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No square inch left unused.
Several of the Harmony’s buttons have been placed particularly close to the edge of the remote, notably the six buttons on either side of the LCD. Very little unused space remains – trying to fit in one more button would be a challenge. Indeed, cramming 51 buttons into a remote of this size naturally means that they’re somewhat small and closely packed, but I must commend Intrigue on making the best possible use of available space.
Compared to the Harmony SST-768, keys are slightly better spaced, while the new button shapes and arrangements work well both visually and tactilely. Overall, the placement of commands is excellent: functions are grouped together logically and nothing seems out of place.
Absent on the SST-659 is the scroll wheel and side button found on all other Harmony models. The 3-way wheel was used to locate and select items on the LCD display, while the side button was typically used to “go back”. Now, items can be selected directly from the LCD via the 6 adjacent hard buttons. Although the wheel was a cool and distinctive addition, I don’t feel that its omission will be missed. The wheel often had difficulty in dealing with quick swipes, unable to determine how much or even in which direction to move. The new all-button arrangement is simpler and actually helps objectify remote navigation.
Finally see in the dark!
A disappointing aspect of previous Harmony models has been the almost complete lack of backlighting. Formerly just the LCD screen has been lit, and even then only by six tiny yellow LEDs. Those LEDs did make the screen readable in the dark, but were far from bright and tended to light unevenly. Hard buttons were left completely unlit – a surprising exclusion.
Starting with the Harmony SST-748 (which was released after the SST-768), Intrigue added glow-in-the-dark properties to the plastic used in their buttons... but that was only really good for a few minutes after the lights went out.
Now, Intrigue Technologies has seen the light and implemented complete electroluminescent backlighting for both the LCD screen and all hard buttons. And it’s not green, aqua, or even bluish green, but rather a vibrant bright blue! With most of the Harmony’s surface covered by 51 buttons and the LCD screen, seeing the remote fully illuminated in total darkness is quite an experience!
Intrigue has also updated the top-of-the-line SST-768 with full EL backlighting, once again securing its spot as the Harmony line’s feature leader.
A case in point...
The bottom of the SST-659 is a study in smooth, flowing lines and particularly effective ergonomic design. Directly beneath the menu button cluster and channel/volume toggle keys are two finger grooves. With my large hands I found the top one ideal for resting my index finger while using the menu controls, whereas the bottom groove worked better for punching in channel numbers on the keypad. The oval bulges found at the top and bottom are perfect for gripping while sliding the remote up or down to access a different cluster of buttons. The Harmony has always strived to be a one-handed remote and the SST-659 is no exception, with nary a single button inaccessible using only the left or right hand. The low transport controls might prove a bit tricky for some, but I had no difficulties.