Logitech Harmony 1100 review: Logitech Harmony 1100

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The Good Tablet-style, touch-screen, universal remote that controls 15 devices; controls components via infrared or RF (for an extra charge); includes rechargeable battery and docking station; Web-programmable and compatible with Windows and Macintosh PCs via simple, straightforward software wizard; less expensive than competing tablet models; faster response time and improved operation versus Harmony 1000.

The Bad Pricey, especially considering that the RF module costs extra; screen drains battery quickly when it's not left in the charging stand; no easy way to use in more than one room; lacks the design and programming flexibility (you can't design your own buttons, custom screen layouts, or program multi-device macros) that many high-end remotes offer; setting up systems with more than five or six components can get pretty tricky.

The Bottom Line The Logitech Harmony 1100 is an excellent touch-screen universal remote that corrects most of the shortcomings and frustrations of its predecessor, but its high price will relegate it to high-end home theaters only.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

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.

This review has been updated to specify that the Logitech Harmony 1100 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.

When Logitech brought out its touch screen, tablet-style Harmony 1000 in 2007, it was clearly taking a stab at the high-end of the universal remote market. Unlike other high-end--and more expensive--models from the likes of Crestron, Universal Remote Control and Philips' Pronto line, the Harmony 1000 didn't require hiring a professional home installer to program or update it, which made it a value proposition--even if it was relatively expensive compared with other mainstream universal remotes.

All in all, we liked the 1000, but it did have a few kinks. Users griped that it wasn't quite as responsive as it should have been (the interface just seemed to lag a bit). And the remote had a tendency to freeze up occasionally and have to be completely rebooted, which was a nuisance. And finally, there was a bug where if you'd press down on the volume button too long the volume would shoot up (or down) at an uncontrollably fast rate. Unfortunately, subsequent firmware updates haven't appeared to fix these issues.

Enter the Harmony 1100. As its name implies, this model is an upgrade to its older brother. On the surface, the biggest differences between the two is the 1100 is black instead of silver, it has a white instead of blue backlight for illuminating the buttons in the dark, and the volume and channel buttons have swapped places in response to "customer research." Logitech also added small, tactile guides on the side of the screen to make it easier to find the right button (we're not sure what the point of this move is, since you're dealing with virtual buttons). We generally appreciated those tweaks, but it's underneath the hood where the real changes can be found.

For starters, the 1100 is all-around more responsive. Logitech has boosted the infrared (IR) emitter, improving the odds that your components will respond to commands--and respond a bit more quickly as well. Additionally, the lag exhibited when the 1000 transitions from screen to screen has been greatly reduced. The overall effect is similar to trading in a pokey old computer for a new one running the latest operating system. Indeed, Logitech has upgraded both the processor and scrapped a Java-based operating system for a Flash-based OS, which also helps speed things up.

The other thing we noticed is that the remote itself updates faster when you're programming it from your PC. Yes, there's the same USB 2.0 connection, but the new operating system has been designed for quicker updates (previously, you could end up waiting up to a minute or longer while the remote updated). Instead of completely overwriting the file on the remote, the system now just looks for changes and updates the remote accordingly.

Another key change: Logitech has ramped up your ability to customize commands on every screen. While you can't exactly create your own interface (you can't upload your own button images, for instance), you can customize labels and choose from the 90 icons Logitech provides. Plus, you can add favorite-channel icons.

The other big change worth noting is that the 1100 doesn't support customized user-programmable macros. To be clear: the activity-based programming that has long made Harmony models a favorite of ours is still here. So, when you hit "Watch TV," you can have your TV, AV receiver, and DVR power up and toggle to the preferred input and settings. But you cannot program separate custom multi-step commands. So, home theater enthusiasts who are used to programming the lights to come up whenever they pause the disc player (for instance) will now need to handle that sort of duty manually (with one or two additional keystrokes). We don't think it's a huge loss, but the absence of custom macro programming on such an expensive remote is notable. If it's important to you, you'll want to look elsewhere.

In most other respects, the Harmony 1100 is very similar to the 1000, so much of what we said about that earlier model applies to this one as well, and we're still a little disappointed that Logitech has yet to upgrade the desktop software to allow you to store all your Harmony remotes in one master account and easily clone settings so you could swap in a new remote without completely having to reprogram it. To be fair, Logitech does offer some cloning features, but since the 1100 has a totally new operating system, we couldn't just copy over our old settings from the 1000 (or any other Harmony remote) to this model.

As far as dimensions go, the Harmony 1100 is about twice the size of your typical smart phone (4.1 inches high by 5.5 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep), but it feels pretty light in your hand. The screen measures 3.5 inches diagonally and features QVGA resolution (320x240). That's not supersharp, but considering you're not watching video on the screen, it looks very good. The brightness is adjustable, and even at a moderate setting, the screen is easily viewable.

As noted, this is a touch-screen remote, 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, page up/down, and a five-way navigation pad to get through menus. All these buttons, including the small Activities button just below the screen, are backlit with the aforementioned white 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 (as noted, they are reversed from the 1000's layout).

Like some of Logitech's more expensive Harmony models, the 1100 includes a docking station--the same one that comes with the 1000--for juicing up its removable and rechargeable lithium ion battery (the remote sits at a 45-degree angle when docked). The 1100 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. You can also add a series of images that will appear in a slide show when your remote goes into a screensaver-style mode.

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