Based upon the fact that I write for a site like Gear Diary, it should come as no surprise that I suffer from a long-diagnosed addiction to gadgets. Of course, one of the biggest problems with this collection of gadgetry is that each one comes with its own remote control. Many components in my system are different brands, resulting in incompatible controls. While I could find a universal remote at any electronics store, this usually involves a complicated system of programming the controls manually by entering a series of numeric codes for each component. Setting up a remote like this with my system can take hours….assuming the codes are even available. And this does not even consider the option of creating macros to control a complex series of functions. Frankly, I usually end up programming the bare minimum before throwing up my hands in frustration. There must be a better way! Fortunately, I am not the only one who has recognized this problem. Logitech has also found a significant degree of customer confusion in this area. The results of these observations were their award winning line of Harmony remote controls. I previously reviewed theover at . Now, I am extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to check out Logitech’s latest redesign of the Harmony line, the Harmony One.
- — A proprietary charging cradle
- — USB cable
- — AC adaptor
- — Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- — Installation CD
- — Installation Guide
- Overview: Not long ago, I had the opportunity to review the over at . Since that time, the remote had been completely redesigned.
- The most notable new feature is the size and shape of the remote. It has been completely redesigned in order to be completely ergonomic. While I did find this shape more comfortable to hold, I also found it was more difficult to control. With the old style Harmony, I only had to slightly shift my hand in order to reach all of the buttons. With the new shape of the remote, I am constantly shifting it in my hand. One handed control is almost impossible. Additionally, you will also notice that the color has changed from a matte silver to glossy black. While I did think the glossy black finish looked nice when the remote was fresh out of the package, it turned out to be a fingerprint magnet once I started using it.
The second new feature is the touch screen. This is something I always felt was missing from the previous versions of the Harmony. It was actually introduced with the Harmony 1000, which I have not had the opportunity to use. The touch screen affords for far more intuitive means of accessing the controls than the previous version with its full color screen and buttons on the side. Along these lines, the screen has also been widened significantly. The larger, more vibrant screen makes the touch controls a cinch to use.
Finally, the buttons have also been redesigned and rearranged. Rather than the somewhat haphazard layout of previous versions, the buttons are now organized into four zones:
- — Menus, guides, info, and exit functions
- — D-Pad, volume, and channel
- — Play/pause, forward, and rewind controls
A fifth zone for activities and help functions is located in the touch screen.
The top of the remote contains the infra red port as well as the miniUSB jack. I was a little disappointed because the previous version of the Harmony remote utilized both infra red and RF waves. This meant that the remote could send a signal to your devices without direct line of site. Because the Harmony One uses only IR, it requires a much more direct line of site. If the arm of the couch is blocking the signal, then there is a good chance the stereo will not turn off on the first try.
Programming and Setup: The Harmony One can replace up to 15 different devices. And doing so really could not be easier. Unlike traditional remotes, which require you to program each button individually, the Harmony programs your remote by accessing its vast library of remote control codes.
Before you can load your devices onto the remote, you will want to install the included software. Once you have done so, make sure you are connected to the Internet so it can check for upates to the software or Harmony One firmware.
Once you have the software installed and running, you are ready to start loading your devices. To do so, simply follow the online tutorial, which guides you through installation in concise and easy to follow instructions.
The first step is recording the make and model number of each device. Logitech even provides you with a handy form you can print and use for this purpose. Once you are finished, hang onto this form in case you need to make changes or purchase a new device. Now, just tap the Add Device button and input the requested information. Do this for each device and you will be ready to go in no time. I have six devices programmed on my remote. Setup took a matter of minutes. Of course, if you manage to stumble upon a device which is not included in the Harmony database, then you can always program it manually.
Once you have inputted all of your devices, you can begin adding activities. Activities are one of the main attractions of the Harmony line of universal remotes. Activities give you one button access to multiple controls. Say, for example, you want to watch TV. On my system you would have to:
— turn on the TV
— turn on the DirectTV receiver
— turn on the stereo
— switch the stereo to HDMI
— switch the TV to HDMI
That would take five steps using three different remotes. Sure, there have been remotes in the past that allowed you to create macros, but who has the time to set that up? So, your choices were live with it or purchase a universal remote and spend hours setting it up.
With the Harmony, creating activities is quick and easy. First, based upon your programmed devices, the Harmony will suggest common activities which you are likely to need. You can select one of these, or start from scratch with a new activity. From there, it takes only about four screen of fill in the blank and multiple choice questions to complete the activity. Now, all five of the above actions are stored in a single activity on the remote called, “Watch PVR “. That’s it. When I push that button on the touch screen, the TV turns on, the DirectTV turns on, the stereo turns on, and the stereo switches to HDMI. I will admit that I have had a problem with the remote not switching the mode of my TV. So, I have to manually toggle it between component and HDMI. I never have been able to figure out why this was not working. Simply follow these steps for each activity you want to do. I have six activities:
— Watch PVR
— Watch DVD
— Watch DVD 2
— Play Game
— Play VCR
— Listen to CD
The really cool thing about it is that the Harmony can sense which components are already turned on or off, and which ones need to be changed. With a typical remote, if a component is turned on, and you send the power signal, it will turn off. It is like a switch. The Harmony, however, uses SmartState Technology to sense the current status of each device. So, if you are watching TV and you want to watch a DVD, all you have to do is tap the DVD activity. It will automatically ensure that each device is in the correct state. It even remembers which devices control different commands. So that without switching modes, you can control the channel through the Satellite receiver, the volume through the stereo, and the picture through the TV.
