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First Look: Logitech's Harmony Ultimate: Some flaws but still very good

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First Look: Logitech's Harmony Ultimate: Some flaws but still very good

4:11 /

The company's flagship touch-screen remote is packed with features, including RF, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth control.

Hi. I'm David Carnoy, executive editor for cnet.com and I'm going to give you a quick video tour of the Harmony Ultimate Logitech's new line-topping programmable universal remote. This is designed for folks with components hidden away in cabinets and closets. In many ways, the Ultimate is a dream remote adding RF and Bluetooth capabilities to last year's IR-based Harmony touch remote. Either RF or Bluetooth required line of sight like IR so your remote commands can literally pass through walls and doors. The Ultimate looks identical to the Touch except for a small button and port designed changed the bottom of the remote that improves its ergonomics, a hump that pushes your hand forward make it easier to access the transport controls at the top of the remote. When key difference between the 2 products is the addition of the Harmony hub, an accessory that lives near your TV and serves an IR blaster and Bluetooth link between the PS3 and Nintendo Wii and Wii U game consoles. Also the 2.4-inch touch screen display on the Ultimate adds vibration to you back so you'll know it received your touch screen commands. And finally, the Ultimate has tilt sensor so it wakes up upon being picked up and you can program buttons for both short and long presses doubling the available functions. In addition to Bluetooth, the hub also features integrated Wi-Fi so you can now update your Harmony settings on a computer and send them wirelessly with your remote. That's nice. It also allows you to use any iOS or Android device to control your system via the Logitech smartphone app. Note: While the app can be used with tablets, it's really a smartphone app. Even with the new features, the Ultimate may stay face resistance from those who dislike the fundamental changes introduced in the Harmony Touch. The aforementioned transport control still don't fall right under the thumb and the touch screen isn't as responsible or nearly as crisp as the screens you'll find in today's smartphones and tablets. And some little things are missing. For instance, CNET editor David Katzmaier lamented the fact that there's no dedicated hard button for 30-second commercial skips when you're using your DVR, a featured that's found on the entry-level Harmony 650. But the Ultimate does have loads of customization options. You can assign that function to another button, perhaps one of the 4-colored ones at the bottom. I think the Ultimate still has some ergonomic issues in using the touch screen to input channel numbers and perform other commands will appeal the some folks more than others. Overall, however, the Ultimate is a significant improvement over the Touch. In my case, after a couple of hours of tinkering with my setup on myharmony.com, it worked well with my home theater rig, which is all but 2 of its 10 components top to wait the closet. The small part of that improvement is due to the tweaks Logitech has made to the remote itself. But the addition of RF simply makes the remote work more smoothly and responsibly with your equipment. I don't have time to dig in to its features, but it's worth noting that the Ultimate, which is a built-in rechargeable battery can control up to 15 components as geared to those with higher-end home theater setups. It comes with 2 of these IR blasters to cover your equipment while the Harmony Smart control, which controls up to 8 components-- includes only 1. The smart control package also includes the Harmony hub, but instead of the touch screen remote, it bugles in a new very basic Harmony remote with no display. It's sleek and lightweight and operates on a single battery for months or even years depending on how much you watch TV. The smart control offers all the features the Ultimate RF control, lots of communications and the capacity to turn your iOS and Android device into a remote using the Harmony Smart App. And those with a little simpler setups, it's clearly the better deal at $129.99 versus $349.99 for the Ultimate. That price point, the Ultimate is pretty pricey, but then again, the fancy RF's Wi-Fi's tablet style remote setups offered by custom [unk] can end up easily costing triple that. I'm David Carnoy, and that's the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Programmable Universal Remote. Thanks for watching.

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