You could say that a universal remote control is a home theatre’s best friend. That’s because a universal remote can eliminate the clutter of multiple remotes and significantly simplify the operation of a home theatre. Logitech Harmony remotes are some of the best known universal remotes available today for a couple of good reasons, they are incredibly easy to program and affordable. I personally use two Harmony remotes in my house and couldn’t be happier.
The Logitech Harmony 1000 is the latest addition to the Harmony remote line-up and the first tablet-style remote from the company. Tablet remotes are typically found in high-end home theatres because they tend to be expensive and require a custom installer to program them. But this is not the case with the Harmony 1000. At $599, the remote isn’t cheap but this price tag is notably lower than other tablet remotes. The Harmony 1000 uses Logitech’s constantly evolving web-based software to program the remote, which should be simple enough to use for just about anyone.
Visually, the Harmony 1000 is a Swedish biking model of remotes. The remote features a bright 3.5-inch colour touch screen (with a resolution of 320×240 pixels) and stunning brushed-aluminium finish. The right side of the remote contains a handful of silver buttons as well as a multi-directional pad. These buttons/pad are used for changing channels, adjusting the volume and navigating through on-screen device menus. The edges of the remote are pleasantly rounded, which together with the plastic/rubbery underbody make the remote comfortable to hold. The Harmony features a motion sensor, which turns on the screen when the remote is picked up.
A supplied glossy black cradle doubles as a stand and charging station for the remote’s lithium ion battery. The Harmony 1000 package also contains an AC adaptor for the cradle, a Logitech software CD and a mini-USB to regular-USB cable.
In addition to the remote, Logitech provided me with a Harmony RF Wireless Extender, which is available separately for $169. This device allows the control of audio and video components that are hidden inside cabinets or placed in other rooms, up to 100 feet away. The Z-Wave (RF) Technology of this device also enables remote control of Z-Wave compatible lighting, climate, and security systems without direct line-of-sight.
Before using the remote for the first time, it has to be programmed. Following a quick installation of the Logitech software, I connected the remote to my computer using the supplied USB cable. The software immediately checked the remote’s firmware version (software version inside the remote) and determined that a newer version existed. After a simple click of the Next button, the firmware upgrade took about 8 minutes to complete. Then, the first-time setup process began.
Programming a remote might sound like a scary thought to some, but Logitech’s web-based program makes it surprisingly straightforward. The program asked me a simple set of questions – the makes and models of my components, how the components are connected, and which remotes I currently use to change the channels and volume. Based on my answers, the program automatically created a set of home theatre activities such as Watch TV, Watch a DVD, Listen to Radio or Play Xbox 360. To finish the programming process, the remote was updated via the USB connection (which took only a couple of minutes).
Now the remote’s LCD screen displayed the various activities associated with my home theatre. Each activity appeared as a crisp graphic icon with a text label. The screen of the Harmony 1000 appeared brilliantly bright when looking directly at it, even under very bright conditions. It did however look washed out when slightly tilted away from my eyes.
I began testing the remote by selecting the various activities on its touch screen. The Watch TV, Watch a DVD, Listen to CDs and Listen to Radio activities all worked perfectly. With a single press of the activity button on the touch screen, the Harmony 1000 sent all the appropriate IR commands to each required component. For example, when I clicked on Watch TV – the TV powered on and switched to the HDMI 1 input; the A/V receiver powered on and switched to the SAT input; and my satellite box switched on. After selecting an activity, the remote’s screen displayed common buttons for each device; while watching TV, channel buttons were displayed; when watching a DVD, DVD player controls were displayed. Basically the Harmony 1000 achieved with a single click what otherwise would have required clicking 5 or more buttons on 3 separate remotes. So is the beauty of a universal remote!
Playing Xbox 360 was the only activity that didn’t work properly. The A/V receiver and the TV powered on and switched to the appropriate inputs, but the 360 didn’t power on. All Harmony remotes, including the 1000, have a Help button that can usually fix this type of issue. I’ve found this Help button to be a very useful and intelligent feature with my other Harmony remotes. Unfortunately, in this case it wasn’t able to resolve my issue. Luckily, Logitech does offer very helpful free phone support for all their Harmony remotes, although be prepared to spend some time on hold. The support rep was able to resolve my issue in about 15 minutes, by making a change on their end and asking me to update the remote. Support of this quality will certainly be appreciated by all Harmony users.
The only other issue that I experienced with the Harmony 1000 was that it locked up on me a few times during my evaluation. Customer support confirmed that they were aware of this issue and that an update will be released in the next few weeks that will address this.
After using the Harmony 1000 for a few days, I decided to adjust some of its more advanced settings. Changing the TV channels with the remote was rather slow and I figured that there had to be a way to fix that. By default, the response times (delays measured in milliseconds) between button presses are set to “safe” values so that the remote settings are compatible with as many devices as possible after the initial setup. The Logitech software allows users to customize the delays after powering on a device, pressing input and other buttons, and switching devices. In my case, setting the inter-key delay to 0 ms, did the trick of speeding up my channel changing.
The Harmony 1000 definitely has a “coolness” factor thanks to its large colour screen and overall sexy design. But it did take me a few days to get used to its tablet-style design. Tablet remotes often require both hands to control them, due to their larger size compared to a typical remote. This makes them somewhat tricky (and at times impossible) to control with one hand, which was a bit of a conundrum with my eat-while-watching-TV habit. Those used to navigating their remotes by feel, will also have to adjust to looking down at the touch screen to press buttons.
The motion sensor of the Harmony 1000 appeared to have just the right sensitivity setting. It was sensitive enough to turn on the screen every time I picked up the remote, yet it was never triggered on from the shaking of the floor when the remote lay on my coffee table. My other Harmony remotes often turn on when lying on the coffee table. The battery lasted for longer than a week, with the remote being used several times a day, which is quite impressive. If you get in the habit of placing the remote in the cradle when not in use, the battery will never run out. An on-screen battery meter is always displayed so you’ll always know the state of the battery.
Once I was fully satisfied with the Harmony 1000’s performance, I connected the RF wireless extender. As with the remote, the extender needed to be updated by the Logitech software. However, it was a much quicker process because I wasn’t asked any questions. The RF extender plugs into the wall for power and then up to four IR emitters (each capable of sending signals to two components) plug into it. The emitters need to be attached directly to the IR sensors on the components or in a line-of-slight inside the cabinet where the components reside. My equipment is not inside a cabinet but I was able to control my home theatre from two floors up in my house, so the remote can easily control hidden components.
I can confidently say that Logitech’s first entry into the high-end tablet remote territory is a very successful one. Its incredibly simple setup, free technical support combined with its competitive price should certainly make it an attractive addition to any home theatre. The RF extender is a little pricey but it does add a few benefits that would be appreciated by those who wish to add some home automation to their lifestyle. Plus you can always buy the extender at a later point, when you’re ready for it.
Logitech Harmony 1000 Remote Control: $599 MSRP (Canadian)
Harmony RF Wireless Extender: $169 MSRP (Canadian)