Logitech Harmony 555 remote controlI've bought a Locigtech Harmony 555 universal remote control - replacing the 4 remotes I have in my setup (one for my TV, PVR, DVD player and AV receiver).

I'd been in the market for a universal remote for a while, but hadn't really bothered to research them. So, when Chris mentioned he had bought one, and Christian duly commented he had a Harmony remote as well that was all the peer reviews I needed! After a quick read of the Logitech website and some reviews on Amazon I took the plunge.

A quick point Chris raised first of all. This remote is good because it has buttons, and so unlike those big customisable LCD jobs it is easier and more tactile to use.

So how is it in use then? Well, if you've read some reviews on this already you'll know that setting it up can be tricky, and I'm afraid I didn't fair any better. It took me about 2 and a half hours before I had it working properly, but there are some specific reasons for that - namely my TV.

So, to back up a second my TV is a Samsung LE26R88BD (I reviewed it here) and my PVR is a Humax 9200T (I reviewed that here). The remote worked flawlessly with my DVD player and AV receiver, but on initial setup wanted to learn a few commands for the Humax that it didn't have in its database. These were the power toggle, direction up, direction left (I think) and select.

Tip: When you are teaching the Harmony a command you have to point the source remote at the bottom of the Harmony for it to pick up the signal, something I found out after a couple of frustrating minutes, a case of RTFM!

Those learned it carried on with the setup, and given our TV model number recognised the fact that you have to cycle through the source inputs on a Samsung, rather than just choosing one directly. To this end it asked for the inputs and in what order they were in. I turns out I got this wrong on initial setup, and so consequently when trying to setup activities (a way of having the remote turn on everything required for a particular activity, like watching TV or a DVD) it kept cycling through to the wrong input source. To resolve that I had to tinker with the settings after setup in the devices tab, but once it had the right input list it was happy.

The second issue I had with my TV was that as you cycle through the inputs, if it lingers too long on “PC” it goes into standby, and so then can't switch it to “Ext1.”, and again gets confused. To solve this, again go to the devices tab, and this time alter the input-delay setting, and make it smaller. Finally our TV takes a good 5 seconds to “warm up”, but in the meantime the remote might be sending switch input commands, and so to combat that set the startup delay (I think it is called that) to say 6000ms so that the remote knows to wait a while before sending the switch input commands.

With those tweaks in place, and after a bit of testing the remote is working well, and I'm really happy with it. It works well with the Humax. The main feature of course it that it is one button to switch on and off everything you are using for a particular activity. The other great feature is that the volume controls the right device depending on the activity, so sometimes it controls the TV, other times is controls the AV receiver. I've also setup the custom buttons with various PVR functions (such as playlist, text, picture in picture) and don't be put off by the fact there are only 4 buttons in the picture, as you can have multiple pages of buttons on the LCD bit. The only niggle, because of the delay the TV needs you have to hold the remote at the equipment for a few seconds when switching stuff on and off. However, should it miss anything the great help feature means you can solve the issue very quickly.

Most importantly it is wife friendly, once setup Dawn hasn't had many issues, and is glad to see the back of the sea of remotes we used to have! If you are in the market for a universal remote I highly recommend this one. The only thing I've not managed to achieve with it yet is altering the volume on the TV depending on the activity I choose - I might have to contact the supposedly excellent Logitech Harmony support for that one. I'll let you know if I get a solution.

Update: If I'm an average user of the remote then battery life is about 4 months.