Editors' note: Confused about how this model stacks up to other Harmony remotes? See CNET's Which Logitech universal remote is right for you? for updated comparisons and recommendations.
When Logitech released the Harmony One in early 2008, it instantly became one of our favorite universal remotes to date. But at $250, it wasn't exactly an impulse buy for the average consumer. With the Harmony 700, however, Logitech has delivered a model that offers the bulk of the Harmony One's feature set and design while lowering the cost of entry to a more wallet-friendly list price of $150. The 700 controls fewer devices (6 versus 15) than the Harmony One, and its more subtle color LCD isn't a touch screen. And, although its batteries are rechargeable, the Harmony 700 lacks a charging cradle (you need to plug in a wall charger). On the other hand, the 700 retains the capability to handle custom multidevice macros ("sequences," in Harmony-speak) which has been stripped from higher-end models, such as the Harmony 900 and the Harmony 1100.
From a design perspective, the Harmony 700 definitely doesn't look as slick as the Harmony One. The matte finish and the somewhat rubbery buttons don't exactly scream high-end, even though $150 is hardly cheap. But pick up the 700, and you'll find that it feels really good in your hand. It's big, to be sure, but it's pretty light, and your thumb can reach most of the important keys on the bottom half with ease.
The remote is roughly segmented into three main areas. The top section is dominated by a square 1-inch-by-1-inch color LCD screen. It's not a touch screen, but there are five buttons--two on each side, one on the bottom--for choosing contextual items on the screen (you can also page through additional screens, multiplying the available choices). The middle section has a five-way directional pad, channel and volume controls, and some standard DVR keys (Menu, Guide, Info, Exit). On the bottom third of the remote, you'll find standard video transport controls and a 12-digit keypad.
A few things we liked: the presence of a dedicated page up/down rocker (good for paging through lists on electronic programming guides), four color-coordinated buttons (for assigning to those unique controls on cable boxes and game consoles), and having both fast-forward/rewind and track up/down controls as separate buttons. Almost all of the keys are backlit; they and the LCD screen turn on whenever the remote is picked up, and quickly disengage after activity stops to preserve battery life.
The Harmony 700 is powered by two AA batteries (Logitech includes a pair of rechargeable Sanyo Eneloops). Unlike recent high-end Harmony models, though, there's no charging cradle. Instead, you'll need to plug the 700 in to a USB wall charger and a Micro-USB cable that plugs into its front end (both included). You'll probably only need to do so about once a month (just leave it plugged in overnight), but it's not as convenient as a cradle. On the bright side, we appreciate that Logitech stuck with standards--you can always use your own AA batteries in a pinch, or use a Micro-USB phone charger if you misplace the provided cable and wall wart.
The setup process is identical to that of previous Logitech Harmony remotes. You connect the 700 to your Internet-connected Windows PC or Mac with the supplied USB cable, install the model-specific version of Harmony software (use the included CD or download from Logitech's Web site), and answer a fairly simple online questionnaire on the company's Web site. You simply choose your home-theater components from a list, explain how they're connected, and define their roles in activity-based functions, such as Watch TV, Watch DVD, and Listen to music. For each function, you specify which devices and inputs the remote must enable. You can also choose which keypad functions will "punch through" to which specific devices--always having the channel buttons control the cable box or the volume controls dedicated to the TV, for instance. After you've completed the questionnaire, the software uploads all the relevant control codes to the Harmony 700.