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Review: Harmony SST-659 Remote
Enough is enough! I finally gave in, and bought my first universal learning remote, so I could finally dump all my other remote controls, and started programming my new Radio Shack RS15-2117. One of the first things I noticed is the size of this thing… IT’S HUGE! Despite the size, this remote still doesn't have all the functions and buttons I need. Setting up macros is a nightmare and some of the important buttons are all the way at the bottom of the remote, making it cumbersome to use with one hand. So here I am, still fumbling with two remotes because the Radio Shack unit didn't support the some of the most important buttons on my HTPC remote, which is basically a cheap Pinnacle PCTV remote.
In comes the new Harmony SST-659 remote. When I opened the package, the first reaction I got from my wife was “Wow, that remote looks pretty sharp!” I can’t believe it, my wife liked one of my new toys?! The first notable feature was its light weight and comfortable grip, it is much smaller and lighter than the Radio Shack remote, . The buttons even feel great and you can hear/feel a tiny 'click' when they are pushed, which is a great way of confirming this action (a feature I miss a lot on all my other remotes).
Setting up the Harmony remote is a breeze. It features a built-in mini-USB port, which allows you to add or update new codes as your home entertainment center grows. Install the driver software on the CD or download it at Harmony’s website. Connect your remote to your computer using the provided USB cable, and go to www.harmonyremote.com to create an account. After creating your account, log-in to the website, select the brands and devices you wish to control, and download the codes to your remote.
One of the unique features that make this remote stand out is the ability to control all your devices without having to deal with complicated macros, a feature most remotes rely on. Just login to the site, select the devices you wish to control.
The site has almost every device code in the database, including TV tuner cards for computers which come with remotes such as the Pinnacle PCTV or the Windows XP MCE2004 remote. If the device isn’t in the database for some strange reason (even though I have found some of my more exotic hardware listed), the Harmony remote features a learning function to program itself with whatever you what it to control. Harmony even includes an upload function so the user may add the learned functions of their remote to Harmony’s device code database. In fact, the company will go as far as guaranteeing that every device, which uses Infra Red, is supported, including those exotic remote controlled fireplaces, lighting, and your desktop computer. Once you have your devices selected, you can define actions such as "Watch DVD," which will turn on the TV and DVD player, select the correct settings for the audio equipment, and dim the lights, all without having to know how to program macros. All you have to do is hit that one defined button on the remote and you’re good to go. It doesn't get easer than this!
Another impressive feature is the interactive LCD display. You can have a TV Guide downloaded to the remote when it’s synced with Harmony’s website. The display also allows you to have custom ‘virtual buttons’, in case your regular remote has special features which can't be controlled with the physical buttons on the Harmony.
Only the Philips Pronto would be comparable to the functions of this Harmony SST-659, but I personally am not comfortable with using a very expensive LCD based device as a remote control. Just think about how many times you might have dropped your cheap remote control, how it got stuck between the sofa cushions, how many times your children will touch it with their dirty, oily, sticky hands.
The Harmony SST-659 is a great high quality remote, it is definitely not a cheap remote, but it is a remote every home theater enthusiast/family should consider; the phrase you get what you pay for definitely comes into play here. I wish this remote had a few more physical buttons, such as instant replay, but you can always create a virtual button for that function or purchase higher-end models, which will have more pre-programmed functional buttons. If your wife or kids are constantly having trouble operating your devices in order to do simple things with your system such as watch TV, then this is the perfect remote for you.
If you like toys, or would like more features, check out this comparison table to view what the other models Harmony has to offer: Harmony Product Comparison
Do you like this remote and wish you had one? Enter the CocoonTech.com March Madness contest now for your chance to win this great remote!
Product Name: Harmony SST-659 Remote
Price: $199 USD
Manufacturer: Intrigue Technologies
Power: 4 AAA 1.5V batteries
Dimensions: 15.6 x 5.4 x 3.3 cm (6.1 x 2.1 x 1.3 inches)
Weight: 155 grams (4.5 oz)
Supported OS: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, Mac OS X with Safari 1.0
Where to buy: Best Buy, Future Shop, more...