Reviewer: Anthony Fordham
Universal remotes come in two flavours: basic units costing a hundred dollars or so that are fiddly to set up and won’t control every device in the catalogue, and really expensive touchscreen remotes that run everything but cost more than a PVR. The Harmony One aims to fall somewhere in the middle, offering easy setup and touchscreen simplicity, while not costing the Earth.
The extreme ends of Logitech’s universal remote range meet here. The Harmony One has the traditional remote form-factor as seen on the Harmony 525 ($190) but also incorporates the customisable touchscreen interface of the Logitech Harmony 1000i.
While the flagship 1000i is a heck of a device, its buttons are non-standard and can be hard to come to grips with. The Harmony One has traditional channel-surfing and DVD/PVR control buttons which can be used more or less instinctively.
The unit has a built-in Lithium-ion battery and comes with a cradle, so keeping it topped up for maximum TV time is no trouble at all.
Definitely get the computer whiz of the household to handle set up, as this involves plugging the remote into a PC via USB, installing software, then telling the Internet which devices you own. The remote downloads infrared codes from online, but also includes an IR-in sensor so you can ‘teach’ the remote any extra fiddly commands not covered by the online info.
Chances you’ll need to do this are slim though, as nearly a quarter of a million devices are supported. Even this reviewer’s weird Philips home theatre system was in there.
Once set up via PC – including loading in favourite channels, which display on the remote with their logos if using pay TV – the remote is ready to go.
Irritatingly, every time you boot your PC thereafter, the Logitech software will blink up and demand to check for updates, which can be very aggravating for those users who hate pop-ups.
How well the Harmony One works for your AV setup depends on which devices you own. This reviewer’s Philips home cinema system has a weird way of switching inputs, including using the same command to toggle between auxiliary and digital-in.
The Harmony One doesn’t deal with this kind of thing very well, but works almost like magic with less idiosyncratic devices.
One thing to note is that using the activity-based commands – tapping a single button to ‘Watch a DVD’ instead of manually turning on each device and selecting inputs – seems a bit hit and miss at times. You need to hold the remote steady, pointing at the stack, until the entire switch-on sequence is complete.
It’s certainly easier than juggling 6 remotes, though.
If the Harmony One cost $199, it would be the greatest AV peripheral of all time. Big chunky buttons, touchscreen, support for thousands of devices. These things would easily outweigh its shortcomings: lack of speed, problems with some devices, and the fact that it’s not really much less confusing for technophobes than individual remotes.
But at $400 the Harmony One is a significant investment, and we’re left wondering if a nice coffee table with drawers is a more sensible solution to tidying away the mess of remotes that defines the modern AV experience.