This is the sort of automatic activity-based programming that Harmony remotes are known for, but on the 200, it's limited to the single "Watch TV" function. If you want more ("Listen to music," "Watch DVD," "Play video game," and so forth), you'll need to upgrade to the Harmony 600 or above. Likewise, if you've got a remote with a large number of specialized buttons, the Harmony 200 isn't your best choice. And, with any universal remote, the normal caveats apply: you'll need good line of sight to your gear's infrared receptors, and the automated input switching won't work well unless your products have discrete inputs (most TVs and receivers from at least the last five to eight years should).
Design and ergonomics
The Harmony 200 utilizes the same basic design found on most recent Harmony remotes. It's a bit shorter than its siblings, but that actually makes it somewhat more comfortable in the hand. A standard numeric keyboard sits at the bottom. Above that are the video transport controls (play, pause, rewind, fast-forward, stop, and record--but no "track up" and "track down").
The upper half of the remote has five-way directional keys, channel and volume controls, and some standard DVR keys (Menu, Guide, Info, Exit, List, and menu up/down). There are also dedicated input and power toggles. At the top are the three device buttons (prelabeled to TV, Cable, and DVD--though you can assign them to whatever you'd like), and the aforementioned Watch TV key.
That leaves only four "extra" buttons left over for customized controls (the yellow, blue, red, and green keys) Since those are often used by cable boxes, you might not be able to program functions like closed captioning, aspect ratio, and channel favorites. In either case, stepping up to the Harmony 300 will get you at least five more user-assignable keys.
One conceit to the Harmony 200's budget price: only the device buttons are backlit. That said, the button layout is intuitive enough that you probably won't have any trouble navigating major functions by touch in a darkened room.
The Harmony 200 is powered by two AA batteries (included). As expected at this price point, there's no rechargeable battery or cradle option, as found on the Harmony 700 and higher models. We recommend investing in rechargeable batteries, and swap them in and out as needed.
I programmed the Harmony 200 to control a Panasonic TV, Samsung (Time Warner) DVR, and Sony PlayStation 3. (Because that last product doesn't include an IR receiver, you'll need to invest in the --it works perfectly, but costs more than the Harmony 200 itself.) Later, I swapped in the Xbox 360 in place of the PS3.
The Harmony 200 performed flawlessly, working just as well as previous Logitech models we've tested. The IR emitter is quite powerful, and as long as the remote was pointed in the general direction of our gear, there weren't any missed commands. We also liked the general feel of the remote. Some may find the Harmony 200's buttons to be a bit too mushy or rubbery--personally, I prefer hard plastic keys. But they worked fine and never missed a punch.
While even tech amateurs should find the Harmony 200 to be easy to set up, Logitech does offer free phone support in English, Spanish, and French (Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. PT) and via e-mail.
Without identifying myself as a CNET editor, I took advantage of the e-mail support. The one issue I had was that each up or down volume command from the remote resulted in a "double send" to the TV--so volume was always raised or lowered by increments of two rather than one.
It took six days for the e-mail response (a long time, but at least I didn't have to stay on hold or navigate a phone tree). The response indicated that they had fixed my problem remotely, and I needed to simply resync the remote. Indeed, doing so solved the issue--volume presses now correctly raise or lower levels by just one tick. (One mystery remains: why Logitech can't seem to roll out a systemwide fix--so the problem doesn't exist in the first place--since the issue has apparently persisted for months.)
Is it worth $20?
My biggest beef with the Harmony 200 is the same frequent complaint from past Harmony models. There's still no way to organize multiple remotes under a single online account, so you need to use separate e-mail addresses for every Harmony remote you own. With Logitech now producing models specifically designed to be the second and third remotes in the home, we continue to hope that the company figures out a way to organize disparate remotes under a single account.
Advanced users may be frustrated that the Harmony 200 has few "extra" keys for programming. It only controls three devices, has no LCD screen, and lacks task-based commands (beyond "Watch TV") as well as sophisticated macros/sequences. At the end of the day, though, this is a $20 accessory--those features are available on more expensive Harmony models.
We have no problem recommending the Harmony 200 for TV-based entertainment systems in a bedroom or den (say, a TV; cable/satellite box; and a DVD/Blu-ray player, game system, or VCR). It allows you to ditch up to three separate remotes, and it offers the easiest PC-based programming procedure we've seen to date. And did we mention it's only $20?