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HD Beat Review: Harmony 659

Matt Burns

The Harmony 659 remote is the most important part of my main home entertainment center. If you have a cable box, a DVD player, an A/V receiver, an XM receiver, oh and do not forget about TV, you need this remote. (Or one if its siblings) Many higher end A/V receivers come with a decent universal remote, but they are often confusing and cause you to leave a note pad full of instructions for house guest on how to watch TV. You will not have to do that with a Harmony. If you want to watch TV, hit “Watch TV.” It is that easy.

I once read a review that there are two types of universal remotes: ones that work and the ones that you can afford. This is somewhat true because the Harmony remotes start at $100 and this model is $150. But trust me. If you have any where near the amount of equipment that I do, it is work the money.

I went from this…

to this.



The remote throws away the old school book of codes in 8-point font. This bad boy is ‘Internet powered’ and connects via a USB cable. This allows the online site to configure the remote to exactly the way you want it.

NOTE: while this is by far the easiest remote to use, it does require someone who is familiar with the audio/video equipment to program it. Do not use this setup as an excuse to not buy this remote, just keep in mind it took me about an hour to set it up. The biggest tip I can tell you is use a laptop and sit right in-front of the equipment because you will need a lot of info from them. While it is time consuming, it is not hard.



Using the remote

Like I said before, this is the easiest remote to use. On the top of the remote is a line of “Activity Buttons.” These take macro buttons a step farther by labeling them by the most common usage. If you want to “Watch a Movie,” hit the button and it will turn on the receiver and put it on the right input, turn the DVD player on, and then turn the TV to the right input. The button that says menu will then be used for the DVD on-screen menu rather then the TVs. All the buttons change usage for the different activities. The remote is that intuitive.


My Comcast DVR works fine with it as the media control buttons like pause and record are on the bottom of the remote. Once the “Watch TV” button is engaged those buttons will control the DVR rather then the DVD button.

My favorite part of the remote so far is the “Listen to Music” button that turns the TV off, turns cable box on and puts it on a great rock station, and then turns the receiver to a different input then what the cable TV uses so it utilizes a different sound setting for music. It is that easy. Once this thing is set it works flawlessly.

If you get lost or the macros do not turn on, let’s say the DVR, there is a help button on the top of the remote. The LCD screen will lead you through a series of “yes or no” questions that will ask you if different equipment is on. If you hit yes it will proceed to the next piece of equipment till you find the problem. Once the status of the DVR is in question, you would hit “no” to have the remote send another IR command in order to turn the DVR on.




If you do the remote control juggle and hate it, buy this remote. You will not regret it. Anyone can use this remote because, and I know I have said this more then once, but it just works. That’s the best description for this remote: it works.


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