Review: Logitech Harmony 676 Universal Remote

I recently purchased and received the Logitech Harmony 767 universal remote, and I can now officially say that I am a 21st century digital boy: my fscking TV remote has a USB interface. Thankfully, however, it’s used really well…

One really good reason to build a service versus a stand-alone software is that all options aren’t known at the time the software is written, and thus you want to maintain control over the data … this is actually a great description of a universal TV remote, as well: not only do you not want to distribute the IR code profile database of all potential devices in the world, but they may not yet even exist!

Logitech solves this problem by combining a universal remote with flash memory and a web site for peripherial device-configuration. You go through the web site with its extensive catalogue of devices and configurations in order to setup your profile of A/V devices. At various points it will prompt you to use your original device remote to ascertain various key-codes; it seems to do this for two reasons: to determine the particular device configuration from example, or to actually ascertain the specific IR code-sequence for a symbolic command.

The interface is extremely logical, and very in-depth; there’s obviously some rather sophisticated configuration-engine and decision-tree application logics backing the site … both in the device/function composition and excellent “this isn’t working; FIX IT!”-style help menus … the version on the web site is great, while the version on the remote is much more specific yet still very functional.

The UI of the remote is based around a handful of activity profiles: “watch a DVD”, “listen to a CD”, &c. Based on knowledge of the current state of the devices and the desired configuration, it will switch the appropriate devices into whatever specific configuration is necessary. Through the web site, however, you can redefine what would obviously occur to change from the generic configuration A to configuration B to suit your specific configurations A′ and B′.

One of the ways that the web site displayed its power – both potential and more importantly available – was when I had misconfigured my TV… the key buttons were working, but the volume +/-/mute weren’t. Through the web-site UI I was able to get a list of the symbolic commands-names that the remote would use to perform each function across each of the various devices that it knew it would need to control to provide such functionality, plus how the site+device knew it knew the control code — through it’s database or through learning from my existing remote … plus an option to redefine each code as necessary. Very nice. However, because the website is obviously generated via some expert system, it has that decidedly unpolished feel; its rough edges haven’t been filed down and away. This can be somewhat annoying, as a couple of configuration situations would do nicer with a bit of help text and/or different wording. But I’d rather have the generated configuration system than a hand-built website, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

The website accomplishes most of its function in terms of interaction with the device through dynamically-downloaded executable files. It seemed to be: one generic initial app to make sure the device is accessible, one to learn commands at the direction of the server, and one to program new content into the device. They seem to be generated on the fly [stock executable + configuration data], and it surprisingly takes a bit of time to do it. But only a few seconds.

As well, it seem that one can define custom control codes and control-code sequences, as well as redefine the soft-keys and what they perform.

Problems: My wacky-cum-awesome-Prismiq device is supported, but problematically: it seems all codes are sent 3 times in succession. I’m happily surprised that it knows what the Prismiq is, however. As well, it believe my PS2 has an IR port that doesn’t seem to exist. Physically, the central directional control ring is a bit too small and a bit too finicky … but it also seems like one of those things where after a few evenings of interaction I’ll find a nice little groove with it.

Overall: easily 9/10. A very nice device. Still probably not worth the price tag on principle in the face of tsunamis and famine, but if you have more than one remote and any disposable income whatsoever, you’ll like this device, a lot. Kudos to Logitech.

@prefix foaf: http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/. @prefix dc: http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/. @prefix review: http://www.purl.org/stuff/rev#. @prefix rdfs: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema# .

http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/products/detailsharmony/CA/EN,CRID=2084,CONTENTID=9511 dc:title “Logitech Harmony 676″ ; review:hasReview <#rev>.

<#rev> a review:Review ; review:rating 9 ; review:reviewer [ a foaf:Person; foaf:nick “jsled”; rdfs:seeAlso http://asynchronous.org/jsled/foaf ] ; review:text “””This is a very good remote, with a great premise and a good execution. There are a couple of relatively minor flaws in the execution, but otherwise it’s right at the top of the state of the art. It’s hard to see how you’d be disappointed.””” .

Updated 2005-01-12T10:10-05:00 — I forgot to add a note about the website.