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Universal remote controls: how (and how well) do they work in practice?

ThirithThirith Registered User regular
I'm considering getting a universal remote control (possibly a Logitech Harmony Companion) because my wife finds the ever-increasing number of remote controls a constant bother. While I don't mind them myself, when I take a step back and look at all the remotes in use I can see her point. At the same time, I'm finding this business of programming and using a universal remote control somewhat vague.

In practice, how would a universal remote work with a setup like the one described below? Do I understand correctly that universal remotes often work together with some sort of phone or tablet companion app? What are the typical problems and shortcomings? Which ones would you recommend?

To make this more concrete, here's what we have at present:
- Samsung TV (remote 1)
- Sony AV receiver (remote 2)
- Set-top box (connected to TV, remote 3)
- Apple TV (connected to AV receiver, remote 4)
- Blu-ray player (connected to AV receiver, remote 5)
- PS4 (connected to AV receiver)
- WiiU (connected to TV)

(The STB and the WiiU aren't connected to the AV receiver mainly because that means my wife doesn't have to handle an additional remote control.)

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"Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods

Posts

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    You'd go through a setup on your computer for the logitech one. Add all your devices, then test them. Each device gets its own item on the menus that you can press into and get item specific options like turn on/off, menu, etc. Usually things like the apple TV and PS4 have way more options than the rest.

    I'm sure you can get one that uses a phone/tablet app but the logitech harmony I have doesn't have one I don't think. They work just like any other remote control just you don't have go "so how do I access the TV's menu?" because it gives you the option on the LCD screen. Which is a problem I always struggled with those $10 GE jobbers from rite aid, especially in a world where TVs don't have physical menu buttons on the TV itself anymore.

    Ladies.
  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Pretty sure that Harmony has both wi-fi and bluetooth and the one I have definitely works with your phone. In fact it definitely pushed me towards doing the set up via phone because I didn't know they had a PC version. (That should have been obvious in retrospect.)

    Set up was a little non-intuitive but not really bad once I understood what it wanted. At least not on a scale if you're running a set up with an AV receiver in it.

    You should be able to get to single button press for "I want to play ps4" or "I want to use Apple TV" or whatever. It'll turn on what needs turning on, change inputs and what not. I think after the first three you might have to get into long button presses but I think their is more room on the "color" buttons, I haven't dug that deep.

    bowenShadowfire
  • ThirithThirith Registered User regular
    Thanks. I think that there's a bit of a knot in my brain with respect to this topic; I'll always find multiple specialised remote controls more comprehensible than one that ideally should think of these things the way my wife does. I'm somewhat worried that if I got a universal remote control and programmed it, it would fit the way I think about these things, which is exactly not what is needed.

    webp-net-resizeimage.jpg
    "Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    ... we used to use the rubber band that comes on broccoli to just Voltron the remotes together. Best of both worlds.

    ElvenshaeHappylilElffurlionI ZimbraTNTrooperMichaelLC
  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    edited December 2018
    Thirith wrote: »
    Thanks. I think that there's a bit of a knot in my brain with respect to this topic; I'll always find multiple specialised remote controls more comprehensible than one that ideally should think of these things the way my wife does. I'm somewhat worried that if I got a universal remote control and programmed it, it would fit the way I think about these things, which is exactly not what is needed.

    The two biggest hangups people have when I do Harmony programming:
    They think there should be an "on" button. With everything off, you just tap on "Watch TV" or "Play PS4" or whatever. Then you press "Off" when you're done with your entertainment center.
    Pushes the button to set the entertainment center to what they want and immediately put the remote down. Line of sight is broken, the system falls out of sync. Spend the next five minutes running through the help menu.

    They're very intuitive and work very well for the price. The second problem can be resolved pretty well by using the Harmony Hub with IR blasters plugged into it and set near your devices. I would honestly just get the Hub and skip the Companion remote. It's nice to have the remote, but without a screen you only have three buttons to select activities. They're programmed with a tap doing one thing, and a hold doing another (tap Watch Movie to start your AppleTV, hold to start the PS4 for instance). You might be ok with that, but it sounds like your wife might send the remote through the TV.

    Shadowfire on
    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
    ThirithMegatin
  • ThirithThirith Registered User regular
    Yeah, if anything I'm tending towards combining the Hub with one of the remotes that have a screen. There's something to the tactility of having actual buttons, but at the same time you can have bespoke buttons that say what they're for.

