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Discussion Starter #1
I like the idea of the touch screen remote controls, but it seams like a huge price to pay just so I don't need to pick up a few different remotes or use the TV remote to operate limited features of the other components.

Does anyone know where I can get a good knock off of an outstanding remote.
 

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I don't know of any knockoff remotes. However, Universal (as I understand it) and Harmony both have excellent offerings. You will have to pay for them, of course.

What's your budget?
 

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I think you can get the Harmony 880 for < $200, and the 890 for ~$250.

I use the 890 and enjoy it very much. It has a few quirks, but works extremely well.
 

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A question about the harmony remotes: How good are they at controling all the intricate menu options and setup details on recievers? How easy is it to change the layout? From what I gather, it's very macro-oriented, something I really dont need, would you agree with that? Finally, is it possible to assign multiple pages of buttins in order to fit all the original ones on the remote(for exaple" Reciever Basic, Reciever Advanced)?

Ive tried a couple and always have prefered to use my reciever's remote, but since i lost the God Blessed thing, I find myself in a market ive never researched.:gah:
 

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Hi there Randy,

Most of the stuff on my preamps setup menus are usually based on the left-right-up-down and enter buttons. The Harmony will easily do that. Of course, the harmony will be able to do all existing buttons on the remote, and perhaps some that aren't on the remote. When you go to the Harmony site and tell it what device you are using, it will automatically "know" all the codes for all buttons (and then some, perhaps). You don't have to point the original remote at the Harmony in order for it to learn the existing buttons. However, in the rare event that the site does not know the device, you certainly can point the remotes together to learn the codes.

It's rather easy to change the layout. It's all done through a web-based GUI that's somewhat intuitive. I used to think it was very goofy, but they've fixed it based on user feedback. I find their willingness to change things and fix things to be very good. Anyway, for each "device" and for each "activity" you have set up, all your entries are there in the GUI. You can change them however you wish. I do wish it was a little more "drag and drop" but it's not. I give the site a good "B" grade.

As to it being macro-oriented -- it can be if you wish it, but it doesn't have to be. Each "activity" (e.g., "watch Dish" or "listen to CDs") will execute whatever commands you need in order to setup the proper inputs, select the device, start the CD or whatever. When you select an activity, it will also populate the screen with the controls you need for that activity. For example, when I select "watch Dish," the forward and backward buttons control the Dish box, and the volume controls my preamp; the screen buttons are also programmed with more Dish stuff, as well as controls for my sub (among other things). When I choose "PC," all the Dish stuff is forgotten, and it's set up to do PC-based stuff. Very slick.

You can assign multiple pages per device or per activity. I would imagine that there's some limit, but I haven't hit it. I think the greatest number of pages I have one one device is six (but I don't think that's the limit). You can put whatever you want there. However, I don't think you can label each page individually when it's inside of a single "device" or "activity." Inside each of those, the pages will just be labeled as "1 of 4," "2 of 4" and so on. You can scroll through the pages with two dedicated buttons.

I, too, had tried several different universal remotes (not to be confused with the "Universal" remote company; just various different remotes). They all sucked for some reason or another. The "best" one I had was probably the Marantz MC2000 Mk II (something like that). It was the most flexible, but had to be programmed by pointing the original at it. It ate batteries and it weighed a ton. The Harmony is rechargable, easy to program and super flexible. I'm using the 890, which is an RF-based version of the 880. I don't have any experience with other models, but I would wholeheartedly recomment the 880 or the 890 to anyone wanting a universal remote. My wife loves it. I'll never go back to using the original remotes on a day to day basis.

Good luck!
 

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Wow, that sounds great. I think I'm gonna go to Ultimate and grab one this week. Just to clarify, when you pick an activity, the remote presents you with the neede buttons to do that activity? Pretty sweet. I dont like macros because I always start from a different point, so If the remote automatically hits the power to my dish reciever when its already on, I have to go through turning it back on....

Anyway, that was an excellent description, thank you very much, Otto.

One more question: does the 890 include RF reciever/IR transmitters to use it to control, say a Dish reciever down stairs? The lack of an RF remote has been a major complaint since we switched from Dish Network to DirecTV.
 

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I highly recommend the Universal MX350. At $150 retail, it is one of the best we have found. We have programmed hundreds of remotes for clients and overall, we like it for most applications. It has RF and IR output.
 

