Adding an Entertainment System Control Device
First Attempt – Blumoo Smart Remote Control
This was a device I read about being offered at a relatively low price and decided to give it a try. The idea was that it would replace all my remotes and provide (promised) Alexa control of our entertainment systems. While it basically worked there were two things that resulted in me giving up on it.
The device’s technology was to bounce the IR (infrared) remote control commands off the walls so they would reflect back to the components’ (such as the TV) IR detectors. It did work, at night, but the location of our TV was opposite some windows and the reflection did not work well during the day. The other issue was that there were software issues. The device is no longer being sold by the manufacturer.
Second Attempt – Logitech Harmony Smart Control
Logitech’s Harmony line is the premier brand for this category. After dropping consideration for Blumoo, I purchased the lowest cost (not too much more than I had paid for the Blumoo) offering of the product line. At the time I was planning to have a Smart Home service business and felt that I would need to know about this category of devices.
While the product comes with its own remote and a control unit (called a Hub, but it connects via WiFi and not by connecting to a router) and an App. At the time, Alexa support required the use of two skills (as Alexa apps are named), but I think only one may be required now. Also, some of the things I wanted to set up required the use of an application accessed via a website. I think that the level of complexity working with this will depend greatly on one’s equipment and what functionality is desired.
For me, it was too complex, plus it did not work on my setup either in our bedroom nor in our main media area. The TV in our bedroom is a TCL-Roku combination unit. The Harmony was not able to control it properly. TCL-Roku has become much more popular now, so, maybe, it would work better today, but I have not used the Harmony for quite some time.
The other big problem I had was not the Harmony’s fault. We also have a Samsung Smart TV. Trying to access streaming apps, like Netflix and Amazon Video, via Samsung’s Smart Hub button is okay manually, but the tiles for those apps do not always appear in the same place. So trying to create an automation with Harmony was impossible.
Another reason why I no longer have a desire to use the Harmony was the acquisition of a cable/DVR with a voice remote. The voice remote replaced Alexa commands. More recently I’ve replaced the cable/DVR box with a (second) TiVo which also has a voice remote. TiVo now has a supported Alexa skill, but I find using the remote preferable.
One more thing –Amazon Fire TV Stick
I decided to buy this in order to see if it might be helpful for my then 100-year-old mother-in-law. She had a standard Comcast cable box and a flat-screen TV. She complained about not being able to navigate the menus to find programs she would like to watch. I was considering the possibility of upgrading her service to Comcast’s X1 with its voice remote. This Fire TV Stick offered an alternative possibility. At this time I had not installed an Amazon Alexa device at her residence. The Fire TV Stick includes Alexa and a voice remote.
Ultimately I did not install it for her as it could not be used to view most broadcast TV and switching TV inputs would probably be a problem for her. I now take it along with me when traveling and use it when in our vacation home.
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