Quick Review: Logitech Harmony

Part of my goal with this blog is expanding on the idea of what web 2.0 is...
Written by Alan Graham, Contributor

Part of my goal with this blog is expanding on the idea of what web 2.0 is...what it means...and where it is going. More and more we are seeing delightful hybrids of web to device, like Skype phones and streaming music devices. Logitech has taken that idea and applied it to their Harmony line of remote controls...and I'm loving it. 




Let's face it...most universal remotes suck.

This is not one of those.

Unlike most universal remotes that ship with pre-programmed device codes, the Logitech Harmony is like an empty ship awaiting it's cargo from the web. The intelligence behind this technology is that Logitech uses a desktop application that is a portal to the web, always ensuring you have the most recent codes to control a myriad of devices. Better yet, you only need to tell it what devices you have and it will program the remote for you via a USB cable.

But they don't stop there...

By using "macro-like" programmability, you can create a laundry list of things that need to happen if you've got a lot of gear. For example, to watch a DVD, you might need to:

  • Turn on the TV 
  • Set it to a specific input
  • Turn on the DVD player
  • Turn on the  stereo
  • Set the volume
  • Turn down the lighting

Whew, that's a lot to do, and if you are anyting like me, you have a significant other who is remote phobic and hates when you add any new device or step. The Harmony remotes allow you to program them to handle all of these steps in any order.

My own home system consists of an Xbox, MovieBeam, Mac Mini w/Front Row, LCD flat screen. Because I want extended functionality with my Mac Mini (mouse control, Front Row, iChat, etc) I can't settle for the basic remote that comes with a Mac. So I took a Keyspan Remote (Mac or Windows), programmed all the Ir codes and signals into the Harmony via the Ir learning port, and tossed the actual Keyspan remote in a box. I now have one remote that controls every aspect of every device in my entertainment center (except my Sonos).

A few other nice touches:

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Nice Backlighting
  • Programmable Display
  • Ir Learning port (for learning commands from other Ir devices)
  • Sleek and light design
  • Excellent battery life

There isn't really that much I can ding it for. I would have liked RF control, a pager (to find the remote), touch screen instead of buttons, but these are minor issues, some of which you'll find in more expensive models. 

At around $200 (the model I tested) this might seem like a silly purchase, but if you are like me, Harmony is not only a brand name or a concept, it is the secret to a good relationship between you and your remote hating significant other. And what's that worth to ya? 

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