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Beginning at the top of the remote, the SST-659 starts by placing its first two buttons a mere third of an inch (or, under a centimetre) from the case edge. Waste not, want not! These buttons are labelled [Off] and [Help]. The former button immediately turns off any devices that the Harmony knows are on, while the latter aids remote operators in correcting any “out of sync” difficulties – for example, if the television’s picture doesn’t match the sound. Just slightly below those two keys are four round buttons corresponding to popular activity categories: [Watch a Movie], [Watch TV], [Listen to Music], plus [More Activities] for everything else. Press one of these to begin the labelled task automatically.
Located beneath the activity keys is the Harmony’s small LCD screen – one of the few parts that has remained the same throughout all Harmony remotes to date. This screen measures 1.35” diagonally (3.4cm) and has a black-and-white graphical resolution of 84 by 48 pixels. Although small and low-resolution compared to high-end graphical remotes, the screen is capable of displaying 6 lines of text, with up to 20 or so characters on each line. As is the case with most 2-color LCD screens, contrast is quite good, with text readable under a wide variety of lighting conditions.
Positioned on either side of the display are dual trios of small, round and unlabeled buttons. These buttons correspond to functions that are custom labelled on-screen, similar to other LCD/hard button combo remotes like the Home Theater Master MX-500. Below the screen are three additional buttons – [Device], which provides access to all commands for a single system component, [Media], which is highlighted by the Harmony “H” and accesses movie, music and television show listings, plus [Next], used to advance through LCD pages.
Instead of a chrome bezel as on the SST-768 or SST-748, the new SST-659 utilizes a piece of clear plastic over its LCD screen, similar to the first Harmony. Although not as decorative, the simple plastic is more practical for easily wiping off finger smudges – and you will have smudges! Corporate branding is surprisingly discrete, as the words “Harmony Remote” appear only in microscopic text above the LCD, while the model number and “Smart State Technology” are printed in similarly small text at the bottom.
Continuing further down the remote is a 5-way menu cursor control, flanked at the top by [Sound] and [Picture] buttons for accessing different control modes for a device or activity. Bordering the menu controls on the bottom are handy [Exit], [Menu], [Guide] and [Info] buttons. Next down are a pair of [Volume] and [Channel] toggles – this is the first time the Harmony has had real rocker buttons. Between these are three other buttons, [Previous Channel], [Mute] and [Glow] (for activating the backlight).
Working our way towards the bottom, the SST-659 sports a full 10-digit numerical keypad, along with [Enter] and a multi-purpose button for HDTV “dot”, +10, and so on. At the very bottom (some might say too close to the bottom) are six buttons for popular DVD, VCR and DVR transport functions, including a [Record] key.
The majority of buttons are printed in black (some have longer text descriptions written in the silver sections of the case), interspersed with hints of color: the [Record] and [Listen to Music] buttons are red, the [Media] and [Watch a Movie] keys are blue, the [Watch TV] button is green, while the [Help] button is yellow. Extravagant 5 color printing for only 6 actual color buttons!