Logitech Harmony 650 review: Logitech Harmony 650

As easy as the remote generally is to use, some users may encounter a few snags when initially setting them up. Often, this will be because of the hardware limitations of older AV equipment. We've had problems in the past with TVs or AV receivers that don't offer discrete input commands, as well as gear with old HDMI connectors that don't easily "refresh" the video connection when switching inputs. Still, we were able to get the 650 to ably control a living room system with a plasma TV, an AV receiver, an HD DVR, an Xbox 360, and a Sony PS3. (Because that last product doesn't include an IR receiver, you'll need to invest in the Logitech Harmony Adapter for PlayStation 3--it works perfectly, but it will set you back about $60.) Those with larger systems should take note, however: that represents the Harmony 650's (and Harmony 600's) maximum of five devices. Anyone with additional gear should opt for the Harmony 700 (six devices), or make the leap to the Harmony One (15 devices), which will cost you about double the price of the 650.

As we said in our earlier reviews of Harmony remotes, if you have a complicated system, you can expect to spend some time fine-tuning the remote to get it to work just right. A certain amount of trial and error is involved. You must verify that the commands work with your equipment as intended, then modify them as necessary. The Web site provides advanced, macro-style options for delay times, multistep commands, and other functions. Also, the remote's Help key helps in troubleshooting by asking natural-language questions on the LCD. For instance, the screen might read, "Is the digital set-top box on?"

That said, the "classic" Harmony software now feels outdated after you've used the "My Harmony" software that comes with the entry-level Harmony 300 model. That one streamlines the process even further, and adds an interface for drag-and-drop button programming. We hope that Logitech eventually adopts the "My Harmony" software for the rest of its remote line, including the Harmony 650 reviewed here. On the positive side, expert users will be happy to hear that the Harmony 650 (unlike the luxury 900 and 1100 models) does support the programming of custom "sequences," or multidevice macros of up to five steps.

While there's still no way to manage multiple Harmony remotes on the same account (you're required to create separate user accounts, with separate names and passwords, for each of them), Logitech has made it very easy to swap in a new Harmony remote for an old one and transfer in that remote's system setup. For example, if you already had an older Harmony that you use with your main living room system, you could quickly swap in the Harmony 650, and then set up a separate profile for the old Harmony, which you could then use in another room.

The only reason we wouldn't recommend the Logitech Harmony 650 is because the step-up Harmony 700 model can be found online for as little as $20 more. That model controls six devices (to the 600's five) and includes a pair of rechargeable Sanyo Eneloop batteries which would cost you that much anyway. Aside from that caveat, we have no problem recommending the Logitech Harmony 650--it's a great universal remote that's being sold at a very competitive sub-$100 price.

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