Of course, nothing is infallible, and the folks at Logitech recognize that sometimes confusion occurs, or a signal just misses its mark leaving one or more devices set incorrectly. For this, there is the help function. If something does not turn out the way you expected, just tap help. The onscreen menu will then guide you through a series of yes/no questions relating to the expected state of each device. The help menu is fantastic in its simplicity, but it really gets the job done. With just a few short questions (such as is the DVD turned on), it will realign your devices with the expected settings.
Once you have the remote programmed, every time you connect it to the Logitech software on your computer, you will be taken to your personalized account home screen. From here, you can view and adjust your activities and devices. You can also change any of the settings on your remote. This is basically the Harmony command center. Everything about the look and feel of the remote can be controlled from here.
Of course, you can skip all of these steps if you had previously programmed a Harmony remote on the same computer. In that case, all of your settings, devices, and activities can simply be transferred to the new remote.
Controls: As I mentioned, there are essentially five control zones on the remote. In fact users of previous Harmony remotes will notice that the buttons and controls on the Harmony One are in a completely different layout from any other remotes in the Harmony line.
So, how did this happen? How did Logitech determine the optimal layout for the buttons and controls? It is actually an extremely interesting story, and I will let them tell it to you (from The Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote: The Making Of An Exceptionally Useful, Comfortable Remote.)
One of the keys to the success of the Harmony One remote is its distinctive button layout, carefully zoned to organize groups of buttons by related functions in well-defined regions. To determine these zones, Logitech once again turned to users.
As early as October 2006, the development team designed innovative testing that encouraged people to build their perfect remote by literally cutting and pasting photos of buttons and groupings onto prototype forms.
As a result, the Harmony One simplifies a complicated, multifunctional
layout defined by how much people actually use each function.
- The result of all of this research, of course, was the five control zones which I mentioned above:
Menus, guides, info, and exit functions
D-Pad, volume, and channel
Play/pause, forward, and rewind controls
The button zones are relatively self explanatory. I will say, however, that I thought Logitech’s research really paid off on this one. The button layout was extremely intuitive, and most of the buttons were exactly where I expected to find them.
In addition to significantly changing the layout, Logitech also made significant changes to the size, shape, and texture of the buttons. This was done in order to add more visual and non-visual cues. This includes the addition of a backlight to the buttons and the tilt sensor, which activates the touch screen and backlight anytime the remote is moved.
The only complaint I had about the button layout was that the number buttons were not always easy to reach. At times, you had to stretch a thumb so far from one side of the remote to the other that you ended up with a somewhat precariously perched remote control. This made it prone to being dropped, which is never a good thing with expensive electronics.
Probably the biggest enhancement of the controls, however, is the inclusion of the touch screen. One of my biggest complaints about the Harmony 890 was the lack of a touch screen, so I was thrilled to see that Logitech had included one this time.
The screen on the Harmony One has been increased to 2.2 inches. Additionally, the main menus (activities and devices) have been reworked so that there are three large button on the screen at a time rather than six small ones. Heck, even my remote control is finger friendly now.
The biggest innovation, however, is the flat menu system. Most touch screen menus tend to be linear. In other words, they are like a stack of options, constantly burrowing you deeper into the menu system. The flat menu organizes commands into flat disks which can be rotated in order to view the various options. This reduces the number of screen taps required to access any screen or command. I don’t know whether the flat menu made a significant difference or not. I can say, however, that the touch screen controls were intuitive and easy to use.
Power and Charging: The Harmony One includes a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. When you go to bed each night, just place the remote into the charging station, and you will awake to a freshly charged battery. Having been through the torture of trying to use a universal remote with bad batteries (and then hunting for four AA batteries) I was happy to find this charging system. Like the Harmony 890, the Harmony One utilizes a flat cradle, in which the remote must lie on its back. I found that previous versions of this cradle were prone to dropping the connection between teh remote and cradle; and a simple inadvertent bump of the charging station could knock the Harmony off of the charger. I was, therefore, fairly impressed by the newly designed charging station. Although it still lies flat, it has been designed to better grip the remote in place. When the remote is placed in the charger, the slope of the surface causes it to slip securely into place. A fairly strong bump could not even dislodge it once it was in position.
Conclusion: One of my priorities when I buy a remote control is that anyone can use it. I always know that I will take the time to figure out the more advanced features, but I am not the one who is home all day controlling the television for my kids. If my wife cannot easily use the remote and control the TV, then I end up getting a frantic phone call at work, “Help, we can’t figure out how to play a DVD.”
The Harmony One, one the other hand, was so easy, even my wife, the babysitter, and all of my kids can use it. All of the complex controls are stored within a single button. I only had to show them three taps and they were on their way. Want to watch TV? Tap the activity. Switch to DVD? Tap that activity. I have never used a remote control this easy. My wife loves it and so will yours.
What I liked: Easy to program and use. Ergonomic design. Intuitive layout of controls with visual and non-visual cues. Touch screen. Did I mention easy?
What Needs Improvement: Requires more direct line of site than previous models, some buttons are difficult to reach with one hand. Charging station is not well designed.
Where To Buy: