Logitech Harmony 520 Remote (Updated December 2008)
* Buttons are a little small and close together, and fail within three years - see below.
* Display font is tiny with some incomplete words that are hard to decipher.
* Difficult to change settings when you get a new piece of equipment, takes over an hour of tweaking, etc.
* Turns multiple pieces of equipment on and controls everything, including cable menus, etc.
* Easy to use once it is programmed off the internet.
This remote has been on the market for awhile, being priced at a more reasonable level than other similar models from the same manufacturer.
This remote does everything it says it will, with some limitations. After installing the software on your computer for it, you then connect to the internet site and follow the wizard which asks you to enter all the equipment by brand and model number.
It then asks you a series of questions as to how you want the equipment to interact with each other for doing certain functions, such as watching tv, listening to music and so on.
Once all this is done, it asks you to disconnect the remote from the usb port and go try it. If any adjustments are needed you can come back and tweak it as desired. It saves your profile on their site for later additions or modifications.
I found this process a little irriating at times. Most of the time it works flawless and is straight forward. Other times it doesn't want to do what you want, although the process gets easier after you experience the learning curve. The internet programming process gets easier the more you use it.
Once it is all set up, things get better, with these observations.
Unless you have near perfect eyesight, the small read out can be difficult to read. It lights up with a blue neon glow and is hard to see because of the tiny lettering and some of the words are incomplete.
Some components have multiple screens of information/control.
Several of my pieces of equipment have 19 screens of possible settings. That can take a lot of scrolling to get where you want.
Once you use some of those hard to find settings, it takes a bit of practise to get back to the proper activity screen without disrupting your viewing.
Hint: If you keep tapping the 'Devices' button it will take you back to your original screen. I couldn't find that in the directions.
The second area of concern is the tiny numbers at the bottom of the remote. Granted most people will use the channel up and down buttons for channel selection. When you do want to enter a channel number directly, you will find these number buttons very tiny and close together, close enough that you will often press two of them at once when you didn't really intend to.
The remainder of the buttons work very well and are of adequate size and are reasonably positioned.
I found it only handled some TV models basic functions. If you needed to get to the TV's setting for colour, etc. you needed to have the original remote, or go through a long procedure for learning those functions. And in most cases you would again need the original remote to do that. Keep in mind that I am using it to control one complete home theatre system, and another separate TV in another room.
To get a good manual with full instructions, especially on the learning capabilities, you have to search a bit on their web site to find the pdf version. It is not easily found when first setting up the remote during the anxious moments.
It's main purpose is to control a home theatre system by pushing one function button. It does a good job at this once a little tweaking is done. For example if you press "Watch TV", it turns on all associated equipment to do that. Since our large screen TV is only used as a monitor, I did have to customize the setup a bit so that it does not select the input - because it is always on the proper input anyway. By sending the signal to select the proper input, when that input was already properly selected from the last use, caused the tv to do other things sometimes.
Pressing "Watch A Movie" powered up all equipment to do that, as did "Listen To Music". Pressing "Off" turns all equipment off from any of the selected function activities.
Update: Feb. 18, 2006
Having changed TV models, I found it is not the easiest task in the world to get the remote updated. I had to spend well over an hour tweaking, re-setting, and updating the remote to get all the activities to work. Sometimes it would not save the changed settings for several tries. Some button functions and labels had to be done manually, and while in some of the menus to do this there is no easy way out.
If you click 'next' it wants you to select another item to do. If you click 'back', it may not save the settings.
Update: March 2006
When you need to 'tweak' or change the programming function of only a couple buttons when everything else is working properly, be prepared for an hour's work and frustration.
For example, I wanted to add Speaker A toggle, and Speaker B toggle, to my Activity menu main screen.
Also on my Watch TV activity I wanted to change the Page Up & Page Down buttons on the activity screen so they were above and below each other, instead of across the mini screen on the remote.
To do these two steps took well over an hour before they were finally working correctly.
On the other hand, considering all the settings that are available, and the number of menus involved this remote is quite remarkable. It is just that you have to have a lot of patience and be a computer geek to do it.
Overall this is a fine remote once it is finally set up, I like it a lot. It is not perfect. I have used a number of programable remotes. Second best was a plain twenty dollar one for all six. This one takes less than five minutes to program if you change equipment.
The 520 barely sits at the top of the list because of the amount of tweaking involved. An individual with less than average computer skills would likely give up in frustration. However once its set up, it is a great family remote.
Help: One of the reasons it is a great family remote is that if anything goes wrong, just press the 'Help' button on the remote. It will ask a series of questions such as; "Is the TV on?", Is the input correct?" and so on. Once you find the problem, it corrects itself. So if another family member turns off the TV or some other component the wrong way such as by using the power switch, the remote will easily correct the situation by using the help key.
Update: December 2008This remote was purchased in Dec. 2005 and has only received moderate use by adults only. Is 3 years the lifespan of this remote?
Small buttons were mentioned as an inconvenience above. Now they are beginning to fail. First the "1" button failed to function unless pressed extremely hard with the edge of your fingernail, and now to the point of not working at all.
I would expect that any remote in the series with similar tiny buttons on the keypad would behave in the same manner. It may be more economical in the long run to choose a remote with larger separate buttons.
This remote has only been used moderately over these years, probably a lot less than usual.
Solution For Non-functioning buttons on Harmony 520 remote.
Maybe not the best solution for a remote with buttons that do not work, at least this is a work around that will still allow you to use your remote for a longer time.
Since this remote is programmed via software on the internet for your various home theatre equipment, you can program the * (star key) to be a number 1 key. The star key is basically an unused key for most functions.
For example if your television input is mainly controlled by a digital cable box, in the Logitech online programming software, go to the digital cable box>custom keys, and from the drop down list for the star key, select '1'.
Save and upload to your remote and now the * star key will become a number one key allowing you to use that key in place of your nonfunctional number 1 key.