Hardware Spotlight ? Harmony
Harmony SST-768 Web-based Remote
By Grant Clauser
In a custom home theater system, the magic transition from technology to entertainment experience usually comes down to just one device — the right remote. I've used most of the best remotes on the market, and some, like the Philips Pronto line, excel in customization, while others, like the Home Theater Master MX-500/700 models, feature exceptionally smart layouts. The new SST-768 from Harmony is a little of both, but its strong suit is in its ease of programming. This has got to be the easiest remote to program and integrate into a home A/V system of any I've ever used.
What you get is the remote, a USB cable, a CD-ROM and instructions to go to www.harmonyremote.com. The remote is smaller than most learning remotes; in fact, it's smaller than most of the remotes it's designed to replace. The unit I received was red and looked a bit like a cell phone, down to the LCD screen located at the bottom of the unit (rather than the top, as is the case with most remotes).
To program the remote, you're first instructed to make a list of all the components in the system, including brands and model numbers, then connect the remote to a PC via a USB cable. The CD-ROM loads a program onto the PC for monitoring the connection between the remote and the Web site. You then need to log onto Harmony's Web site, create a user account and answer a series of questions about the system and how it will be used. After you tell the program what the equipment is, it checks its own database and starts to form a profile of the system.
After the program learned what I had, it asked me how it was connected, what video inputs were used for the projector, what audio input modes were used for the A/V receiver and so on. It also asked me about my DirecTV account, what channels I received and to identify my favorites. Then the new configuration was transferred through my Internet connection to the remote via USB cable. The whole process, including a firmware upgrade and a system reboot, took a little over an hour, but this was primarily due to my slow dial-up connection.