Harmony Remote Control

I was all set to pick up a Harmony 880 remote to simplify my HT system, but read a whole lot of negative reviews. Comments like cheap construction, faulty connection to the docking station and tiny buttons scared me away. For those of you who have this or another HT remote, can you share your experiences? Are these complaints nit picking or for real? Is there a remote out there that is better?
Nitpicking. I have an 880, and it works like a charm. The programming takes a little work, and some troubleshooting, but it's not so bad. And from firsthand experience, Logitech's tech support people are superb.
I'm with you, Tonyp54. I have read similar reports about several Logitech Harmony remotes. The batteries in my Phillips Pronto 1000 recently took a dump and I lost all my programming, including rather complex macros. It was a PITA to program. Reports of universal remotes that require "a little work" and troubleshooting to get up and running turn me off.

I'd love to find a universal remote that my wife and mother can easily operate, and that programs easily.

Anyone own one?
I've used remotes from Lexicon, Crestron, AMX, Pronto, Microsoft, and others and have found that I like the 880 the best. I dont like to have to look down at a remote to find the buttons such as with touch screen remotes. I can find all the buttons on the 880 by feel and have not had any problems with it. I also like the help button to get things back in sync on the occasional time when I change functions and don't point it in the general direction of the equipment. It only took me about 20 minutes to "program" it for the HT rig. I've owned it since it was first released and it's worked like a charm. In addition, the wife can actually use it too. She felt too intimidated by the touch screen remotes. I will concede that some of the buttons are kind of small, but I have small hands so it works out fine.
It only took me about 20 minutes to "program" it for the HT rig. I've owned it since it was first released and it's worked like a charm.

Please explain "program". Did you use a Macintosh or PC, or neither?
I used a PC to "program" it. When you first start the software (web based) it asks for a list of equipment. Then it asks which inputs on the pre/pro and TV that things are connected to. Also, it asks if you do video switching in the TV or on the pre/pro and which device controls the volume. It then goes to the Harmony web site and downloads the IR codes and sets everything up. I then tweaked the input switching timing and the order of activities and it was done. The software is also compatible with the Mac. BTW, I've programmed all the remotes I listed above and the Harmony is by far the easiest. It's so easy that all off the High-end shops in the area refuse to carry it because they can't make any money on selling the programming and there's not a lot of margin in it.
Tvad, Harmony uses a web-based programming protocol. You set up a passworded account on their site, use their database of codes, and save the configuration of your remote. The upside of this is that if your batteries cack, you can plug the Harmony remote into your computer, log on, and reload your commands from their site.
Thank you Prpixel and Leedistad.
I have the Harmony H659 and at $150 retail from Best Buy I have been very happy. A Logitech tech pretty much did the programming while I waited on the phone.
I have the 880 and it works well with the frankenstein system I currently have. I have had custom hex codes from pronto machines and others imported into my remote several times and customer support has always been responsive (within a day or two) in getting them done.
The web interface is a bit clunky and took a few tries to get everything the way I wanted, but once everything was setup I haven't had a single problem and I haven't met anyone who couldn't figure out how to work my somewhat complex system on the first try.
I saved the ROM file that is installed from the web site, so I can restore my entire remote setup easily in a few minutes without having to depend on their web site (I this tested by removing the battery).
I like my 880, but am still tweaking with it. It won't turn on my Denon 1650AR CD player, nor my Rotel 1095 amp; it keeps telling me to turn on the cd player! further, I have to use the Samsung remote to switch from tv/sat to dvd. I figure this is something I can work out with the techs, as I probably messed up with the setup. As for the buttons, they are pretty small, but better than some of the remotes, especially the cheesy remote with my oppo dvd player.
I have the older version, and have to say it is the best remote I've used. Programming is easy via the web-based system. As I have upgraded or swapped out components updating the device was very simple. Yes the buttons are a bit small, and the layout is not always the best, but those are very, very small issues compared to the ease of use, reliability and great performance. I whole heartedly recommend this remote.

Troubleshooting is a snap, and for the 1 or 2 times that the database did not include a needed command, I simple added it by the "learning" function. Now that data is in the system so I never have to repeat that step.
I've had the 880 for well over 2 years now, and I'll relate some of my experiences:

PROS: The website to program this thing is pure genius. It's very flexible and powerful, but at the same time intuitive and easy to use. The unit has proved to be reliable, with no problems.

CONS: The small buttons continue to bother me a bit, as it's easy to press the wrong one if you aren't concentrating. It makes very poor contact to its base so charging it is a 2-minute ordeal to manipulate the base and remote until it finally makes contact. Also, the IR beam doesn't seem that powerful, as frequently my TV and/or cable box doesn't turn on with the rest of the equipment (and all of equipment is together in one stand).

CONCLUSION: It's served me well for pushing 3 years, but I'm going to be looking at a Home Theater Master at some point.

Do not get a Harmony 1000 it sucks! It never works exactly the way it should, the help button always fixes the problem but it should not have to be used every single time you employ the remote. When I saw Harmony at T.H.E. show in NYC last May they agreed its not a remote that was ready for market, its a $500 waste of money and if I recall Prpixel told me on phone its discontinued, and I say good! I have used other Harmony products and have been happy but this model just missed the mark, and touch screen remotes (which the 1000 is) look great and hi-tech but real buttons you can operate by feel in a dark room during a movie may not look as sexy but waaaaaaaaaaay more usable and appreciated once you try a touchscreen and quickly discover its not so easy to use.
It works but software crashes from time to time and you have to be careful to keep it pointed in the IR receivers direction for about 5 seconds to operate a full HT setup...Cable Box, DVD player, AMP, and TV. The pointing issue is a severe limitation because kids tend to hit the off button and toss the Harmony on a chair any old how....this may or may not have the intended conseequences depending on which way the IR Transmitter is pointing.

