In this portion of the review we will take a look at some of the features of the software, the setup, and basic interface of the remote control.
To begin using the Harmony 1000 and the Wireless Extender, you must install the software prior to connecting the devices to your PC via the USB cables. While both devices come with their own CDs, if you are installing them at the same time just one CD will be required. The below left image shows the introduction to the software installation, as well as a woman with a misshaped torso that will appear throughout the software. One of the first steps of the installation is shown in the below right image, where we see that it connects to the Internet to download the latest updates for the software before proceeding.
To my surprise, the configuration of your remote control requires you to create an account, complete with ID, password, and a backup security question (as shown in the below left image). In order to make any changes to the configuration of your remote control(s) you will need to login, which seems a bit more secure than the configuration of a remote control might require. At this stage it is now time to connect the Harmony remote for the first time, and again it connects to the Internet to download the latest updates for this particular model of remote before proceeding. When completed, the software indicated that it had been updated, and the screen of the Harmony indicated that its firmware had been updated.
One of the next steps is to let the remote control know what devices you have. This may be the most difficult part of the installation, not because of anything related to the software, but because you're going to have to get up and get the model numbers off of each device and then type them into the computer. The below left image shows the initial screen where you indicate the general types of devices you have, as well as the brand names. On a subsequent screen you type in the specific model numbers, and then you answer questions about device preferences (as seen in the below right image).
At this point you also tell the software how the components are to be controlled. You either let the Harmony 1000 control them directly via IR, or you let it know that the component will be connected via the Wireless Extender. Once programmed, the interface on the Harmony is the same regardless of how any one component is connected, but internally it knows whether to send the signal via IR or RF.
Once the software knows what devices you have, it is time to get to what may be the best feature of the whole setup... Programming "Activities". Activities are basically macros that allow you to launch specific functions that might require several clicks on multiple remote controls with just one tap on the touch screen display. For example, some of the activities I created included watching a DVD, playing a tape in the VCR, and listening to the CD jukebox. You answer a series of questions regarding the devices used in the activity (such as what component will control the audio and what video input is required on the TV) and the software makes all the necessary associations and connects them to just one button on the Harmony 1000's touch screen.
Playing a DVD used to require the following steps: 1) Turn the TV on, 2) Switch to Component 1 video input, 3) Turn the combo DVD/VCR on, 4) Confirm that it is in DVD mode, 5) Turn the receiver on, and 6) Switch the receiver to DVD/VCR mode. Six steps and three remote controls later and you were ready to watch a movie. It might not sound like much, but considering that all of this can be replaced with one fool proof button is definitely a welcome time saver. For those with a spouse or child that doesn't have the patience to master all the electronic controls in the house, this may seem like a life saver. No longer will you be summonsed to drop whatever you are doing in order to start a Tae Bo DVD or Barbie tape! And no more complaints once you arrive to help about how ridiculously hard it is to just watch a movie!