    Of course, realistically speaking my wife would still not be using the Apple TV or the Bluray-Player or any of the other assorted devices - but then it would be by choice and not because she's frustrated by the half-dozen remotes. :P

    webp-net-resizeimage.jpg
    "Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods
  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    You kinda can't. Unless you go all out with the Harmony Elite, using a remote and the Hub with your phone will get things out of sync pretty quickly.

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • ThirithThirith Registered User regular
    That's what I'm considering at the moment. Though I've heard in other places that the other (screened) Logitech Harmony remotes play well with the hub, so you could do without the phone app.

    webp-net-resizeimage.jpg
    "Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    I found the Harmony PC program to work better for initial programming than the app.

    The app and remote generally work fine together. App is good if something gets stuck because you can go in and just power cycle a single device instead of the whole macro.

    Mugsley wrote:
    So now I need to get it trimmed and adjusted, and all in.

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • BlazeFireBlazeFire Registered User regular
    edited December 2018
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    I found the Harmony PC program to work better for initial programming than the app.

    The app and remote generally work fine together. App is good if something gets stuck because you can go in and just power cycle a single device instead of the whole macro.

    I can control single devices from my old harmony remote. Did this change?

    edit: added quote for clarity.

    BlazeFire on
  • ThirithThirith Registered User regular
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you asking if a phone app is necessary because the remote doesn't have all required functions? That's definitely not the case. However, an app (or a remote with a screen) has the advantage that you can have buttons with customisable labels or entire menus.

    webp-net-resizeimage.jpg
    "Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods
  • BlazeFireBlazeFire Registered User regular
    I was responding to MichaelLC's post. I edited in a quote to make it more clear.

    I could also set custom labels on "Activities" on my remote but maybe that isn't part of the new ones. Mine has to be over 5 years old now.

  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    BlazeFire wrote: »
    I was responding to MichaelLC's post. I edited in a quote to make it more clear.

    I could also set custom labels on "Activities" on my remote but maybe that isn't part of the new ones. Mine has to be over 5 years old now.

    You still can. And you can work with individual devices by clicking the Devices button.

    Except on the Companion remote because it sucks.

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • ThirithThirith Registered User regular
    Does the Companion suck for reasons other than not having a screen?

    webp-net-resizeimage.jpg
    "Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited December 2018
    BlazeFire wrote: »
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    I found the Harmony PC program to work better for initial programming than the app.

    The app and remote generally work fine together. App is good if something gets stuck because you can go in and just power cycle a single device instead of the whole macro.

    I can control single devices from my old harmony remote. Did this change?

    edit: added quote for clarity.

    Sorry should have said I have the non-screen remote - "smart remote"? - which just has shortcut buttons. So yeah, you could program one of the buttons to just operate a single device but then that's one less macro (turn on TV, then turn on soundbar, etc.)

    So it works, but what topically happens to me is either TV or sound bar will be Off instead of On. So if I hit the Watch TV macro, it just flips which is wrong. Popping open the app and powering on the TV works good for that.

    I have this: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/logitech-harmony-smart-control-8-device-universal-remote-black/8167004.p?skuId=8167004&ref=212&loc=1&gclsrc=aw.ds&ds_rl=1260573&ds_rl=1266837&ref=212&loc=1&gclid=CjwKCAiA0uLgBRABEiwAecFnk7ec5VEvt2tnZPsbU0Zl1PyFKg0RtllK2XsmfF-GBCgH7xzDykIwHRoCPNsQAvD_BwE

    MichaelLC on
    Mugsley wrote:
    So now I need to get it trimmed and adjusted, and all in.

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    Relevant to this OT: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/12/logitech-firmware-update-breaks-locally-controlled-harmony-hub-systems/

    New firmware is breaking access to Harmony hubs from non-Logitech systems.

    Mugsley wrote:
    So now I need to get it trimmed and adjusted, and all in.

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • ThirithThirith Registered User regular
    That’s only if you use third-party devices or software to control your things via the hub, though, right?

    webp-net-resizeimage.jpg
    "Nothing is gonna save us forever but a lot of things can save us today." - Night in the Woods
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    Seems like it. Hubs and remotes still work as advertised by Logitech, just third-party APIs are being cut out.

    Mugsley wrote:
    So now I need to get it trimmed and adjusted, and all in.

    Steam:MichaelLC
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