Remotes and Keyboards – Windows Media Center HTPC Build – Part 2

HTPC Build – Part 2

Today, going to discuss my choice of remote and options out there.

1. Universal Remotes
There are a few options out there, but I would say almost everybody uses logitech harmony remotes. Not only do they work very well and are easy to set up, but have an option to play very nicely with windows media center.

  • Choose which Logitech remote

Harmony Ultimate One – Touch Screen IR Remote – Logitech

New edition – I have not used so no opinion

I use this at my parents place to set up their home theater. Got it for around $60 and is excellent value. Not quite as nice as my Harmony One and doesnt have rechargeable dock, but I would say this is an excellent choice if only using 5 different devices. 
Harmony® 650 Remote
New model and I havent tested so no oppinion.

Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

BEST REMOTE EVER. Touch screen face, buttons feel like they are in the correct position and don’t have to look at remote after awhile of knowing where everything is. Plenty of customization options which come in handy for WMC. Rechargeable!

Product Details

Logitech 915-000148 Harmony 200 Remote for Three Devices – Black (Discontinued by Manufacturer) 

Not a fan of this remote. Only for 3 devices and was going to use for dead simple second tv for parents but very inconsistent about powering on all devices. Don’t buy this.

Product Details

Logitech Harmony 1100 Universal Remote with Color Touch Screen 

I used the first model (1000). It was nice for awhile and visitors liked messing with the touchscreen + it looks nice on coffee table. My touch screen was delayed and didn’t work great. The biggest problem was you constantly have to look at remote to hit any button (this is probably why its discontinued and you can use smartphone now). 

Product Details
Over the years I have used Harmony 1000, Harmony 200, Harmony 650, Harmony Xbox 360, and Harmony One. By far and away the best remove ever is the Harmony One. Logitech discontinued it (stupid) and now the prices have skyrocketed. 
2. You will need USB adapter to get your Harmony to play nice with Windows. I would assume there are many options out there, but I picked up this remote and adapter package and it was been working for a couple years for me (go here). Plus the remote is actually decent, but only controls WMC. It was plug and play for me, no drivers needed in Windows 8.

3. Configuring Harmony software
I am still using the OSX Harmony software application. I think they have moved on to web based as I had to do this with the 650 remote. However, I still use the OSX application for my Harmony One. 

  • Set up your device and add all of  your devices separately (xbox one, ps4, tv, receiver….)
  • When adding WMC, click add device, select Computer->Media Center PC->Microsoft->Windows Media Center SE
  • I then created Activity – Watch TV. Go through steps to choose which devices you use for each. Then click customize buttons. You can copy what I have if you choose

  •  I recommend in additional buttons to have a wake computer (PowerToggle) as sometimes you need to sleep or wake up computer without having to go through activating all your devices. This has come in handy many times. Toggle Screen is occasionaly used if some popup is on screen and you want to switch to WMC or Plex. Close App can be useful to close whatever app is in full screen. The mute button is key for me. In my other posts you can read about the last issue I have with WMC sometimes causing system to mute on wake so this button is on main screen and is easy access in case I need it. The WMC and Plex are options to directly run scripts I have made to launch each. You can check out my other post about creating custom scripts to launch either one (including a WOL for plex to wake server automatically). 
3. Now that you have universal remote set up you can think about adding an HTPC keyboard for those times where you need mouse and keyboard functions to fix any issues/update software without having to plug in old wired keyboard and mouse. There are a few of them I have tried.

  • Lenovo Multimedia Remote with Keyboard N5901
  • This works okay for small use. Its small and looks nice but scrolling mouse around big screen is difficult and the keys are very tiny. At night almost impossible to use keyboard.

Otherwise you can purchase wireless and mouse combo and use them (I have done this in the past). Since I dont use it as everyday computer I didnt need the full usability of mouse/keyboard. The IOGEAR has served me well and I don’t plan on changing to anything else.

If you want to set up Logitech remote to have custom buttons launch Plex and WMC (and work 100% of the time) then follow my other guide here or use custom (+) button to skip commercials in WMC here