Logitech proudly proclaims on its Web site that the Harmony Touch is “not a remote.” Well, it looks like a remote, feels like a remote, and acts like a remote, so despite its claims, we have to say that it is conclusively a remote. Aside from this slight inaccuracy in marketing, Logitech has made one of the simplest, most powerful, and easiest-to-use universal remotes we’ve seen yet. At $249.99 (direct), it’s pretty pricey for anyone who doesn’t have a complicated home theater system, but it’s so good otherwise, it stands as our new Editors’ Choice for universal remotes.
Design and Setup
The 7.3-inch remote is sleek and light, with a glossy black face and an almost fabric-like covering on the back and “heel” of the device. It has large, slightly curved buttons for playback and navigation, but it lacks a number pad. Instead, the Harmony Touch is built around a 2.4-inch, 320-by-240-pixel color touch screen between the playback and navigation button areas, completely seamless with the remote’s face. Above the touch screen, two touch-sensitive areas bring up the remote’s Home and Favorites menus.
The remote rests in the included charging cradle, which works via a micro USB connection and the included AC adapter. The cradle is a handy place to keep your remote and to keep it charged, but that’s all you use it for. Despite the micro USB connection, it’s only a charging cradle, and doesn’t actually connect the remote to anything.
To set up the remote, you have to take it out of the cradle, remove a small rubber door on the bottom, and plug in the included micro USB cable directly. Then you plug the other end into your computer and visit myharmony.com to run the Silverlight-based Web configuration tool. This has become the standard configuration tool for Harmony remotes; for example, it’s also used to set up the Logitech Harmony LinkiOS infrared blaster remote accessory.
The Web tool makes setting up the Harmony Touch easy. All you have to do to get the remote to work with your home theater is enter each component (such as your HDTV, Blu-ray player, and cable or satellite box), enter a few activities you want to do with the remote, tell the program which activities use which devices, and then enter your favorite channels. I set up the remote with multiple devices in the PCMag Labs in under five minutes, and it worked without a problem. If you want more customized interactivity, you can program each physical button to give a specific command based on the active device. You can also program custom activities that enter specific strings of commands. If you spend some time with the Web tool, you can customize the remote even more and automate most activities.
The Harmony Touch is intuitive to use, with the main activities and channels accessible through the touch screen, and the common menu navigation through the navigation pad. I switched between watching television on a Dish Network box and watching a Blu-ray on an Oppo BDP-103 with a tap of the activities buttons on the touch screen; each activity set the physical buttons to work flawlessly with the right device. My favorite channels were organized in a three-by-three grid of icons I could slide up and down to navigate, and after the basic setup I switched between channels with just a tap.
The touch screen also serves as a gesture pad that assigns commands to one of five sliding motions, but the gestures are limited to tapping the touch screen or moving your thumb up, down, left, or right. Without more gestures, like drawing simple figures to initiate commands, the gesture feature isn’t worth much consideration. A more robust gesture feature would have given the Harmony Touch even more powerful and intuitive controls than it already has.
Without a number pad, you have to use the favorite channel list and the navigation pad to flip through channels, but that’s been how most cable and satellite viewers have been watching television for years. The day of manually entering a number is long gone, now that we have program guides and favorites lists. If you need a number pad, you can still manually bring one up by tapping the activity and tapping the 123 button on the list that pops up. You can also manually access any command by browsing through the activity or device on the touch screen. I ended up not using the number pad, and not missing it when watching TV, either.
The Logitech Harmony Touch offers the activities-based and automated control of a complicated touch screen remote with the relative ease of a universal button remote. You might miss the number pad you grew up with at first, but the touch screen design and many useful commands prove that we can finally live without one. The Harmony Touch is the easiest way to tie together your home theater with one magic wand, and it offers enough power to handle myriad devices. The only drawback is its steep price, but if you can afford to spend $250 on a remote, this is the one to get.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc