JP1 versus Harmony
JP1 versus Harmony
One of the most popular universal remotes currently is the Harmony line from Logitech. Like JP1 remotes, these are programmed from a computer and share many of the same features. A Harmony is often the first and only remote considered by consumers because the perception is that only Harmony can automate tasks and that this capability must come at a premium price. I'd like to lay that to rest and point out the advantages and disadvantages of both JP1 and harmony remotes.
There are many types of JP1 and Harmony remotes. Some have RF capability, touch screens, rechargeable batteries or color screens. For comparison purposes I'll concentrate on mid level models from both, which is currently the 5 device harmony 600 ($80 MSRP) and an average 5 device JP1 learning remote ($20 MSRP).
There are two ways to program JP1 remotes: manually (using 99x commands and codes) or with JP1 software (RM, RMIR, KM or IR) using a JP1 interface cable. Most JP1 remotes have nearly all the functionality the average user would want from a universal remote without using the software or a JP1 cable. These include 15 step macros on any button except the device keys, learning, volume punch through (volume lock), channel lock, key moves, key copy, two possible functions per key per mode using shifted keys, and the ability to add individual functions using advanced codes (EFCs).
With the addition of JP1 software and a JP1 cable, all these features can be managed on a computer and uploaded/downloaded to/from the remote. Additionally, with the software, macros can be assigned to device keys, macro pauses can be added, learned signals can be analyzed in order to create new device upgrades, learned signals can be copied from one remote to another, commands in pronto hex format can be loaded, and entirely new devices and protocols can be added.
Many remotes can gain even more functionality by loading an extender. The extender adds many advanced capabilities device state tracking, device multiplexing (for adding more devices than the remote was designed for), device specific macros, custom key group mapping, assign more than two functions to a button (double shifted, double press and long press), nested macros and fast macros. For remotes with and LCD display, you can even show your own custom text.
All this functionality comes at an incredibly low price. The software and support is free forever. The average JP1 learning remote is about $20 and the interface cable is about $30. Many JP1 remotes are free since many cable system remotes are also JP1 remotes.
Harmony remotes can only be programmed via a computer connected to the Harmony web site. They have two types of macros: one button sequences of up to 5 commands and activity macros. Like JP1 remotes, any command from any device can be assigned to any button. But while the JP1 software has a graphical drag-and-drop interface for button assignments, the Harmony software relies on drop-down lists. Setup wizards in the software program activity macros for you by asking a series of questions. After selecting your devices from lists in the software, you create activities which power on selected devices, set volume punch through and select inputs. Such macros can also be programmed on JP1 remotes, but the user must choose the commands. However, with Harmony software, the user has no control over the order of commands or what commands are used in activity macros (commands can be added but not removed or changed). A master power off macro is programmed automatically in the Harmony software. Some JP1 remotes also have pre-configured master power macros. Devices are selected from a list in the Harmony software versus being loaded from the JP1 forum file section and pasted into your configuration.
Harmony remotes also have variable delays between keys or devices (macro pauses). The repeats can also be adjusted. Adjusting repeats would be done on a JP1 remote by modifying the protocol, which is beyond the capabilities of the average user.
Harmony remotes rely completely on the Harmony web site for their configuration. They cannot be programmed off-line and the configuration cannot be saved locally on your own PC. This is in contrast to JP1 remotes, where all programming is independent of any web site, and any number of configuration files can be saved to your computer. Updating a Harmony with a new configuration file takes about 5 minutes. Updating a JP1 remote takes about 5 seconds.
The greatest advantages of Harmony remotes are ease of programming (no special skills or expertise are required), automatic device state tracking, the largest library of devices and commands, and soft keys where unlimited additional functions and macros (activities and sequences) can be labeled and accessed via an LCD display. JP1 users often must memorize what functions and macros are assigned to each button or keep a reference sheet handy. This makes JP1 remotes more difficult for other family members and visitors to use. However, good programming practices can mitigate much of this difficulty. JP1 remotes running an extender can also do device state tracking, but it must be explicitly programmed using TOAD-TOG bits. This is handled automatically in Harmony remotes. They remember the power states and input states of each device. This is especially useful for devices that lack discrete power or discrete input commands and avoids any unintended power toggling or input changes.
Harmony remotes include the software and interface cable. Support is free only for the first 90 days. Harmony remotes range from $40 to $400. Currently the cheapest harmony has no soft keys or LCD and is capable of only one macro. Most other models have unlimited activity macros and 5 step sequence capability except the top end models. Top end models have more devices, color displays, RF, rechargeable batteries and touch screens. If a Harmony remote is dropped or damaged, it is expensive to replace, unlike JP1 remotes. The dome type contacts on many Harmony tend to wear out sooner than the membrane type contacts on JP1 remotes.
JP1 remotes are a very powerful and low cost alternative to Harmony remotes. However if your programming skills are limited and state tracking and labeled soft keys are imperative, Harmony is the best choice. The low cost of JP1 remotes makes it possible to have both JP1 and Harmony. JP1 can be used to analyze signals and teach commands which may be missing from the Harmony database, and can be used in applications where an expensive remote isn't justified.