Logitech Harmony 1000
Editors' note (January 27, 2010): Some Harmony 900, 1000, and 1100 users may experience difficulty connecting their remotes to the Harmony software when using Mac OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard). More information on specific symptoms and the appropriate solutions is available at Logitech's Web site.
Editors' note: As of February 2009, an upgraded version of this product, the Logitech Harmony 1100, is now available. The ratings on this product have been updated accordingly.
Logitech has been gradually going more upscale with its PC-programmable Harmony remotes, so it's no great surprise that it's finally entered high-end territory with a touch screen, tablet-style model, the Harmony 1000. Unlike other high-end--and more expensive--models from the likes of Crestron, Philips, and Universal Remote Control, this swanky Harmony doesn't require hiring a professional home installer to program or update it. In other words, while $500 certainly isn't cheap for a remote, it's still about half the price of what you'd pay for a competing touch screen model once you combine the cost of the hardware with the cost of the programmer.
The first thing you'll notice about the Harmony 1000 is that it's about twice the size of your typical smart phone (4.1x5.5x0.7 inches, HWD), but it feels pretty light in your hand. The screen measures 3.5 inches diagonally and features QVGA resolution (320x240), which means it's fairly sharp but not supersharp. The brightness is adjustable, but even at a moderate setting, the screen is easily viewable.
As noted, this is a touch screen model, but you'll find a handful of hard buttons on the device for frequently used functions such as Channel up/down, Volume up/down/mute, and a four-way navigation button to get through menus. All these buttons, including the small Activities button just below the screen, are backlit with a blue glow. As with a lot of remotes, the identical-size Channel and Volume buttons are right next to each other, so we occasionally hit one when we meant to hit the other.
Like some of Logitech's more expensive Harmony models, the 1000 includes a docking station for juicing up its removable and rechargeable lithium ion battery (the remote sits at a 45-degree angle when docked). The 1000 also has a motion sensor; when you pick up the remote, it automatically turns on, a feature now available in other, less expensive Harmony remotes. To customize the look of your screen, you can also add your own digital image as background (say, a shot of your family), but we preferred to stick with one of the several monochromatic backgrounds that Logitech offers.
All in all, we liked the overall design of the 1000, though if you're used to using a wand-style remote, the horizontal nature of the tablet-style remote takes a little getting used to. The biggest advantage to using a tablet-style remote is that when you click on a menu function such as Watch TV or Watch a DVD, the remote's screen automatically switches to a virtual set of buttons designed to work with that device. However, since you can only fit so many virtual buttons on one screen, you'll be dealing with layers of screens. In each corner of the display, you'll find an icon that takes you to another set of virtual buttons. For example, to get to the numberpad for changing the channels on your cable box, you click on the 123 icon in the lower-left corner. Another icon leads you to a set of buttons that allow you to access content from your DVR.
Logitech has designed the remote to have a maximum of four layers of menus, so users don't get buried in an overcomplicated menu tree. All in all, it seems like a good system, but as with any new remote, it will take some getting used to. You can also create customized buttons in the Harmony software. However, we didn't see a way to create your own button design--something that's possible in competing models such as the Philips Pronto TSU9600 (which requires setup and installation from a professional installer).
As with other Harmony remotes, you program the Harmony 1000 by connecting it 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. 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 a 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 1000, as well as the relevant virtual buttons.