Received my R2 last week and was finally able to spend some time this weekend working on it. While the instructions are definitely lacking and A LOT of reading/research is required, I’ve found the remote to be outstanding and would highly recommend it to anyone willing/able to put in some elbow grease and figure it out.
It’s definitely not a 100% consumer-ready product like the Harmony which I vaguely remember to be pretty plug-and-play (it’s been a long time since I set one up). But the R2 seems significantly more powerful/customizable than the Elite and I can easily see this growing into a fantastic, easy-to-use product for the masses some day.
For those that are a little further along the tinkerer spectrum and who like projects where they have to figure some things out on their own, thought I’d share my experience this weekend as there may be others in a similar situation. A few opening items to set the stage:
I am no coder and not a particularly technical person but I do love to tinker, have a ton of home automation gadgets in my (not very big) townhouse, can follow instructions and am able to do supplementary research on the web for things I can’t figure out.
I do not have nearly as complicated a home automation or home theatre system as it sounds like most people do on this forum.
a. I’ve got 10+ Sonos speakers that make up the home theatre system in 3 different rooms. But my primary use case is to simply control the Samsung TV in my living room connected to an Xfinity cable box. Really only 2 remotes need to be managed – Xfinity to change the cable box and Samsung to manage all the streaming services built into Tizen (and volume/mute is managed by either Samsung or Sonos for the Beam connected to the TV).
b. I have a bunch of home automation gadgets like Ring doorbell and cameras, wifi lock, 20+ plug-in lights, ceiling fan, Aera diffusers, iRobots, Ecobee thermostat, etc. which are all managed and connected through HomeKit/Homebridge. I’ve never played around with HomeAssistant as HomeKit is sufficient for my needs but it sounds like I may need to if I want to start controlling all of my lights/thermostat from the R2 (which I plan to do) – here’s hoping a HomeKit/HomeBridge integration is on the horizon for the team!!!
I started off by reading a ton of threads in this forum. I then studied the manual below (THANK YOU for creating that) and started tinkering: Unfolded Circle Remote Two Guide 2023-11.docx - Google Docs
#1 Set Up/WiFi – I’ve read a lot of complaints/challenges with setting up the remote over WiFi and the remote not staying connected to the base. My Xfinity X1 router is a 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual router but I had no problems during setup. It connected to 2.4 with no problem and I didn’t have to mess around with setting up a separate network or anything. I occasionally get an error message on the remote saying it lost connection to the base but it’s maybe happened only 2 or 3 times in the few days I’ve been messing with it and seemed to reconnect in a few seconds. Will see if it becomes a problem/annoyance over time but so far, so good.
#2 – IR Strength – My biggest concern from these forums was IR strength. I was even going to order a repeater while waiting for the remote to arrive. But I have found it works perfectly for my simple setup. Again, it’s not very complicated and I don’t have a bunch of components in a cabinet or anything.
I simply put the base directly under the IR receiver of my Samsung TV and ran the repeater cord behind the TV where the cable box is located. I just dangled the wires near the front of the cable box and the remote works perfectly. I did play around with having IR come from the remote itself and it was a little on the weak side (barely made it from my couch to the TV). But the base and extender cords work so well I have no need for remote IR.
I do agree with a lot of the comments about it being poor design to have the base IR repeater also be the charger. Kind of annoying to have to charge my remote in the base sitting right in front of my TV rather than have a dedicated charger by my couch and the IR repeater as a separate unit. Not a huge issue but definitely annoying.
#3 – Remote Codes – The only prebuilt integration I did was with Sonos which was dead simple. But I have yet to figure out if you can actually control/run Sonos from the remote other than basic functionality like play/pause/volume (more on that below). But it is cool to see album art on the remote.
Setting up the other two remotes was pretty simple. I downloaded Xfinity codes from Global Cache (https://irdb.globalcache.com/), formatted the file per the instructions above and uploaded them into the Web Configurator with no problem at all. Most of the codes worked but a few seemed buggy so I simply learned a handful with the base and the old remote and it worked perfectly.
I repeated the same process with the Samsung remote and had to learn a few buttons that were not included in the download for some reason. But getting the remotes set up was pretty easy.
