Editor's Note (February 19, 2009): The rating on this product has been changed due to competitive changes in the marketplace. Readers interested in this product should compare it to the more recent Logitech Harmony One.
Most of the Logitech Harmony universal remotes we've seen in 2006 have sported a flat, wedge-shaped design. They look slick, but apparently quite a few users are still pining for the textured feel of Logitech's older, peanut-shape clickers. Logitech has answered with the Harmony 670, a $150 model that utilizes the "classic" rounded design of past models, paired with some notable design tweaks and--of course--the latest Harmony software.
From a distance, the Logitech Harmony 670 could be confused with earlier 600-series Harmony models. It measures in at 8 inches long, 2 to 2.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. While we prefer the slim and sleek design of the 500-series Harmony models, the peanut style--very reminiscent of the TiVo remotes--is a bit more comfortable in hand, with finger grooves on the back of the remote. The silver-and-black motif of the remote allows it to blend with most home-theater devices, but the silver finish scuffed quicker than any Harmony remote we've seen before.
The Logitech Harmony 670 crams an astounding number of buttons onto its frame, including a complete numeric keypad, full video-transport controls (play, record, rewind, pause, and so forth), a four-way directional pad, and hotkeys for DVR use as well as quick jumps to the most-used activities (see below). The functional highlight of the Harmony remote series, however, is the LCD screen. Flanked by programmable keys that you can label differently on separate pages, it allows the Harmony to emulate even the even the most esoteric buttons as well as engage activities and macros. While the LCD display works well most of the time, we prefer the one used on the 500 series. With smaller text and fewer buttons by the LCD--four to the 670's six--you're able to read the functions on the screen much more easily. (The 670's default mode actually uses only four of its six contextual buttons, with the top two reserved for the device or activity name, but you can easily toggle the preferences to use all six.) While we were testing the remote, we ran into a few instances where text from the upper-left corner crowded in on text from the upper right, with important text being obscured--the 2 in Input Component 2, for example. Besides the tricky LCD and a difficult-to-find backlight button, the layout for the 670 is pretty good. The buttons on the 670 are placed well, and all consist of the same responsive, hard plastic, which works much better than the mix of rubbery and nontactile metal buttons on the 500-series remotes.
What differentiates the 670 from other Harmony Remotes are the DVR-specific buttons on the center of the unit, encircling the four-way directional pad--by contrast, they're higher up on the 500 series, and lower down on the 720. All of the standard DVR buttons are included--Menu, Guide, and Info, for instance, and while the buttons are made for
Moving around to the back, the Logitech Harmony 670 uses four AAA batteries. While our Harmony is still running strong, the amount of power needed to run the LCD and the backlight will drain the batteries faster than your average remote's power requirements. The 670 really could have benefited from a recharger dock like the one found on its big brother, the Harmony 880. Instead, you'll probably want to invest in a set of third-party rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries.
In order to add any devices to the Logitech Harmony 670, you have to use the Web-based software, which is both Windows- and Mac-compatible. The box boasts compatibility with more than 175,000 devices, and when we fired up the program and scrolled through the company list, we didn't see any reason to argue that bullet point. The scope can be a bit daunting for beginners, since there are a few dozen component types such as TV, A/V receiver, and DVD player, and hundreds of manufacturers within each one of those. Thankfully the software is pretty forgiving, and as long as you have the company name and the model number, it should be able to cull the commands for your product. We tested more than a dozen components--TVs, A/V receivers, DVD players, video game consoles, cable boxes, and home stereo systems--and we could not find a remote-enabled product that was not listed or would not work once we uploaded the profile to the remote. If for some reason you do come across a nonsupported device--say, a brand new DVD recorder--the Harmony 670 can "learn" any new infrared codes, so long as you have the product's default remote. Whether the profile is built-in or learned, the 670 can hold a maximum of 16 devices in its memory, which should be plenty for any one entertainment center--if you don't mind a nomadic remote, it could probably extend across two rooms worth of tech.
Along with the ability to control devices individually, the remote has the Activities function that we liked so much in previous Logitech Harmony remotes. In essence, it allows the 670 to control different components simultaneously, and it works more intuitively than a standard device-centered remote. For example, you can program a Watch DVD activity that turns on your TV, A/V receiver, DVD player, and speaker system, sets them all to the correct channels or inputs, and even starts playing the DVD. While the movie is playing, the controls you designate will "punch through" to the appropriate device: the DVD controls and numerical keypad to control the DVD, the volume up/down buttons to control the speakers, and the power button to turn the whole thing off in one fell swoop. It's pretty easy to program them, too, as the Harmony remote software asks you how you normally control each facet of the activity. With a little care, we were able to get all of the important functions incorporated into the activities we programmed; for those we missed, we simply toggled back to the Component Control mode.
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.
The Logitech Harmony 670 marries design and comfort, but it's a shaky union. While the normal buttons are well laid out and an ease to use, the LCD isn't as good as the similarly monochromatic one on the 500 series and is leagues away from the color screen employed by the Logitech Harmony 720. If the DVR is the centerpiece of your home theater--or if you just really prefer the peanut-style ergonomics--this is a worthwhile purchase. Otherwise, go with the slightly cheaper
Logitech Harmony universal remotes compared:
|Logitech Harmony 520||Logitech's entry-level Harmony remote offers a monochrome LCD screen with four contextual buttons.|
|Logitech Harmony 550||This near-clone of the 520 offers a slightly different keypad layout and is more widely available.|
|Logitech Harmony Advanced Universal Remote for Xbox 360||This offshoot of the 520/550 is preprogrammed to control the Xbox 360 and features 360-related buttons and a matching white color scheme.|
|Logitech Harmony 670||The Logitech Harmony 670 may not be the coolest-looking universal remote, but it's one of the easiest to use, especially for DVR users.|
|Logitech Harmony 720||This step-up to the 500-series models listed above adds a more stylish design and a color LCD screen with six contextual button, and also includes a rechargeable battery and charging cradle.|
|Harman Kardon TC30||Despite its Harman Kardon branding, the TC30 is essentially an elongated 550 with many of the same feature upgrades found on the 720: color LCD screen (with eight buttons), rechargeable battery, and charging cradle.|
|Logitech Harmony 880||The Harmony 880 utilizes the "peanut" design of the older Logitech remotes along with a color screen and a rechargeable battery/charging cradle.|
|Logitech Harmony 890||Logitech's flagship remote is essentially the 880 with the addition of RF (radio frequency) capabilities, for communicating through obstructions.|