"Good enough hardware, asinine software."2.0 starson by freesailorx
Pros: Good (enough) hardware.
Huge database of emulated devices.
Cons: Very ill-designed software platform (including the fact it's web based).
Very much less flexible in programming than usually stated.
Pricey, if you consider the many software shortcomings and therefore its limited usefulness.
Summary: After unpacking it, the first impression is quite good: very sleek design, well balanced in hand. Buttons have the right feeling (likely better than the average remote controls it has to replace), the display seems a good idea (and it is, really) and the automatic lighting up when remote is tilted is a very smart touch.
Battery lasts several weeks of (light) use an that's good.
Moreover, Harmony remote controls database is huge, so likely you'll find some ready-made emulations for your devices. Anyway, you can always change and fine tune function assignment to buttons as well as instructing Harmony to "learn" commands from the original remotes.
Unfortunately, Harmony smartness stops here or almost so.
Have you read rave reviews about Harmony remotes? Have you heard high praises about their "flexibility"?
Well, I think there is a good amount of hype around Harmony remotes.
Or, at least, it's opportune to say that they could be considered "simple" to program only if you adhere to "Harmony software philosophy", which is centered on "activities" instead of "remote emulation states".
This means, for example, that for every task that needs to switch from a device to another you have to define an "activity" that handles both devices (an activity is a "programmable" command sequence that links all devices used by that activity, e.g. "Watch Satellite" o "Watch TV", to some pre and post actions to perform on them).
Unfortunately, this also means struggling with the stubborn Harmony wizard that, by default, puts at the beginning of the activity command sequence some (unchangeable and not deletable!) commands to manage input selection and on/off state for each device, almost according to is own choice.
I'm saying "almost" because you can really choose some configuration settings to allow a more "free" programming but this is absolutely much less straightforward than you could think and that should be.
I can say that with good reason because, after some days of struggling with my 700 on a supposedly simple task (switching my TV set between a terrestrial decoder and a satellite decoder, just sending to TV an input selection string and then being able to switch to the appropriate remote emulation state), I've asked for support on Logitech Harmony forum, without receiving useful suggestions (at the end someone said that their technology is "better" than other manufacturers' "state emulation" philosophy, another person told me that I've simply bought the wrong kind of remote for my needs!).
After that, I've asked for advices on Remote Central forum and finally a smart and kind guy pointed me in the right direction: it can be done, after some configuration changes into the awkward Harmony software interface.
So, at the end I found that my 700 is a strange prepackaged beast, with a clumsy web based interface and a set of wizards that are likely good for basic and "standard" operations but not good at all for any operation that stays outside its "philosophy".
I've bought it with great expectations (given the good reviews and high praises I've read about) but I'm now convinced that Harmony's software philosophy is badly flawed:
- too much rigid and "activity-centric" (activity wizards are OK but they should be a benefit not a straitjacket!)
- internet connection MANDATORY for any configuration change (what if I go to my tourist home on the mountains for holidays and I have no internet connection? It also has a crazy timeout that thrust you out after some time of inactivity, without saving your modifications! Absolute madness ...)
- no configuration backup (scary ...)
- no configuration cloning (it would be very useful when testing new activities derived from existing ones)
- no step-by-step command sequence debug facility (isn't this a "programmable" remote? so, why no "debug" mode to send commands one-by-one to devices, allowing to individually check the effect of any command?)
- poor programming interface (clumsy menus, no possibility to edit already assigned commands, not even to simply change delays, etc.)
I've been a software developer for fifteen years and, frankly speaking, in my opinion Harmony software is a significant example of ill-conceived software.
All in all, I think that these remotes are (at least my 700 but I suspect it's quite representative of the whole family) both too much complicated for inexperienced guys and too much limited by their software for in-depth remote programming.
For sure, it can't be given with a light heart to elderly or absolutely non-technical people you have in your family.
So, I can't think of a user category to which these remotes could fit well, maybe just the soft-core technology amateur which lives alone ...
Anyway, if you are thinking about buying one of these devices please consider their activity-oriented nature and the fact it means being quite rigid and limited in programming.
Much more rigid than you could think when reading enthusiast reviews on the net.