I use a Harmony in my second HT setup.
I tried one and wasnt that happy with the 880, I instead starting using a Nevo Sl and it has been a much better experience.
Chad, I agree with you that real buttons are so much more usable than the touchscreen stuff. That's why I'm looking into the Universal MX-900.

I'm not sure why companies think that touchpads or small buttons are what people want to press in a remote control. For me, I want something solid with real buttons that actually work. And that, to me, is one of the Harmony's shortcomings. I have pressed the wrong button many times because they're just so small.

Look at Control 4. I just bought one so Im not sure how well it will work. Programming and all is done by the store you buy it from. I'll keep you posted! it will operate everything from blinds, HVAC, lighting, Ht, even my Sirus Satelite S50.
I've been using the 880 for about a year and it works great. The build quality is not top of the line and some of the buttons are sort of small, but I really like the "activity" concept and found it fairly easy to program. It takes a little tweaking, but so does everything else.
I love mine. I got a near bottom of line from TigerDirect. Cost me about $60 and it beats the $hit out of my Pronto, MX-700 and 500. Anyone want a good deal on either of those, hit me w an email. Mine does not have a dock, uses AAAs and my only complaint is one of the buttons sticks a bit. If I got of my lazy butt and sent it back, I could have it replaced, but then I'd have to do w/o for 2 weeks.
I have had min for 2 years now and it is the only one that I have found to be truely 'universal'. It will even control my velodyne sub.
Chad and Sufentanil,

I am completely onboard with you guys with the button thing. I could never use a touchscreen, and I find the buttons on the Harmony remotes I've seen to be tough to navigate by feel, and they feel relatively flimsy as well.

Sufentanil, I saw you're looking at one of the Universal remotes. I've been using the venerable SL-9000 for almost 10 years, and I can't say enough positive about it. It's been able to handle everything I throw at it (home theater, obscure hi-end audio brands, macros, etc.), it's taken more than its share of drops and abuse, it works from almost any angle, batteries last seemingly forever (especially since I almost never have to use the backlight as I virtually never need to look to find buttons), and you can get it for $80 or maybe less. I was fearing the day mine quit since I didn't think they made this remote anymore, but I found it is still available (thank God). If you like driving blind and want a sturdy remote that just plain works, as long as this does what you need give it a try. Here's a link in case it's helpful.

Crap -- SL-9000 no longer available. I looked on the Universal website and it looked like it was still available, but after digging a little more it looks like it's discontinued. I'm bummed. Sorry for the misinformation.
I use the Universal Remote - the previous version of the RF20

$100 at target, probably could be found for cheaper: http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html?asin=B000FL9E6K

It has a very solid feel and build, firm and easy to find/use buttons in dark, controls 10 devices, learning mode, and an optional RF transmitter. I currently control my Panasonic plasma, DVDO scaler, Velodyne sub, Cary HT Pre, Supratek analog preamp volume, and Onkyo cd/dvd/sacd player. I can be standing in another room and run all of these with the RF transmitter.

It does not have a fancy color screen, touch controls, or a computer interface, which is fine with me.

I've never used a logitech once, but they always struck me as flimsy and cluttered with buttons.
The new Harmony One...replaces 880 and is revised for an overall better functioning/easier to use remote.
I have the Harmony one and it works flawlessly.
A friend of mine had a 880 which I found "flimsy and cluttered with buttons" but the One is well designed, feel solid and is easy to setup.
How does the Harmony One compare with some of Universal's offerings? It seems as though the One definitely improves some of the shortcomings of the 880, but I'm not convinced that it has completely gotten away from the LCD/small button thing. Or am I wrong about that?

I have a Harmony 880 which I use for the audio system and a Harmony 1000 for the home theater. I am mostly satisfied; I do prefer real buttons to the touchscreen but I can use the touchscreen without turning up the lights and finding my glasses! I can't get either to properly control my Sony SCD-777ES, which is weird because the 880 used to control it just fine. I would recommend buying a Harmony if you don't have a Macintosh computer; if you can't get it working fine within two hours go get your money back. Otherwise I think you will love it.
I have the 1100 in my family room. Only 4 devices TV, HTR, BRD, and Cable box. Only 2 activities:
Watch TV
Watch BRD

Glitchy as hell. The same command will create different responses. At randoml intervals, it will change. One minute, a tap (and I do mean tap) on the scroll arrows will move you up one step in a menu (as intended) or it might decide to move you two steps. Once it starts the "two step", you can't access half the menu items, since it skips to every other choice. Exiting the menu (sometimes two or three times is necessary) and returning will eventually fix the issue.

As Shad noted, you'd better keep the thing pointed for 5 secs or one device goes "out of sync" and the remotes has it "on" when it's "off" (or vice versa).

The programming is nicely set up - unless you use the extender for components w/o line of sight - in which case the on-screen directions are somewhere between flat-out wrong and highly misleading. OTOH, customer service is as good as it gets - tho they have provided no "fix" for the "Harmony two step".

I also have a Universal touch screen in my HT room and it is light years better (tho 3X the cost).