In terms of programming the remote, the Monster 100 works the same way that other Harmony remotes do, but it comes with its own special flavor of Harmony desktop software, as well as a Monster-modified interface on the remote itself. As we noted in our earlier reviews, programming a universal remote can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, involving punching a series of multidigit codes for each component in your A/V system. By contrast, Harmony remotes are programmed by connecting them to your Internet-connected Windows PC or Mac with the supplied USB cable, installing the model-specific version of Harmony software (in this case, Monster software), and following a fairly straightforward wizard.
You choose your home-theater components from a list; explain how they're connected; and define their roles in activity-based functions, such as Watch TV, Watch DVD, and Listen To Music. For each function, you specify which devices and inputs the remote must enable. You can also choose which keypad functions will punch through to which specific devices--always having the channel buttons control the cable box or the volume controls dedicated to the TV, for instance. After you've completed the setup, the software uploads all the relevant control codes to the Monster 100. Depending on the system, sometimes setup is a snap, other times it isn't.
One advantage of the Monster software is that it does a better job guiding you through multiroom setups. We actually set up the remote to work in three rooms in our house, and there's a dedicated A/B Sys button at the bottom of the remote that's a shortcut to controlling multiple systems for multiple rooms.
Once you finish setting everything up in the Web-based software wizard, it's easy to toggle between rooms on the remote, but it's not necessarily the most elegant solution since you're left with activity-based icons that read Watch TV2 and Watch TV3 for your second and third rooms. On the plus side, you can add advanced, macro-style options for delay times, multistep commands, and other functions. Also, the remote's Help key aids in troubleshooting by asking natural-language questions on the LCD. For instance, the screen might read, "Is the digital set-top box on?"
Even as user-friendly as the remote generally is, you will probably encounter a few snags. And as one might expect, the more rooms and components you have, the more time you can expect to invest in getting everything to work properly. A certain amount of trial and error is involved. You must verify that the commands work with your equipment as intended, then modify them as necessary. This can get a little tedious as you run through the software wizard, connect and reconnect the remote to the USB cable, then wait for the remote to update itself.
If you're pairing this remote to only one system, you can conceivably set it up in less than an hour. It's also worth pointing out that Monster, like Logitech, will continue to offer updates to the desktop software and firmware upgrades to your hardware. This should improve the user experience with time.
As for battery life, Monster says you should be able to go a few weeks without recharging, but obviously, if you leave the unit in its cradle, the battery will remain fully juiced. It's also worth noting that the battery is replaceable, so when it eventually wears out--and it will--you'll be able swap in a new one.
When all is said and done, the Monster Home Theater Controller 100's slightly superior design (from the standpoint of button design and placement) give it an edge over the similarly featured Logitech Harmony 720 and Harman Kardon TC 30, which is why we gave it the high score we did. That said, some buyers may prefer the sleeker look of those competing remotes and more certainly, their much lower price tags. In other words, we'd be willing to pay a small premium to own this model, but not a big one--and you shouldn't either.