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.
In terms of programming the remote, the Harmony One works in the same way that other Harmony remotes do. As we noted in our earlier reviews, programming a universal remote can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, involving punching a series of multidigit codes for each component in your AV system. By contrast, Harmony remotes are programmed by connecting them to your Internet-connected Windows PC or Mac with the supplied USB cable, installing the model-specific version of Harmony software, and answering 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 One.
As easy as the remote generally is to use, some users may encounter a few snags when initially setting up their remotes. Luckily, the Logitech customer service is generally very good when you run into problems, and the company has continued to make improvements to its software system for the better. From time to time, Logitech offers firmware upgrades for specific remotes, as well as upgrades to the Harmony desktop software. 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 One, and then set up a separate profile for the old Harmony, which you could then use in another room.
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 aids in troubleshooting by asking natural-language questions on the LCD. For instance, the screen might read, "Is the digital set-top box on?" And Logitech's customer support--both via e-mail and telephone--is, for the most part, very helpful.
One thing worth pointing out is that if you have a lot of components in your system (more than six or seven), IR (infrared) does start to have its limitations. Even with your delays set correctly, all the devices interacting together seems to overwhelm the remote and certain devices just won't always switch on or off when they're supposed to. RF is much better suited for more complicated setups.
That doesn't mean the remote's IR is inferior in any way. As for performance, the IR is strong; you don't actually have to point the remote directly at your equipment to get it to respond. But unlike RF, IR can't penetrate walls, doors, and other obstructions, so if you have equipment hidden in cabinets or closets, your best choice--until Logitech comes out with an RF version of the Harmony One--is the Harmony 890, Harmony 1000, or Harmony-powered Monster AVL300, all of which carry steeper price tags.
Battery life is decent enough--Logitech says you should be able to go a week or more without recharging, but obviously, if you leave the unit in its cradle, the battery will remain fully juiced. It's also worth noting that the battery is replaceable, so when it eventually wears out--and it will--you'll be able swap in a new one.
At the end of the end of the day, except for the lack of RF and a couple of other small nitpicks (the remote's glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet), it's hard to find anything really wrong with the Harmony One. Yes, it's expensive, but it's not outrageous when you consider you're getting the Porsche of universal remotes. For those of you who have hidden components--or just a lot of them--it's probably worth waiting for the RF version of this remote, but those looking for a top-of-the-line IR model should feel comfortable in knowing the One is in fact, number one.