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If you have a home theatre system it's a good bet that you either own a universal remote or plan to buy one. No more scrabbling around behind the couch to find the remote you need, just use the same one for everything. We looked at a selection of remotes recently, and found the Logitech Harmony 785 to be the pick of the bunch. Now, its replacement is here.
In the olden times, before Logitech bought them, Harmony made chunky, easy-to-use remotes which were also updateable from the Web. The Harmony One could be seen as a return to those roots.
We'll ignore the fact that the remote is piano-black and subject to smudging because the remote is just so damn good.
The One is pleasingly solid with large buttons and an easy-to-read touchscreen. The remote fits well in the hand, and features a rubber backing which is curved to form three separate zones. These include the touchscreen, the direction-pad, and the number keys and transport buttons.
Though it may not appear so at first, all the hard buttons are backlit, which is great for use in the dark. To further enhance useability all of the "zones" feature their own unique ergonomics -- most notable of all is the textured D-Pad.
We like the placement of the transport buttons (play, pause etc) as they're located directly below the cursor keys. Some other universal remotes plonk the buttons right at the bottom which can be very inconvenient.
For a AU$400 remote (and we've seen it for as low as $315 on the tubes it certainly packs the features in. The two biggest ones are the dedicated charger -- into which the remote fits snugly -- and the large touchscreen.
One thing to consider is that the Harmony series does require the user to change the way they use their remote -- while most receiver remotes are "device-based" the Harmony's is "activity-based". This may mean you need to spend a little more time perfecting macros if your system is sufficiently complex.
Also, the "Activities" screen has changed a little from the Harmony 785 with only three activities listed at once instead of six. This isn't usually a problem, but sometimes it's easy to accidentally hit an Activity or Device button instead of the relatively small arrow button. We did like, however, the "Current Activity" button that displays when you're in Device mode and switches you immediately back to the activity you were on. Previous remotes meant you would have to press Activities and then press, say, Watch TV again and wait for all the devices to catch up. This simplifies the process.
We really enjoyed using the Harmony One -- it's friendly, easy to use and to explain to the less-technically minded. It's also quite hardy -- some of the company's previous remotes have been a little flaky, with the Logitech Harmony 520 in particular proving quite flimsy and unreliable in our experience. No such problems here.
Where any difficulties could be levelled at the remote is how comfortable you are with the Web interface. It's not always obvious which option you need to choose to alter the operation of the buttons, for example, when in Device mode. But given some experimentation it eventually becomes second-nature to program new devices in as you add them to your system.
If you're looking for a sturdy, workhorse remote and don't want to pay for the Logitech Harmony 1000i then the Harmony One is an excellent choice.