Most households have several devices connected to their televisions such as cable boxes, digital video recorders (DVR), DVD/BluRay players, audio-video receivers, internet streaming devices, etc. Until the early 2000’s, universal remote controls were the norm to control a bevy of devices. However, as the quantity of television-connected devices increased in number, as well as in functionality, these remote controls became anything but “universal” by only controlling a handful of devices in a mediocre manner.
For years, Logitech has been manufacturing and perfecting their universal remote control product line named “Harmony.” The aforementioned is exceptionally popular and is America’s #1 best selling advanced remote. Yet, previous designs of the Harmony included a cornucopia of buttons that were superficially unappealing to this author, as he sought a simpler way to control his entertainment system.
The latest Logitech product, Harmony Touch ($249), combines the well-regarded Harmony remote with a simpler, streamlined interface, incorporating a color touchscreen (approximately by 5 cm by 4 cm) that replaces many of the former buttons. Additionally, in terms of ease of use, this remote does not require batteries, as it features a rechargeable battery. The packaging also includes a charging dock that securely holds the remote vertically during the recharging process. A full charge takes approximately 2 hours, and Logitech claims it will power the remote for 3 days. Yet, impressively, this author found a full charged lasted more than five days -- even when used several hours per day.
Setup for the Harmony Touch required some initial preparation, as one needed to record the following information for each device (up to maximum of 15): manufacture’s name, model number, and means of connection. However, Logitech provides a paper form to aid with gathering and organizing this essential information for programming the remote.
The next step requires either a Mac (OS X 10.5 or newer) or PC (Windows XP or newer) with the any of the following web browsers: Internet Explorer 8+, Chrome 16+, Firefox 11+, or Safari 4+. One connects the remote to the computer via USB and logs into Harmony’s website. The website prompts the user to install a piece of software allowing one’s computer to communicate with the Harmony Touch. Then, the gathered information regarding one’s entertainment system is entered via an easy online form where Logitech’s website aids with suggestions in manageable steps. While Logitech has successfully streamlined the setup process, be prepared to set aside some time in which to finely tune one’s settings.
Aside from simplification, the touchscreen aids new types of interactions that were previously not possible with traditional remotes. For example, a favorite feature of this author, the “gestures” button, allows control of a device via taps and slides of the finger. Thus, a single tap replaces play/pause and fast forward/rewind is substituted with sliding left/right.
A major strength of the Harmony Touch is its customizability. Via Harmony’s website, one can simply program an activity, such as watching TV, watching a movie, listening to music, etc. Then, one initiates a preprogrammed activity by tapping the icon (that is also customizable and can be changed by uploading a new picture from a computer) and the remote then turns on/switches the inputs for the requested equipment. Additionally, although the Harmony Touch is programmed with a default set of buttons, the touchscreen allows for adaptability by permitting buttons to be reordered, new ones to be added, and even to completely remove defaults.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly is this remote’s 'feel.' The ergonomic design has been well thought-out with the underside possessing multiple locales for fingers to rest, permitting the remote to comfortably conform to one’s hand. Moreover, the underside’s material allows for a good amount of grip, while the top of the remote features an attractive, glossy finish that completely resists showing fingerprints. Again, due to excellent design, all of the buttons are easily within reach as is the entire touchscreen, which is also adeptly responsive.
Overall, the Harmony Touch’s combination of ease of use, customization, and design has convinced this author that, finally, there is a remote that can universally control the modern entertainment system!
Rating: 5 out of 5