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Logitech Harmony 720 review: Logitech Harmony 720

In terms of programming the remote, the 720 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 A/V 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 720.

As user-friendly as the remote generally is, 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, but eventually the company should make some improvements to its software system. One of the problems is you can either use the company's desktop software--it's compatible with Macs and Windows-based PCs--or work through a Web-based interface; different remotes are compatible with different software versions. From time to time, Logitech offers firmware upgrades for specific remotes, as well as upgrades to the Harmony desktop software. That's all well and good, but there's currently 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. You should be able to manage them all under one master account.

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.

As for performance, the IR (infrared) 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 720--is the Harmony 890, which carries a much heftier price tag.

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 a new one in.

It's worth noting that the 720 is available in Europe as the Logitech Harmony 785--that model is essentially identical except for four extra Teletext buttons that are used for European interactive TV functions that aren't standard on this side of the Atlantic. Furthermore, if you like the 720 but want a slightly different design and a larger color screen, check out the Harman Kardon TC30, which is really just a Logitech Harmony sold under the HK name. The TC30's design resembles a stretched-out version of the Harmony 550, but like the 720, it offers a color screen and a rechargeable battery/cradle. Most notably, it's widely available for well below its $300 list price.

Nitpicks aside, the 720's sleeker design and slighter better color screen left us preferring it to the older Harmony 880, and the $200 list price seems right in line with what you're getting, if not something of a bargain. There's always room for improvement, and we're sure Logitech is already plotting new design tweaks to upcoming models, but the 720 certainly is a fine remote that's another step forward for the Harmony brand.

Logitech Harmony universal remotes compared:

Model Quick take Price
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.

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