When you need to control multiple consoles, a DVR, a sound system, anything else you happen to have connected to your TV, and of course the TV itself, things can get a little complicated. If you happen to be one of those poor souls that needs to turn on five different devices just to watch a movie, then Logitech has something just for you. The Logitech Harmony 650 is designed to get you using your tech as quickly and easily as possible.
A lot of the older universal remotes were quite a pain to set up, but I was able to setup the Harmony in just a few minutes. Rather then using your old remotes to program the Harmony, Logitech uses its software to do the work for you. By connecting your Harmony to your computer, you can use Logitech's software to access settings from a huge list of devices. You can type in common names, like Xbox 360, or the model numbers of your devices, to quickly let your remote know about everything that it needs to control. If you happen to have something Logitech did not add into their software, you can still program the remotes manually by aiming your old remote at it and following the programming directions. This seems unlikely though since the list of items seems quite large. Every piece of equipment in my setup was on Logitech's list. Though it seems almost every piece of equipment is on Logitech's list, there is one piece of common equipment that the Harmony 650 is unable to control. For some reason, the Playstation 3 was not made to be controlled with IR, which makes it much harder to use the Harmony with your Playstation 3. Luckily, Logitech also sells a Harmony Playstation 3 adapter. This adapter will accept your Harmony 650's IR commands and send them on to the Playstation 3 through BlueTooth.
Once you have told your remote what sort of devices you have, you can then setup your "activities." Since doing certain tasks, like watching TV, might require manipulating several devices, the Logitech Harmony 650 handles these tasks by creating activity macros. Once more, Logitech has compiled a large list of activities that will satisfy most people. Logitech does a very good job with their predefined activities. The default "Watch TV" that was recommended to me was smart enough to use the volume controls with the audio system, the channel controls with my digital TV box, and leave the picture setting buttons to control the TV. If the activity you want is not in that list, or doesn't work quite the way you want, you simply create a new one or modify an existing activity.
Creating a new one is fairly easy. You simply add all of the devices that you are using for the activity to the list. After it knows what devices to use, you tell it what needs to be activated, for example my TV needs to be on input HDMI-1 in order to play the Xbox 360. The activities and devices you have added, can be viewed and updated in the software at any point through this pleasantly simple summary page.
Once all of your devices and activities are setup, your settings are transferred onto the remote. Each device and activity, is accessed through the screen that is near the top of the remote.
From this screen every device can be controlled and every activity can be easily started. Once a device or activity is selected, the screen fills with options at a time based on the device or activity you chose. When I choose the DVD player, the the option include turning the player on/off, open/close the tray, play/pause, etc. Watch TV allows you to set icons for your favorite channels too. The screen can only show four options at a time though, so you might have to scroll a page or two to find the one you are looking for. Though slightly annoying, it did not turn out to be a big deal since most of the actions I care about, are already buttons on the main part of the remote. All of the buttons on the remote have back lighting so are easy to see and use even when it is dark.
The Logitech Harmony 650 only claims that it will replace your other remotes, but it does even more than that. The Harmony 650 allows you to turn on and set all of the correct modes for each piece of equipment with the touch of a single button. I think what amazes me the most is that this is one of Logitech's cheapest remote offerings. When you compare the features to the $250 Harmony One or the $400 Harmony 900, the Harmony 650 is definitely a great buy. If you would like to get your hands on a Harmony 650, but cannot afford it, you are in luck. We will be running a giveaway in the near future sponsored by Logitech Harmony so check back to have a chance to get your very own Harmony 650.