Editors' note: As of September 2009, Logitech has released a step-up to this model. The Logitech Harmony 900 adds RF capability (and includes two RF-to-IR emitters). However, it does not support the programming of customized multistep macro commands beyond those of the automatic activity-based menu system.
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.
For the past year or so, Logitech has been treading a bit of water with its line of well-regarded Harmony remotes. Sure, it made some incremental improvements--and even came out with higher-end tablet touch-screen model, the Harmony 1000. But part of the reason behind the lack of advancement seems to have been that Logitech's designers were focused on developing the product reviewed here, the Harmony One. If you think the moniker's a departure for a company used to putting out remotes with model numbers like 880, 890, and 720, it is. But clearly Logitech thinks so highly of its new remote that it's gone with a single number--as in this is The One, the ultimate universal remote. And so long as you don't mind paying the $250 or so it costs--or its lack of an RF option that would allow you to command components behind walls or doors--the Harmony One is arguably the best consumer remote control currently available.
For starters, Logitech's done an excellent job with the design--both cosmetically and ergonomically. The remote is sleek and sits comfortably in your hand. A lot of thought has been put into the button layout, with backlit buttons that are differentiated well in terms of size and shape, so you can navigate by feel without looking down at the remote--at least when performing basic operations such as changing channels, adjusting volume, and play/pause. While the remote does appear to be loaded with buttons, it actually has fewer of them than previous Harmony remotes, as designers have reduced the number of hard buttons in an effort to streamline and simplify operation. The remote is essentially divided into five zones of operation (they're designated by faint silver line dividers), with the color LCD at the top constituting the fifth zone.
The Harmony One ships with a docking station for juicing up the included rechargeable lithium-ion battery; you simply place the remote in its cradle. Not only is it nice to have a recharging option to save dough on batteries, but if you're good about leaving the remote in its cradle, you'll always know where it is when you need it. It's worth noting that Logitech took notice of our complaint that, with its earlier docking stations, the remote wouldn't lock into its cradle as securely as it should have. (If you jostled the dock at all, the remote had a tendency to dislodge from its charging connectors a little too easily and thus fail to recharge.) With this model, however, the remote really does sit securely in its dock.
As with all of Logitech's new remotes, this model features a motion sensor, so that when you pick up the remote, it automatically turns on (the LCD turns off after a short time of nonuse to conserve batteries). You can also easily add your own digital images as backgrounds and screensavers--there's a slide-show feature--though we found that we had to crop our images into vertical shots or they'd appear hideously stretched on the screen. And it really isn't a good idea to have a picture as a background because it makes the icons difficult to read; you're better off sticking with the default black background.