January 22, 2011

Using the Apple TV 2 with Logitech's Harmony 650 Remote

The Apple TV (2nd gen)  $99, is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and weighs just a few ounces. Connected to your TV with an HDMI cable, it wirelessly streams your iTunes music & video library, content from your AirPlay devices, YouTube, Netflix, and internet radio.

While the Apple TV comes with its own elegant remote, you must use yet another remote in order to switch your TV's input to the Apple TV and to adjust volume. Alternatively, you could replace the Apple Remote, as well as all your other remotes, with a single controller like the Logitech Harmony 650  $70.

Activity-based, universal remotes like the Harmony 650, with a single button press, can send a sequence of IR commands for each configured activity. For example selecting the activity, Watch Apple TV, sends a sequence of commands that:
  • switches the TV input to the Apple TV; 
  • configures the Harmony's Menu, Select, Play keys to match those of the Apple TV's Remote; and 
  • configures the Harmony's volume buttons to control the volume of your TV or your audio system.
The configuration of the Harmony line of universal remotes is done by attaching the remote via an included USB cable to an Internet-attached computer and then running Logitech configuration software which lets you choose from a database of 1000's of devices. Your remote's configuration is also backed up, for later tweaking or transfer to another remote. The Harmony remote can also learn IR signals from any existing remote, as can the Apple TV.

An added bonus of replacing the Apple Remote with the Harmony 650 is that the 2 AA's that power the Harmony allow for further reach of the IR signal, which may be useful in some situations.  For example, my Apple TV 2 is mounted out of sight, attached with velcro, vertically on the back of my TV. Despite the lack of line-of-sight, the Harmony 650's signal has no difficulty reaching the Apple TV.