Saturday, March 14, 2009
An entertainment system is probably something that is common in today’s household. A TV set, a DVD player, a VCD player, a cable TV set top box, a set of home theater, and the list goes on. All of them carry the one thing that we need the most to properly use them: The remote control. Having remotes are good, so you can lay back and enjoy the functionality of your entertainment rig right from your couch. But this doesn’t mean that everything is simple.
In our household’s main entertainment system, we have an LCD TV, a cable TV set top box, a home theater set, an additional DVD player, and a PlayStation 2. That equals 4 remote controls. Imagine when we’re going to watch a DVD, for example, that means we have to use the TV’s remote to turn on the TV, use the home theater’s remote to turn on the speakers and switching to an auxiliary input, and then use the DVD player’s remote to turn on the DVD player and of course, play the DVD. This is just ridiculous. It can take me at least 2 minutes to turn everything on just to watch a DVD. Now this is where a universal remote comes in handy.
For years, I’ve been looking for the perfect universal remote control solution for our house. This starts from the Sony Remote Commander, the Philips Pronto, and several other brands that I can’t even remember or care about. But there are downsides to all of them. The Philips Pronto, way back then and even now, was just too damn expensive, and the rest of the options are just regular remotes with lots of buttons but no informative displays, or just utterly useless things. The worst part is that most of them have to actually LEARN the functions of the original remotes by pointing both remotes to each other and do the whole process. Imagine the time I have to take to set things right. Once, I even opted for a software-based universal remote in my old PDA. Long story short, it was garbage. A universal remote had to be something practical, and not something that makes walking on a strip of hair easier.
Then I found the Logitech Harmony series. The lineup spans to four different kinds of remotes, from the Harmony 1000, the top-of-the-line model (and of course, ridiculously expensive for my budget), to the low-end Harmony 525, which was my choice, but sadly it wasn’t easily available in Indonesia. I found this remote for only SGD 99 in Sim Lim Square, Singapore. It was loaded with adequate functions for my needs, it’s one of the most advanced yet affordable universal remotes, and it was built exceptionally good (it even matches our overall entertainment system design and color scheme).
Setting up the remote for the first time is always a chore, but with this remote, everything was done by the included Logitech Harmony Remote Software that runs on both Mac and Windows. It has an extensive device library, even down to uncommon things such as our First Media-provided Hyundai HSC-5170NA cable TV set-top-box. Who knew? It even worked well with that. With their collection of instructions for various devices, most of the time, the Harmony remote doesn’t even need to actually learn the functions from your old remote control. I took around half an hour to do the initial settings and a few tests on the entertainment system. It’s safe to say, that they all work perfectly like I always wanted. Watching TV, or DVD, or just listening to the radio now only takes a touch of an “Activity” button from the remote. Additionally, you can “pass along” the setup to a different Harmony remote should you buy a newer one, so that you don’t need to set up the new remote from scratch.
But of course, there’s always a con on every good product. In this case, it’s the software itself, where you need to be online to be able to do setups on the remote. This is because the software needs to access Logitech’s online library of electronic devices. But as long as you have a good internet connection, no worries here. Another downside is that you’ll need to actually connect the remote via USB to your computer to set things up. No wireless setups here, unfortunately. Other than that, the remote works as advertised.
So if you’re having headaches with many remote controls in your house, this is one thing that you should try. But a piece of advice, I found that some stores sell this in Jakarta with a price tag of IDR 1.5 million or even more, which is more than just a bit of a rip-off. So if you need to get it, it’s probably best if you have someone buy it for you while they’re abroad, unless if you’re aiming for the higher end models.
From four remotes down to just one, it’s official that my couch is now uncluttered!