Project: Buying one remote to rule them all
Why you'd attempt it: to make life easier
Difficulty factor: Simple
You’ll find plenty of budget universal remote controls at discount electrical stores, but the buttons tend to wear out quickly on the cheap and nasty remotes. You also find that merely cramming in enough buttons to control several devices doesn’t actually make life much easier.
A better option is a programmable universal remote control such as a Logitech Harmony. The beauty of programmable remotes is that they can perform “Activities” which incorporate several tasks into one button press. For example “Watch DVD” can turn on your DVD player, turn on your television and set it to the correct input. You can even program the remote to fire up your surround sound system.
There are a few Logitech Harmony remotes to choose from, but you need to be aware of the differences. The entry-level Harmony 300 lacks a screen, which is more important than you might realise. You miss out on the Interactive Help feature, which takes you step-by-step through resolving any problems. For example, the Harmony remotes can lose track of whether your devices are on or off if someone switches a device on using its own remote instead of the Logitech remote. The Interactive Help assists you in sorting this out. If non-tech-savvy friends and relatives are trying to drive your home entertainment system, the Interactive Help feature can be a godsend.
The Harmony 300 probably won’t meet your needs anyway, as it only controls four devices and only supports one multi-device Activity; “Watch TV”.
If you’re weighing up the other Harmony models, consider how many devices they support and what kind of batteries they take. Some take a rechargeable battery rather than AA batteries, but not every rechargeable model comes with recharge cradle and some only charge via USB. Also check the remote for a row of four coloured buttons (red, blue, green and yellow) which can be handy if you're controlling complicated devices using such as Pay TV boxes.