowing how to control each individual component and by keeping track of each component’s last state. It sounds simple, but it is a huge advance in convenience for universal remotes. If you have to scroll through your TV’s inputs to change video sources, your TV doesn’t have discrete codes for its video inputs. The harmony remote will remember where in that list it last was and then using that knowledge to accurately scroll to the next needed input for changes in activities eliminating set-up errors.

Set-up
Before programming the remote, you need to unpack it, install the battery, plug the charging base station into the wall and fully charge the battery for the recommended eight hours. This will maximize the Lithium ion battery’s life, so I suggest you do it. Harmony suggests you plan on 30 minutes to set up the remote and, for a normal system and first-time user, this is a reasonable estimate. You simply install and open the software included with the remote on a computer connected to the Internet, ideally with a high-speed connection. You agree to the terms of use and will be prompted to create an account. That involves picking your Login ID and password and some basic information about where in the world you live, your email address and type of Internet connection. Once this is done, you will be instructed to connect the remote to the computer via the USB cable, any software or firmware updates are installed, and you are off to program your remote.

To successfully program the Harmony 1000 remote, you need only enter the make and model numbers of the components you have in your system and have a basic idea how to control your components. This is done in a fairly straightforward manner. Initially, you select your devices from a general list of device types: receiver, DVD, CD, tuner, etc. Once you’ve selected each device, you select the brand from Harmony’s extensive drop-down list. Don’t get bogged down in these. You can click the list and type in the first letter or two of the brand, getting you to the brand or at least close. If you have multiple DVD players or games, you can only enter one of each in this initial panel; the remainder are entered later. The next screen has you enter or choose, if only a few choices exist for a given manufacturer, the model numbers of your devices. A quick confirmation screen then gets you off to set up your activities.

Activities are approximated by the Harmony software, based on the device types you have in your system. A series of simple questions allows Harmony to design the macros to control your system. These questions include matters such as whether you use the TV or AV receiver to control volume and what TV or receiver input do you use for a given function. Once you have completed answering these questions for the assigned activity, a summary of settings appears. If correct, you move onto the next activity set-up; if not, you can easily return and modify these settings. Online help is available 24/7 should you have questions or problems completing these steps, and some of the most thorough telephone customer support is available during business hours.

As I said, activities are approximated by the remote based on the components you list, and this works pretty well. I have multiple DVD players in every system, so once I complete the initial set-up, I then add my additional devices and add further activities to control them. The activities are easily renamed to reflect their actions, such as “Watch Blu-ray” or “Play PS3.” Multiple additional activities can be added, using the same or different equipment. For example, in my reference system, my Teac Esoteric DV-50s is connected via the 5.1 analog outputs for SACD and DVD-Audio, the balanced analog outputs for two-channel listening, and sometimes even by its coaxial digital and DVI-D output for use as a DVD player. The Harmony software will allow you to make separate activities to accurately control each one of these connections and name them as you see fit. In my example, I have a “Listen to SACDs,” “XLR Ins” and “Watch DV-50s” for this player’s associated activities. Once you have all your devices and activities set up to your satisfaction, you download the program to the remote and test it out. Should problems arise, the Harmony software will walk you through solving them and if you still can’t do it, give them a call, they will get you up and running. Components move in and out of my systems all the time. Thanks to the ease of the Harmony system, I can make a quick trip to my computer and the remote can be updated in minutes to accommodate these changes.

Fine-tuning the remote allows you to control whether or not to activate the back-lighting and display with motion. You can also control the duration of backlighting and vary the levels of the “remote assistant,” a help guide built into the remote, as well as organize the position of the activities on the touch screen. You can change the background of the touch screen and even use your own pictures as the LCD’s background. I used this to put an abstract underwater photo from my pool as the background and it looked super cool but was a little distracting, so I went back to the purple background included in the software. A tone signaling the touch screen has been pressed can be turned on or off and the volume is controllable as well.

Users of prior Harmony remotes will be able to simply add the Harmony 1000 to their previous remote’s accounts. I tried this with my bedroom system, but the format the Harmony 1000 took with some components was slightly off. The Denon DVD player didn’t have the transport screen, and my play, fast forward and rewind buttons were all similarly sized and shaped buttons, as in a numerical keypad. I also found that by replacing the lower-numbered Harmony remotes with the 1000, I couldn’t remove the 1000 nor replace it with the lesser remote. To remedy this, I reentered my devices into a new account. I have used Harmony remotes for several years and am familiar with their software. I was able to completely program the Harmony 1000 to run my bedroom system, consisting of a Denon receiver and DVD player, Samsung Blu-ray player, Scientific Atlanta HD DVR, Slim Devices Squeezebox and Panasonic plasma TV in less than five minutes. Add the two minutes or so for the download and the entire set-up took me less than 10 minutes. Newer users will likely take longer, but this gives you an idea just how quickly it can be done.

