Logitech's Harmony Link makes your iPad the ultimate remote (first impressions)

Summary:Consolidate up to 8 remotes into one with Logitech's Harmony Link and app for your iOS or Android device. But is the convenience worth $99?

Your living room's coffee table is probably covered by a gazillion remotes: one for your television, your speakers, amplifier, your cable box, your Roku box, your DVR, DVD player, PlayStation 3, and increasingly your iPad is in the mix too. What if you could reduce clutter and the number of clicks on your various controllers so you can start watching the latest Game of Thrones episode faster? Logitech is betting couch potatoes would be happy to hand over $99 for the Harmony Link (pictured above), which links up to eight remotes and consolidates them into a single app for your iOS or Android device.

The Harmony Link looks more like a glossy black stone than a gadget; it is compact enough that you can hold in the palm of your hand and rest unobtrusively in your home. Not only does it use Infrared to communicate with your home theater gear (just like the remotes), it also requires access to your home wireless Internet so it can communicate with your tablet or smartphone and receive updates from Logitech.

After connecting the Harmony Link to your WiFi, and installing the free Harmony Link app on your phone or slate, you just have to select the name of your cable provider and the correct graphical TV guide should pop up (though this feature will only be available on the iPad at launch, according to Logitech's blog). To connect the app with the electronics in your living room, you need to map each remote to the app but the process is not as onerous as it sounds.

For one thing, the app comes preloaded with some basic virtual remotes to get you started, but it also has the ability to "learn," map and add more specialized or older remotes. To link each remote to the app, you'd have to go online using any computer to myharmony.com to enter the make and model of your equipment. Or if you still can't find the appropriate device on the site, you can put the errant remote next to the app so if can replicate the remote via IR.

Once the app is set up, you will be able to control the settings within your home theater network (volume, channel, play/stop etc.) from your mobile device; any iOS 4 (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) or later or Android 2.0 or later tablet or phone will be able to be able to run this app and double as an universal remote. When the TV guide feature extends beyond the iPad, you will also be able to browse through the more graphically interesting listing of "what's on" on your device, and tune in with just a tap of the "Watch Now" button, without interrupting whatever that's showing on TV or having to switch between multiple apps.

Judging from the brief demo of the Logitech Harmony Link and app I saw in New York back in July, the IR blaster and software is a clever combination that works seamlessly with minimal lag. It definitely addresses a growing problem (too many remotes) for gadget enthusiasts with a deceptively simple solution (combine a viewing guide within an universal remote app). But the hardware becomes redundant in the presence of the Sony Tablet S, which comes preloaded with a similar universal remote functionality, or the Vizio VTAB1008 tablet that offers a built-in IR radio. In this sense, the Logitech Harmony Link is best for non-Sony S and Vizio slate owners who take their home entertainment system (and remotes) very seriously, and therefore won't mind the $99 price tag.

Logitech is taking pre-orders for the Harmony Link now, but it won't actually arrive in your mailbox until October -- just in time for this holiday season.

Here's a video showing how the hardware and app all work together:

[Source: Logitech's blog, Logitech's YouTube channel]

Related:

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPad, Laptops, Mobile OS, Mobility, Tablets

About

Gloria Sin is a New York-based freelance journalist who writes about the tech toys that you can't live without for ZDNet. She has little patience for poorly designed user experiences, and is not afraid of opening the guts of her own machines for repair or hacking her gadgets for new uses.She has written for FastCompany.com, Popular Scienc... Full Bio

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