A great idea but the end result needs a bit of fine-tuning
Totally programmable activity
Takes a long time to find the perfect setup
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The original Harmony took the idea of 'macros' - sequences of commands for several devices - and developed it into an 'activity-based' remote control, where helpful software lets you configure the remote to do several tasks with one button-press, such as turn on your TV, satellite receiver and home cinema amplifier, setting them all to the right inputs and channels.
The Harmony 785 is the second tier in a range that varies the shape and functions to suit your needs and buying power. At its most simple, the Harmony is a multi-device remote control, programmed by PC connection, which can also learn commands from remotes that aren't in the control database.
It's a got a colour LCD screens, plus all the keys you'd expect from a universal handset. With the rechargeable battery and charging cradle, you'll also never be caught out battery-less.
You can only set up the Harmony with a PC or Mac USB connection, and the software walks you through configuring a series of common tasks, such as watching TV, PVR, or a DVD, or listening to the radio. You can have multiple display devices, and even set up customised sequences for more unusual device configurations.
An internet connection is also essential, as the remote control database is stored online. The setup process is easy, but installing the software and updating to the latest version takes time.
The setup wizard asks about your viewing habits, and picks what it thinks will be the appropriate devices for each activity. But if it's wrong, the only way to change this is to start from scratch. If it's right (it usually is), you can add commands to control other devices.
The handset is smart but some buttons are too fiddly when you're used to a chunky remote like Sky's. They also lack a firm response - I deleted at least one show I didn't want to from Sky . This can be eased by reducing the speed at which the codes are transmitted so you don't send a double-press.
But the system's greatest weakness is the remote control mapping. Too often we found there were odd errors, such as colour function keys being mapped to the LCD screen's function buttons instead of the colour buttons on the handset, or device labels being sloppily copied. You'll be grateful that you can edit the remote maps for every handset and activity.
I've tried multi-device remotes, but usually soon returned to the original remotes. The Logitech Harmony is the closest I've come to a genuine universal replacement useful for even complex AV systems, but don't underestimate the time you'll spend fine-tuning it Alex Lane
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