Functionality
The Harmony 1000 is a pleasure to use. The large and bright touch screen display is easy to work with and the volume-adjustable click that confirms key entry is a nice touch. The remote requires two hands to operate and, as it lacks hard buttons for the transport keys, requires you to divert your eyes from the screen to scan. The buttons on the touch screen are large enough even for people with big hands and are well arranged. Components frequently require more than one page of touch screen controls. Take a DVD player for instance. The first page has all the transport buttons on it and some other basic controls such as Menu, Top, Exit and Eject off to the side. A second page has the numeric keypad, while the third holds additional controls, such as Angle, Zoom, Audio and others. Touchable cue keys in the corners of the screen allow direct access to each page. A Devices button located on the last page of each activity allows you to convert the remote to act exactly as the original remote for any component in your system. This feature saves you from having to go find the factory remote, should you ever need more advanced buttons or you’ve suffered a power outage and need to reset your TV’s clock, as I occasionally need to do with my Sony. While using this feature, a Current Activity button remains on the bottom of the touch screen to return you to the current set-up once you are done.

The Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote allows eight activities to be displayed on the touch screen display. I suspect that, for most users, eight is enough. My reference system has 11 different activities; a simple touch of the page button brings the remaining three into view. The order of activities can be arranged so the most commonly used ones are on the opening screen. Thanks to the Smart State Technology, changing Activities is a breeze; you just hit the Activities bar on the frame of the touch screen and select the new activity. The Harmony remote will turn on and off the necessary components and configure the settings, and you are up and running in your new action in seconds.

The remote worked well in all four of the systems I used it in, ranging from a simple TV and DVD player to my all-out assault on home theater. IR is unfortunately a line of sight control method and, as such, has its limitations. Harmony makes an RF Wireless Extender that will receive RF signals from the Harmony remote and convert them to IR via up to eight small, wired emitters you attach to your components. The software allows you to choose to control any and all devices by the remotes IR, RF, or the extender, and even allows each device to be controlled by only one of the extender’s four wired ports. This is key if you have two or more of the same devices and want to control them independently. When I integrated the Harmony 1000 into my reference system, I utilized the RF extender, as many of my components are outside the line of sight, and used the IR from the remote to power the TV. It worked flawlessly, with no lag in response time for using the RF Extender. One small quirk I discovered with the Harmony 1000 was that it tends to store multiple pressings of buttons in a cache, then sends them out with short pauses between them. This was only a problem before I was aware of this tendency and repeatedly hit the volume up a dozen or so times. It went to, then far past the level I was seeking.

The Downside
I loved this remote, but it has some minor issues I’d like to see resolved. The touch screen is beautiful, but doesn’t have enough space for large numbers of buttons, so devices require multiple pages to control their features. The IR emitter is located on the top left side of the remote, a where my and my friends’ left index fingers seemed to reside, occasionally causing issues with control. The lack of hard transport buttons means you will need to look at the screen to use these keys, taking your eyes off what you are scanning through. The Harmony has a cache for multiple button presses. I found it almost never necessary and, when I was impatiently hitting the volume increase button, it continued to raise the volume sometimes for a second or two after getting to the level I wanted. A little patience on my part solved this.

The Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote does a great job outputting IR signals, but IR is a line of sight control system and can thus be flawed. While the remote can output RF, the Harmony RF Wireless Extender that allows control of your devices from up to 100 feet away without a line of sight adds $149.99 to the price. I used this in my reference system where the gear is out of sight. I can see how even in my bedroom system, where sheets and blankets can sometimes obscure the IR signal, the reliability the RF extender adds to the remote would truly bring it to the next level. The RF extender allows guaranteed control of your devices from anywhere near your system and with the remote pointed in any direction; I would have liked it to be included in the package.

Conclusion
The Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal remote is quite simply the closest most of us will ever come to the likes of Creston or AMX, and it is far easier to program than either. Its drop dead gorgeous looks, sleek lines and beautiful touch screen display will make it a focal point of any theater, while its ease of use and advanced help feature make it practical enough for the whole family to enjoy. One of my favorite things about the Harmony remotes is the Help function. Should something go wrong starting an activity, the remote will walk the user through fixing it, saving you the phone calls of, “Honey, the TV won’t work!” The charging base station keeps the remote proudly displayed and always at the ready with a full charge. The Lithium ion battery lasts up to a week between charges, should you fail to replace it in the charger.

I have been through most universal remotes made over the past 10 years, and I have to say none make a remote as easy to use as Harmony. The Smart State technology makes them function smoothly without discrete codes. The simple to use and learn computer-based programming system is the best I’ve seen and, with the frequent updates, has continued to improve. During the short time I have had this review sample, Harmony has updated their remote software to 7.3.0.15, which solved a small but annoying issue I had in the past renaming activities. I spoke with Harmony’s technicians at the recent HE 2007 show and explained some of my issues and desires for this remote, most of which are software-upgradeable. They were aware of many of them and are working to add to the flexibility of the software, so we can hope these will be out soon, making this already exceptional remote even better.

While remotes continue to accumulate in my household, the Harmony 1000 has managed to keep all of my originals hidden in the closet. This remote offers amazing functionality and flexibility, with looks that will have your friends drooling with envy. The Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote pushes the envelope of what the everyday consumer can expect from a mass-marketed remote. I have recommended Harmony universal remotes to my friends for years. The new Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote is clearly their most luxurious remote to date and one that won’t be leaving my system any time soon. I flat-out love this remote. Try one and you’ll see why.
Manufacturer Logitech
Model Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote
Reviewer Ken Taraszka, M.D
Type Touchpanel





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