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Logitech Harmony One Advanced review: Logitech Harmony One Advanced

Logitech Harmony One Advanced

David Carnoy
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
7 min read

Editors' note: As of September 2009, Logitech has released a step-up to this model. The Logitech Harmony 900 adds RF capability (and includes two RF-to-IR emitters). However, it does not support the programming of customized multistep macro commands beyond those of the automatic activity-based menu system.


Logitech Harmony One Advanced

The Good

Sleek design, both in terms of cosmetics and ergonomics; sharp LCD that offers a touch-screen interface and touch-sensitive buttons for navigation of onscreen menus; Web programmable via Windows or Mac PCs; excellent button layout and design; rechargeable lithium-ion battery and docking station.

The Bad

No RF compatibility; somewhat pricey.

The Bottom Line

While it's missing an RF option, Logitech's Harmony One is one of the best--if not the best--universal remote we've ever tested.

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.

For the past year or so, Logitech has been treading a bit of water with its line of well-regarded Harmony remotes. Sure, it made some incremental improvements--and even came out with higher-end tablet touch-screen model, the Harmony 1000. But part of the reason behind the lack of advancement seems to have been that Logitech's designers were focused on developing the product reviewed here, the Harmony One. If you think the moniker's a departure for a company used to putting out remotes with model numbers like 880, 890, and 720, it is. But clearly Logitech thinks so highly of its new remote that it's gone with a single number--as in this is The One, the ultimate universal remote. And so long as you don't mind paying the $250 or so it costs--or its lack of an RF option that would allow you to command components behind walls or doors--the Harmony One is arguably the best consumer remote control currently available.

For starters, Logitech's done an excellent job with the design--both cosmetically and ergonomically. The remote is sleek and sits comfortably in your hand. A lot of thought has been put into the button layout, with backlit buttons that are differentiated well in terms of size and shape, so you can navigate by feel without looking down at the remote--at least when performing basic operations such as changing channels, adjusting volume, and play/pause. While the remote does appear to be loaded with buttons, it actually has fewer of them than previous Harmony remotes, as designers have reduced the number of hard buttons in an effort to streamline and simplify operation. The remote is essentially divided into five zones of operation (they're designated by faint silver line dividers), with the color LCD at the top constituting the fifth zone.

Logitech Harmony One
The hard buttons are complemented by a high-res color LCD touch screen at the top of the remote.

That LCD screen is markedly improved over that of previous models: not only is it sharper, but it's a touch screen--and a responsive one at that. We also really liked the two glowing, touch-sensitive buttons on either side of the screen that allow you to easily scroll between the "pages" of soft buttons on the screen (there's room for as many as six buttons on the screen at once). Additionally, two glowing touch-sensitive buttons allow you to toggle between "options," "devices," and "activities." All in all, the new touch-oriented interface is a big step forward for Logitech and really makes the remote a pleasure to use.

The Harmony One ships with a docking station for juicing up the included rechargeable lithium-ion battery; you simply place the remote in its cradle. Not only is it nice to have a recharging option to save dough on batteries, but if you're good about leaving the remote in its cradle, you'll always know where it is when you need it. It's worth noting that Logitech took notice of our complaint that, with its earlier docking stations, the remote wouldn't lock into its cradle as securely as it should have. (If you jostled the dock at all, the remote had a tendency to dislodge from its charging connectors a little too easily and thus fail to recharge.) With this model, however, the remote really does sit securely in its dock.

As with all of Logitech's new remotes, this model features a motion sensor, so that when you pick up the remote, it automatically turns on (the LCD turns off after a short time of nonuse to conserve batteries). You can also easily add your own digital images as backgrounds and screensavers--there's a slide-show feature--though we found that we had to crop our images into vertical shots or they'd appear hideously stretched on the screen. And it really isn't a good idea to have a picture as a background because it makes the icons difficult to read; you're better off sticking with the default black background.

In terms of programming the remote, the Harmony One 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 AV 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 Harmony One.

As easy as the remote generally is to use, 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, and the company has continued to make improvements to its software system for the better. From time to time, Logitech offers firmware upgrades for specific remotes, as well as upgrades to the Harmony desktop software. While there's still 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), Logitech has made it very easy to swap in a new Harmony remote for an old one and transfer in that remote's system setup. For example, if you already had an older Harmony that you use with your main living room system, you could quickly swap in the Harmony One, and then set up a separate profile for the old Harmony, which you could then use in another room.

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.

One thing worth pointing out is that if you have a lot of components in your system (more than six or seven), IR (infrared) does start to have its limitations. Even with your delays set correctly, all the devices interacting together seems to overwhelm the remote and certain devices just won't always switch on or off when they're supposed to. RF is much better suited for more complicated setups.

That doesn't mean the remote's IR is inferior in any way. As for performance, the IR 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 Harmony One--is the Harmony 890, Harmony 1000, or Harmony-powered Monster AVL300, all of which carry steeper price tags.

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 in a new one.

At the end of the end of the day, except for the lack of RF and a couple of other small nitpicks (the remote's glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet), it's hard to find anything really wrong with the Harmony One. Yes, it's expensive, but it's not outrageous when you consider you're getting the Porsche of universal remotes. For those of you who have hidden components--or just a lot of them--it's probably worth waiting for the RF version of this remote, but those looking for a top-of-the-line IR model should feel comfortable in knowing the One is in fact, number one.


Logitech Harmony One Advanced

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 9
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