The first thing you need to do is register online, which is something of a pain. One advantage though, is that once you create a profile information about your set-up is permanently stored so you can access it and update the remote from any browser and PC. The first thing the software did was to download and update the firmware on the remote. You then tell the software what components you have. The more detail you know about them, such as the precise model numbers, the better and it will be useful to have all the original remotes to hand in case you need to teach the 525 a command that isn’t in the online database.
As well as being able to switch between devices the 525 has a button at the top called, ‘Activities’. From here you can access specific pre-defined tasks, so that you it can do several things at the touch of a button. So if to watch TV your setup requires you to turn the on the TV (obviously), making sure it’s on the correct input, turn on your AV Receiver on a particular input, and turn on the Sky box, you can do that pressing two buttons, instead of fifteen.
The initial software wizards are very good, and I was quickly able to set up a basic Activity for my TV, Sky box and speakers.
The downside to this is that the controls are only as good as the database. My surround system is a venerable set of Videologic DigiTheatre DTS speakers. I use the optical out so the speakers have to be set to that input to hear anything. While the DigitTheatres were in the database, it turned out that the in the database, the inputs were incorrectly labelled. On the device the Optical, Coaxial and Analogue are marked under a heading called ‘Inputs’ – but in the Harmony database the label, ‘Input’ was actually entered as a setting. This meant that the whenever I performed the Activity ‘Watch TV’ the wrong input on the speakers was selected.
Anther issues I had was that while the database set up the device with most of the functions of my Sky + remote, it omitted some crucial ones and I had to go into the profile and manually add the controls. You can also reassign the buttons to some of your most frequently used functions so you don’t have to continually scroll though all the options on the LCD screen to get to the one you want.
The web based interface didn’t make this easy though. Despite having acres of screen real estate, the list of controls were placed in a small window, causing me to have to scroll up and down unnecessarily.