Skill Level Intermediate
(mouse click) (keyboard typing) - I'm Jess Stratton, and welcome to this week's edition of Home Technonomics. This week, I'm going to talk about why it's worth it to invest in a good universal remote. The one I'll be using is the Logitech Harmony One. There's a lot of universal remotes out there, so what constitutes a good one? A good universal remotes fixes problems you currently have with your home theater environment. Do you switch back and forth between your DVD, cable TV box and game systems like Xbox? Are you constantly picking up remotes and finding it hard to remember which devices use component versus HDMI? More devices means more inputs, and those inputs need to be turned on before your gear can work.
So I wanted a universal remote that had a few key features. It had to be able to turn off devices automatically as well as turn them on, and it had to be able to help me out if something didn't turn on or switch over to the right input. It also had to have a docking station, as I didn't want to find the batteries were dead when I settled down with the family to watch a movie. The first step for you in choosing a universal remote is identifying the current problems you have with your existing setup, and then counting the total number of remotes you actually own. That's a lot of batteries.
Many universal remotes can be programmed through your computer via USB. The Harmony One connects up to your computer. After downloading the software, the first step is to input all your devices. Every brand and model number of TV, game system, or DVD player can be added. When you add them, you need to answer some questions, so be sure to know what inputs they use to save yourself some trouble. If you have them written down, the process can go much smoother. Now after you have all your devices added, you can start adding activities.
For example, playing Xbox is considered an activity. When I press the button on the touchscreen on my remote, there's a few things that the remote does. It'll turn off any devices that are on that don't need to be on in order for me to play Xbox. If I was watching a movie and then I pressed the button for Xbox, the remote will automatically turn off the Blu-Ray player before turning anything else on. It will turn on the TV, make sure the TV's set to the right input, turn on the receiver, and finally, it will turn on the Xbox. It also goes a step farther, and gives me a nice touchscreen of all the buttons on the Xbox gaming remote.
This is true for any other device I add. All these steps I added easily using the app. Now these are a lot of steps, and the problem with a lot of steps is that there's a lot of room for things to go wrong. It's not uncommon for the family dog or person to walk in front of the remote right as you're turning something on, blocking one or more devices from turning on or switching inputs. In this situation, you're left sitting there sometimes wondering what's not on, or what has to be done to get everything working. If you're the one that set it up, it's not a problem, but you can't expect everyone in your household to be technically-savvy, or know how your complex system is setup.
So that's why the second feature I look for in a universal remote is a help button that will automatically attempt to fix everything. The Logitech Harmony One's help button will first attempt to set things right when you press the button. It will then ask if it fixed the problem. The important thing here is that nobody actually has to know what the problem was, as long as it's fixed. If it didn't fix the problem, the remote will walk you through a series of questions to get to the bottom of the problem, switching inputs and toggling power each time, asking if that solution fixes the problem.
Now one of the best features of having a universal remote that's easy to use is that if guests are staying at our house, they can easily sit down and use our entertainment area without needing to know how it works, or be left with a complicated set of instructions. So if you haven't invested in a good universal remote, it's worth it to get a good one, and one that solves problems that you currently have with your existing setup. So that's why that first step of identifying your problems is so crucial. Once again, I'm Jess Stratton, and I hope you've enjoyed this week's Home Technonomics.