Living room set-top boxes have become increasingly sophisticated, but they can still feel backward any time you need to input a long password or search term using an onscreen keyboard.
Logitech's new Harmony Smart Keyboard ($150 list) is aimed squarely at that problem. It's a full-size keyboard that lets you type on (most of) your living room devices, while also offering total living room control in the manner of a typical Harmony universal remote.
The universal remote capabilities of the system are similar to the Logitech Harmony Smart Control ($130), except the keyboard replaces the simplified remote. The Hub is the brain of the system, accepting commands from the keyboard or the Harmony mobile app, then issuing commands to the appropriate device using IR, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
Logitech is no stranger to making a quality keyboard, and the hardware feels well made. The keyboard is covered in a nice, grippy finish, and it's relatively light, even though it requires two AA batteries. On the other hand, it's an intimidating device compared to a standard TV remote -- frequently used keys like volume up / down and transport control are relatively small and easy to miss at first glance amid the other 77 buttons.
Getting a full-size wireless keyboard to work with a variety of gadgets isn't easy. In the best case scenario, the Harmony Smart Keyboard system can issue commands directly to your devices, which it can do with Roku boxes (via Wi-Fi) and the Apple TV (via Bluetooth). (Logitech also said that direct control of Roku boxes over Wi-Fi will also come to the Harmony Smart Control later this year.)
Other devices aren't so simple. For example, with the PlayStation 3, the Harmony Smart Keyboard can power up and navigate menus via Bluetooth, but for typing you'll need to connect to one of the two included USB adapters. Both Bluetooth and the USB adapters end up being used for controlling the PS3, and the idea is it should feel seamless when you're using it. It seems like Logitech's had to do a lot of work to make ensure compatibility with Harmony Smart Keyboard, and the company says it will be publishing extensive online resources for the particulars of each device.
Logitech specifically mentions support for Apple TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, Mac/PC computers, and Roku devices. Other devices, such as Smart TVs, may work too, but compatibility will differ on a model-by-model basis. According to Logitech, Sony hasn't offered any company the ability to control the PS4 with a third-party device, but the Harmony team is still working on a solution.
In addition to the physical keyboard, you'll also be able to control your living room devices using the Harmony App (available on Android/iOS), just as you can with the Harmony Smart Control. One major difference is that Harmony Smart Keyboard users will also have the ability to use your mobile device's touch-screen keyboard to type on your living room devices. The capability will also be available to Harmony Smart Control users later this year.
The Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard will be available later in March for $150, which includes the keyboard, Harmony Hub, and two USB adapters. The keyboard (without the Hub) won't initially be offered separately for existing Hub owners, although Logitech says it's a possibility in the future.