Harmony SST-768 Remote – Review

 

First Impressions – Submitted By Ken Watt – First of all I must apologise for the tardiness of this review as I was supposed to do it weeks ago and got caught up in other things I’m afraid, however on the plus side it did give me longer to evaluate the remote, or more accurately, for my better half to do so.

On the face of it the 768 looks little more than a normal One-For-All type affair but it most certainly is not, the price gives the game up a bit there to fair. I have to say when I opened the box I was very surprised as the remote, even loaded with its four AAA batteries is surprisingly light in the hand yet it does not feel cheapened by that at all. The keys feel nice an chunky and respond well to the touch better in fact than many original remotes.

The fixed keys will be familiar to anyone that’s ever used an IR remote, you have the basic numeric keypad, channel and volume up/down and navigation keys at the top which double as keys for playback functions. Of course there are some other of the usual buttons you would expect to see such as a “mute” and a “guide” but the odd one out is the “zap” button and the other glaring deviation from the norm is the small LCD screen at the bottom. Harmony say that their remotes are designed around ergonomics and I cannot really see any flaw in that as the device sits nicely in your hand and is very easy to use on the whole.

Programming – Programming the remote was actually a pretty simple affair and pretty different as well as it’s done over the net!  A few years ago this would either have not been possible or feasible but these days there are few people that cannot access the net, still fewer who would be looking at the likes of this remote.

You simply pop the supplied CD in the drive of your PC, in my case the other half’s laptop, and install the small application to drive the USB connection to download the info to the remote and it works pretty well. This is of course a task made much easier if you read the supplied instruction instead of, in true UKHA style, bail right in and try to do it with no knowledge of what you’re doing.

After that you choose the devices that you have from the database and the rest is pretty much done for you, including macros to watch or listen to something which is a very nice touch. However if the device or devices that you have are not on the database you have to upload the codes from the remote by teaching it each code in the same way you would any learning remote. The difference in this case is that the codes you teach the remote are then stored on the web database for other users. Again, this does work and works very well for the most part it seems although I did have an issue with the PACE TwinView that I have as there were codes there for it but they appeared to be incorrect. This was quickly resolved though by re-teaching the remote those codes and, by default, the web database as well.

It’s hard to describe how all this is done, but basically you create an account with Harmony then choose the devices that you wish to control and all the IR functions are downloaded to the remote for you and it just works, apart from the likes of the one that was no right in my case.

You can assign channels and get guide data on the remote from what I can see to jump straight to a program or a channel and I did try it, but with limited success as, obviously, it is a US product and there seemed to be no UK guide data and little information on UK channels for either Sky or Freeview. If I could have been bothered I could have programmed them all in but I only tried a few to see if it worked and it seemed to operate fine.

The Nitty Gritty – The remote, whilst fine in normal use for the most part, drew heavy criticism from my other half due to the jog wheel affair on the side. Directly above and to the side of this dial which you use to navigate about, is a “back” button for the LCD menus and it is (I have to admit I got the same result) extremely easy to hit that as well as the jog wheel which leads to you jumping to a menu that you don’t want. I’m quite sure that anyone living with the remote would get used to this though, just one of those annoying little things.

Okay, the bit I didn’t like was the lack of a hard set of navigation keys instead of doubling up with the playback keys, this means that when using a PVR the navigation menus become a list on the LCD panel which I felt was neither fast not intuitive at all. The pain here is when you couple this with the comments above regarding the use of the jog button, it can be a bit fiddly at worst and totally annoying at others.

The range on the remote seems good, no complaints there at all as all the signals were sent and received just fine, even through the IR distribution which, in my case, is set at a crazy oblique angle to the position that the remote is used in mostly.

The macros, which sort themselves out for you, worked very well indeed and the remote “tracks” the state of each device which is a huge advantage over the likes of the Philips Pronto which does not do that at all. So the remote, assuming no-one tampers with the equipment, “knows” what state its in and responds appropriately when you ask it to do something, powering up and down devices as required. A very nice touch I have to say, Philips are you listening?

The “glow-in-the-dark” buttons actually work rather well which surprised me.

Battery life I cannot speculate on as I’ve yet to kill the first set after several weeks of use.

The Obvious Comparison – Well obviously I’d compare it to the Pronto, for several reasons.  The first is price, for a bog standard Pronto we’re in the same ball park, in fact the RU951 is a mere £1 more expensive at Laser (the same supplier as the Harmony) so there’s nothing in the price really. The second is what they both do, replace a load of remotes which both do rather well and, although I’ve not used the newer RU950 other than a quick toy with one, I’m overall have been very impressed with Philips’s efforts thus far at the universal remotes. Also, given market share you’d have to say that the Philips was the one to beat as it is often referred to as the benchmark of universal remotes.

The huge glaring advantage that the Pronto has here is the ability to customise and tailor the screens to suit yourself, but then, that can also be regarded as a failure for some people who far prefer hard keys, enter the Harmony! If hard keys are your bag then this is the remote to go for without a doubt I’d say but if you can live with using a touch pad then I’d advise you to buy the Pronto every time due to the greater flexibility.

Let me put it this way, my other half keeps pestering me for the Pronto back…after complaining about it for months!

Harmony Remote Range

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