nerdly technogeeky

logitech harmony: it will change your life

logitech remote5 years ago, as a single gal, my home entertainment system consisted of a tv, a digital cable box, and a dvd player. The cable guy was kind enough to program the cable remote to work the tv. And when I wanted to watch a movie, I had to break out the dvd remote. So I had 3 components and two remotes. And I knew how to work them. And life was simple.

Then I got married. Enter surround sound, directivo, an xbox and a game cube. And a universal remote. It was a mid-range universal remote, one that could “learn” from any remote, so you never had to worry that it wouldn’t have the right codes for your stuff. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite have all the right buttons for all of our devices, so my husband mapped a few buttons to things that weren’t labeled what they were.

One remote is easier than 4, and it’s certainly less to get lost in the couch. The remote worked fine, and for the most part, I remembered which buttons did what. I could go from watching tv, to watching a dvd, and back again. But if my husband left it set up for gaming, I couldn’t always remember which buttons to push to get the video and audio back to where I wanted. There was many a holler through the apartment when I needed to know which video input the directv was on, and which button to push again to change the audio. Even when I could remember which sequence of buttons to push, it was a fairly involved process that took 5 or 10 button-mashings. Certainly not beyond the ability of a capable adult, but remembering each sequence for the 4 different options (directv, dvd, xbox or gamecube) could be challenging, especially when I didn’t use all the options on a regular basis.

When we bought our house, I made a deal with my husband: If I got a house, he could get a fancy new tv. What with the nearly half-million dollar mortgage (welcome to 45 miles outside of dc …), it didn’t seem so crazy to spend a few thousand on a tv. I almost balked at the $250 logitech harmony remote – there are tvs that cost less than that! – but, again, what’s a couple hundred when you are signing papers for a couple hundred thousand? I didn’t get why this new universal remote was so much better than the universal remote we already had – that I had almost mastered – but he was so in love with it, I gave in. Plus, it was made by logitech, and, well, who doesn’t love logitech?

To program it, he had to hook it up to his computer, via usb cable. It took an hour or two, and needed a few quick tweaks over the next week or so. But once he was done – once it was finally ready – I understood what was so awesome about it. It became very clear to me that it was the best remote. EVER.

When you pick up the remote, the lcd screen lights up, and you see the list of ‘Activities.’ The activities on my remote right now, for example, are ‘TiVo’, ‘DVD’, and ‘PS3.’ You push the button next to the activity you want, and the remote figures out what it needs to do in order to get you there. It knows what state the system was in last, and it sends all the right signals to all the right devices to get you to your final destination. It gets to the right video input, and to the right audio output. I push ‘TiVo’, and then I am at my tivo list, with my list of available shows. One button push. If I want to then watch a dvd, I press the ‘Activities’ button at the top of the remote to get my activity list back. And then I push the button next to the ‘DVD’ option. Two button pushes. And I’m ready to roll.

The other great thing the remote does, is it makes the rest of the remote buttons control the right things. When I am in tivo mode, the fast forward/rewind/pause/play buttons control the tivo. When I am in dvd mode, they control the dvd player.

(There are more advanced options available – using the lcd screen, for example, you can get to every single button on every single remote for every single device you have. I, for one, have never done it. I’ve never had a need to. But, the remote is capable of more than just the simple stuff I outlined above.)

This is the year 2007. We send rovers to mars. We do surgery using itty bitty cameras that are threaded though people’s bodies. We have cars that parallel park themselves! It is high time we had a revolution in remote control technology. This isn’t 1970 when a home entertainment system meant you had a television set – we are in an era where home entertainment systems are composed of multiple components, all intricately connected. It is a little silly to use 4 remotes just so you can sit down and watch the evening news. It’s even silly to have a clunky universal remote that makes you push 10 different buttons just to go from playing your PS3 to watching a DVD. In fact, It is downright ridiculous for someone with a high end system – a tv that cost over a thousand dollars, dvd player, sound system, etc. – to NOT have a logitech harmony remote. (Or one with similar capabilities.) I mean, honestly, if you spend $2000 on a tv and $200 on Monster cables, and then you skimp on the remote – that’s like wearing $2 old navy flip-flops with a designer gown. If you are going all out, then finish the package, and get the nice remote.

I love the logitech harmony remote. We started with the $250 logitech harmony 880, but just replaced it with the newly released $170 ($120 at Costco till October 31) 720. It is one remote. With one button to push to get you where you want to go. There is no more frustration. There is no yelling across the house. There is just me, enjoying my home entertainment system. I will never again live without such a remote. Trust me ladies, this remote will change your life. Logitech has several models in different price ranges (I actually prefer the cheaper 720 to the 880), so you do have a little flexibility as to how much you spend. (It looks like currently, Best Buy has models that range from $100 to $400.)

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