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Review: Logitech Harmony 1100

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Candybar remotes are just so boring and complicated with all of their buttons and whatnot, but large touchscreen remotes are pricey. Enter the Logitech Harmony 1100; a quasi-hybrid of the two options. Unfortunately, the melding of both doesn’t create a best of both worlds, but more like a jack of all trades and master of none.

Logitech intro’d the 1100 predecessor a few years ago and it seems the company has addressed a lot of the original’s criticism. The screen is greatly improved, the battery life is now longer, and the UI’s been tweaked a bit. However while it may look like a higher-end Creston or Control4 pad, it’s anything but. The 1100 is just a Harmony with a touchscreen — that’s not a bad thing, though. And although the price might be right, it does leave you longing for more.

This remote is solid. My kid dropped it, kicked it, and stepped on it, and it still works. Big marks in my book. The bottom is contoured for two handed operation, but it’s light enough to hold with one just fine. It would be nice to have a hard shell over the LCD touchscreen but it has held up to my son’s abuse just fine.

It only took me 25 minutes to set up the remote. Granted, I have streamlined my A/V setup to just a receiver, a TiVo, and a Blu-ray player but even with more devices, it wouldn’t taken that much more time. The Logitech software is polished and well designed allowing for easy setup as long as you know how your equipment is hooked up. Thankfully, I have reconfigured my equipment enough that I know which device is connect to what input.

The Harmony software is what originally made these remotes special. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require a geek to install the remote. All you need is the model number of the A/V devices and how each piece of equipment is hooked up. A high-speed connection isn’t required, but it helps.

Once everything is configured, it’s easy enough to go back and change things around. If you get stuck, I have found the Logitech phone support to be very helpful. You get a 90 day phone support warranty with the purchase.

Harmony remotes set the bar for macros years ago and this remote maintains that pedigree. The whole remote revolves around the Activities buttons which switch devices and set-top boxes onto the correct modes. Click the ‘Watch TV’ on-screen soft button, and voila, it turns the TV, receiver and DVR to the correct mode automagicly. It’s great.

However, the small touchscreen doesn’t allow for all the activities functions to be on the screen at one time. The four corners of the screen acts as shortcuts to different main pages such as channel number input, DVR control, channel shortcuts and favorites. I found the setup to be kind of a pain, but as long as I remembered to switch back to the DVR controls, it worked fine. It would be great to have a default screen that the remote reverts back to after a set period of inactivity though.

I understand this remote is only $500 which is entry-level in the world of touchscreen remotes, but the sluggish operation suggests the price should be lower. The screens transitions are janky and look horrible on the remote. I expected a smoother operation.

Overall, the remote is a pleasant departure from candy bar land. I still don’t know if I prefer this type of setup verses a remote with dedicated buttons. Maybe if the remote was 100% touchscreen with enough screen real estate for all the functions to reside on one screen, but that would also place the remote in a much higher price bracket.

It’s kind of like the iPhone vs BlackBerry argument. The touchscreen allows for a more flashy interface that can be changed an infinite amount of ways, but dedicated buttons allow for easier operation by touch alone. If you prefer the latter, which I think I do, opt for the Harmony One or Philips Pronto.

The Harmony 1100 carries a $500 MSRP but can be found for less online. The remote is solid, works well, and will impress the hell out of your house guests. I wish Logitech would have bundled the RF module with the remote to fully take advantage of the remote’s operation, but instead they charge $100 more. I still can’t decide if I dig the remote vs the Harmony One or my old Monster Control 300, but it’s growing on me.

Pros:
Solid feel
Very easy to setup
Great recharging dock
Good looking screen
Sexy

Cons:
Doesn’t come with RF module
Screen animation jerky
Price

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