#4 – Custom Icons
I then created two Activities for the two remotes (similar to the Harmony process I believe). Mapping the buttons was pretty straightforward but getting a favorites page set up with custom icons and remote IR sequences was way more confusing than it should have been - so I’ll share my experience to hopefully help others.
I checked out all the links provided in the instructions above and throughout the forum. I understood the icon has to be 90x90 or it would not load (web configurator freezes and you have to restart the webpage). I was able to get a few from https://icons8.de/ and it’s a great platform that lets you play with the background and export in any size (i.e. 90x90). But I’m in the US and they have very few US TV Station logos so it wasn’t much help.
Same goes for the great depository of logos here Cockatooᶜˡᵒᵘᵈ. Ton of stuff in there but not much for the US. Also couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get his logos into the 90x90 format and upload (even the ones that were supposedly already sized properly). After a few hours of messing around, I finally figured out something that worked for me (on a Mac):
- Open a Word document and insert a Shape that is a black square that is 5” by 5”
- Search any logo on Google that either has a transparent background or a black background if the logo contains any black elements (transparent won’t work with black elements because of the black background in the remote – they won’t appear).
- Simply paste the logo into the Word doc, change the Size and Position to be “In Front of Text”, drag the logo on top of the black square, size it and center it appropriately
- Then take a Screen grab of the black square and logo (a little inside the black square so there’s no white border), open the file in the Preview App on a Mac, use the Tools menu drop down to Adjust Size, change the dimensions to 90x90 and save the file
- Easy peasy and imports into the web configurator every time with no problem at all.
There may be a WAY easier process that I’m missing but I’m not familiar with Photoshop or a lot of the other programs mentioned in the forums. This is a rudimentary way that works every time and the logos look fantastic!!
#5 – IR Repeater Sequence - Once I Uploaded all the logos across two Favorites Pages, I found the recommendation in the forums on how to make the button actually work (i.e. send 3 IR commands for the channel number and then enter).
- Edit the custom icon and select IR sequence for the Command.
- When you do this, a new line appears called Commands where you can insert the buttons that make up the channel. For me, it was as simple as typing out DIGIT_2,DIGIT_2,DIGIT_9,CURSOR_ENTER (for channel 229) then copy/paste the same into every other custom logo and just change the digit numbers for each channel. Worked perfectly and all of my favorites are set up in my Xfinity Activity.
That’s about how far I got messing around with it for a few hours on Sat and about 5 hours on Sun. Everything works and it’s pretty damn close to what I have with my Harmony Elite. I think I need to now create an Activity Group, insert the two Activities (Xfinity and Samsung) so they start to communicate with each other.
I incorrectly mapped the Samsung Power Toggle to the hard Power Button on the remote and realized that screws up the State of the components. So I would turn off the TV but the Activities thought it was still on and everything got messed up. I assume leaving the Power button alone, having Activities in a Group will make everything work together.
But I do have a few questions if any of you more experienced folks don’t mind chiming in:
#1. Is there anything more to the Sonos Integration than simply being able to see on the remote what I start from the Sonos app? I know I can control play/pause/skip and stuff from the remote but I can’t access Sonos functionality like changing stations, searching for artists, etc. Maybe that’s a bit much to ask for and/or maybe that’s something that’s possible if you integrate with HomeAssistant?
#2. Haven’t tinkered with this yet so I might be able to figure it out but my last step in making the remote a true Harmony replacement is to have the Xfinity and Samsung Activities work seamlessly together. If I’m watching Xfinity and want to switch to Samsung Tizen to start watching Netflix (for example), I’d love to be able to press the hard Home button, pull up the Tizen interface but have all the remote buttons automatically switch to the Samsung remote mapping.
As it is, when I press Home and open Tizen, the remote still thinks it’s controlling the cable box so all the navigation buttons don’t work. When I want to switch between the two, I have to manually turn off Xfinity with the hard Power button then select Samsung from the Activities Menu which turns the TV back on and all the buttons work. Would be great to have the two remotes switch automatically and the button mapping work seamlessly. I’m sure there’s a way to do it but I’m a bit stuck on how to go about it.