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CNET First Look
Fancy touch screen fails against cheaper clickersThe Harmony Touch can't justify the high price of its touch screen compared with traditional multibutton universal remotes.
Hello, I'm David Katzmaier from CNET. This is Logitech's Harmony touch universal remote control. This is the first for Logitech Harmony, the well-known brand of universal remote controls. Because it does involve a touch screen, this remote about a third of it right in the middle. It's a 2.4-inch colortouch screen, so that allows an extra customization and some pretty cool tricks. On a flipside, it doesn't have as many buttons as traditional harmony universal remote control, so in all I really didn't like it quite as much despite being a lot more expensive and a lot more seemingly advanced because of that touchscreen. We start with the design on this remote. It's actually a really cool look. If you're holding it in your hand, that's a little bit smaller than a traditional larger ones from Harmony. It's also got a very nice feel. My finger kind of slid right into the back here. It's got kind of a curve back. When you set it on the table, it's got a nice, sexy slide right from the back to the front, so often consider it's one of the most attractive remotes I've seen. The front does tend to attract a few extra fingerprints, but not much, more so than a standard smartphone or tablet. That's really the look that Logitech was gone for here with this remote. It does look a little bit more like a smartphone or tablet than traditional remotes. And again, that's because of this touchscreen. The screen itself is pretty responsive. When you get into the settings, you can actually play around and move the buttons, so that's one of the nicer things. In fact, the remote can move the buttons without having to connect it to a computer so that's one of the nice new things about this remote. Like all traditional Harmony remote, it's designed to control your entire system via activities. You can scroll through the activities here. You see there's Watch TV and a bunch of other different activities. Clicking on one of those will send a series of quotes, the television and your entertainment center to engage whatever devices you have and, of course, set the remote itself to control all those different devices seamlessly. One of the other cool options the touchscreen gives you is the ability to have favorite channels program right in there, so you can put up to 50 of these channels with icons and easy access instead of scrolling through your DVR's guide. Another thing the screen gives you is the numeric keypad. You might have noticed there's no keys on the actual remote so you have to go to this virtual keypad to type in channel numbers and the like. On the downside, that lock of buttons on this remote does mean that you don't get quite as easy access to a lot of the best known functions and I really found it to be a deal breaker. Another set of feature of the Logitech touch is a built-in rechargeable battery. You can't remove the battery. If something is wrong, you make a service call to Logitech. On the other hand, this cradle does provide a nice home base for the remote control so you might not spend as much as time looking for it around the living room. One of the worst ergonomic decisions Logitech made with this remote was to put the transport controls, which are play, pause, fastforward, all those at the very top, so they're really difficult to reach and I use those controls all the time, for example when skipping commercials on a DVR. Speaking of skipping commercials, this remote does not have a dedicated button for a forward and reverse skip for a 30-second skip for example on a TiVo. Of course, you can program those using a soft key, but it's really nice to be able to have a hard key for those things especially if you do a lot of this commercial skipping in a DVR does up for a 30-second skip. Real big downside, of course, traditional Logitech remotes do have that button. The bottom set button is a little bit more difficult to reach than I like to see as well. You can-- actually have to stretch to get down to the guide and the DVR buttons. The cursor control is a little easier to access, but again not quite as nice as I'd seen on some remotes where they do place that really central cursor directly below the thumb. One of the cool things the touchscreen does allow is gesture so you can program up to 5 different gestures swiping in the four cardinal directions and also a tap. That does allow a little bit closer to a smartphone style interface, but on that flipside the screen itself isn't as responsive as most smartphones and things like scrolling can go a-rye and especially because there's a strip here along the bottom. You can sometimes accidentally activate the devices or the help function. Like all Harmony remotes, the touch does require you to connect the PC to do all of the heavy lifting in terms of programming. You can also learn commands from your other remotes if they aren't in Harmony's database. That whole process went relatively seamlessly, and again, it's one of the main features of Harmony remotes. Of course, it is available on a lot cheaper remotes like the 650 and that is the touch's main downfall. It's 650 is available for about a fifth of the price of this really expensive remote. It's about $250 list and that means you can buy a Harmony 650 for about $65. That's a huge difference in price. And for my money, I rather spend it on a tablet, which is about the same price as this remote. That's the quick look at the Logitech Harmony Touch. I'm David Katzmaier for CNET.