Logitech Harmony 515 Review

Harmony 515 Remote
We ordered our Logitech Harmony 515 advanced universal remote from Play.com as they had it on a 1-day special offer at £27.99 including post and packing. The normal retail price is closer to £45.

Installing the software was a quick an easy process using the CD-ROM supplied. Registration involved answering a few simply questions and providing a username and password.

One of the main reasons behind chosing this model is that it supports the 4 colour buttons, often found on UK remote controls for televisions and personal video recorders. Not all universal remote controls support these buttons with physical hardware equivalents. It also has a decent sized display on which custom functions and activities can be displayed. There are also no hard-wired activity buttons.

Configuration

After a few questions, you are prompted to connect the remote using the supplied USB lead. The 515 model supports up to 5 devices. I was working on the basis of controlling the following devices but, we also have a few other devices in the lounge such as a Nintendo Wii games console, CD player, media player, etc.

  • TV - Panasonic TH37PX80B
  • AV Receiver - Marantz SR5300
  • DVD Player - Samsung DVD-1080P8
  • BT Vision - Philips DIT-9719
  • Games Console - Sony Playstation 3

At this point we got some 'additional information' - The Sony PLAYSTATION 3 is not directly compatible with your Harmony Remote. The Logitech Harmony Adapter for PS3 (sold separately) will allow you to control your PS3 with your Harmony Remote, including turning it on and off. This is a separate adaptor that converts IR transmissions from a Harmony remote to Bluetooth commands for the PS3. It retails for about £35.

The software asked us if I use SCART connections to the TV, as these can auto-switch. Most connections to our TV are via HDMI.

We removed Sony Playstation 3 as a device and added the Nintendo Wii instead. This is a real shame, as we use the PS3 as a media player and for Blu-ray discs. Adding the Nintendo Wii resulted in another piece of 'additional information' - This device uses Bluetooth technology and cannot be controlled by an Infrared remote. Should have known that really :-(

The software then asked if we wanted to leave the Philips PVR (BT Vision STB) on all the time. In reality this question makes no sense, as you can only set it into standby mode. As it happens, it takes about as much power in standby mode as it does when fully operational, though the latest software update has improved this slightly.

At this point the software recommended just two activities for the four main activity buttons and we got worried as to how we could use the remote to select the games consoles. More on this in a minute, after a series of questions about our configuration:

To Watch TV, which device do you use to control the volume? We use the Marantz AV Receiver for all audio output.

What input or channel does your Panasonic TV need to be on? HDMI2

What input or channel does your Marantz AV Receiver need to be on? TV

Watch TV - Review the settings for this Activity

Device Status / Actions
Philips PVR Philips PVR is on
Panasonic TV Panasonic TV is on
Marantz AV Receiver Marantz AV Receiver is on
Other All other devices are off
Philips PVR Philips PVR is set to 'Tuner'
Panasonic TV Panasonic TV is set to 'Hdmi2'
Marantz AV Receiver Marantz AV Receiver is set to 'TV'

To Watch a DVD, which device do you use to control the volume? We use the Marantz AV Receiver for all audio output.

What input or channel does your Panasonic TV need to be on? HDMI1

What input or channel does your Marantz AV Receiver need to be on? DVD

And after another review of the settings, that's just about all there is to the basic configuration. The software asked us to connect remote but, we hadn't disconnected it. It then uploaded the settings onto the remote control, which takes about 10 seconds. You are then asked to disconnect the remote and test the configuration.

We then tested out DVD and BT Vision and it all worked as expected. As far as we can tell, all of the buttons required to drive the main BT Vision functions are present and correctly configured. About the only button we couldn't find was for 'on demand' content but, this is easily reached via the 'menu' button. The switch on and switch off cycle of commands for the three devices required to watch TV took about 4-5 seconds to complete. The remote seems to have a nice wide transmission pattern, so all commands worked reliably, despite the Marantz AV receiver being about 2 meters away, to one side of the TV.

Having progressed this far, we then added some 'utility' generic activities to set up the TV and AV receiver for the PS3 and Wii, even though the remote won't control them directly or switch them on or off. We then used the various options to rename these activities to something meaningful and re-ordered them on the activity buttons. In testing this again worked flawlessly.

Testing

The true test of this device is whether it can be 'sold' to all the family members and whether it works for them. After very little instruction, everyone in our house got it. They liked the ease of use and the way powered up and configured everything from one simple button press. Everyone liked the look and feel of the remote too. As a measure of its success, the collection of now spare remotes were put away, out of sight within 30 minutes.

Summary

In summary, we are very impressed with this universal remote. For the price paid it's a real bargain. Even at the retail price, it's worth the money to reduce the number of remote controls in your lounge and to simplify the whole user experience. The activity based buttons really make things so much quicker and simpler. If you really want to control your games consoles as well, then invest in a higher spec version or an adaptor with Bluetooth capability.

Likes

  • Easy to configure, flexible programming and configuration allows it to work with all our devices.
  • The catalogue of supported devices and the on-line support are excellent.
  • Looks good, feels solid and like the green back-lighting on the buttons and screen.

Dislikes

  • Shame it is limited to only 5 devices but, we knew that when we bought it and other models are available that do.
  • It would have been good if it could turn the games consoles on and off but, this requires a separate Bluetooth adaptor.

Update - 6th Sept 2010

This universal remote has been in operation in our home for a over a year now and has performed flawlessly in all this time. The underside is slightly worn and the 4 coloured buttons are also showing some signs of wear but the unit still feels solid and works very well.

We have now added Apple TV to our lounge entertainment system and thus need a new remote that can control a few more devices and have thus upgraded to a Logitech Harmony One universal remote.

Buy It Now