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Wow, that sounds great. I think I'm gonna go to Ultimate and grab one this week. Just to clarify, when you pick an activity, the remote presents you with the neede buttons to do that activity?
Yep. Any which way you want to set them up.

Pretty sweet. I dont like macros because I always start from a different point, so If the remote automatically hits the power to my dish reciever when its already on, I have to go through turning it back on....
The macros are optional, and will only do what you tell them to. By default, it will try to turn on whatever device is used in an "activity." For example, it'll try to turn on my TV for the "Watch Dish" activity. I don't like that either, because the TV might be on and then it'll turn it off, just like you said. However, there is another option in there to "leave device on all the time" and then it won't do any on/off stuff, it just leaves the power alone.

Like I was describing earlier, the Harmony database may give you other remote codes that aren't available from your original remote. One of these that comes to mind now is discrete power buttons. So, although your remote perhaps only has a button that says "power," and which simply toggles the device on and off, the Harmony database may have discrete buttons for "on" and "off." Then, you can program some of your macros to turn a device "on" only, and then even if it's already on it won't matter if the macro runs, because it's just sending another "on" command (i.e., it won't toggle it and turn it off). I generally do that for devices that I know I'll need and that have the discrete on/off commands. I know how you feel about the on/off business, and in an effort to get around it all, I simply made an "activity" called "Power" that just has "on" and "off" commands for all devices. At the end of the day, I just go to "Power" and hit them all off. Works great.

Anyway, that was an excellent description, thank you very much, Otto.
Sure, any time. I'm not 100% expert in the Harmony, but I've been working with it for a while now. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer.

One more question: does the 890 include RF reciever/IR transmitters to use it to control, say a Dish reciever down stairs? The lack of an RF remote has been a major complaint since we switched from Dish Network to DirecTV.
The 890 comes with one RF receiver/IR transmitter. I hang that little device on my wall, and it shoots the necessary IR to all devices (I use an open rack that's just sitting in my living room). You can also plug into the rear of that device more IR blinkers (included). I believe there are three or four 1/8" jacks for that purpose, and each wired IR blinker has two "heads" on it. I used these when I had some componentry that was behind the TV and which couldn't be reached by the normal IR blaster. The wires on those things are kinda long (maybe 6 feet?), and I don't know if you could run an extension cable and still have them work. I would certainly try if need be...

Now you're talking about talking to your DirecTV box that's located in the basement. You could certainly do that -- put the single RF receiver down there and use it to communicate with the DTV box. No problem. Assuming that the rest of your components are in the living room (or otherwise away from the DTV box), you can simply tell the 890 to use RF to talk with the DTV box and IR to talk with the other components (the 890 handset can shoot IR directly in addition to RF). However, you're going to lose the ability to control all your devices with the RF capability of the 890. It's not a showstopper by any means, but now that I've become accustomed to not having to point the remote at the rack, there's no going back. I use it all over the house (mostly to control volume of both "zone 1" and "zone 2").

I think there are a couple ways around this. The first thing I'd try is to connect one of the IR blinker extensions to the back of the RF receiver and try to wire that down to the basement. I'd use an extension cable if necessary (again, not sure it'll work, but I'd try). If that doesn't work, I think you can get a second RF receiver and connect that with the 890. I have zero experience with using two RF receivers, but customer service will know.

Anyway, it's been a good remote. Lots of cool features, and super flexible.
 

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I have the Harmony 885 (US model 880) and am more than happy with it. Switching between activities/macros it remembers which devices are on and vice versa, as long as you ONLY use the Harmony you should not have problems with it switching something on or off. If I have powered my receiver on with it's own remote to change settings and then I press 'Listen to cd' on the Harmony it switches the receiver off as the Harmony does not know that it is already on, pressing the 'HELP' button on the Harmony the Harmony will then ask a series of questions such as 'is the receiver on?', you then have the choice of 'yes' or 'no', press 'no' and the Harmony sends the power on signal to the receiver and then asks 'did this solve the problem?', again choose 'yes' or 'no' and you are done. I am pleased with the Harmony, it does what I need it to do and their service is first class, I had a problem with the charging cradle and so sent them email. Apparently it was a known problem, Harmony wanted my address and sent a new one to me free of charge, it took two weeks to get the replacement cradle, not bad seeing as though I live in Finland and they sent the cradle from Canada, they even provided me with a tracking number!
 
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