How many audio/video home entertainment components do you own? Do you use a separate remote control for each one? Are you the designated controller in your family because no one else can figure out how to start the TV, satellite and DVR? Have you ever been at work when you get a call something like “The TV doesn’t work, it’s just static on the screen”. If so, I feel your pain and I have something that might cure the problem once and for all. It’s Logitech’s latest universal remote control, the Harmony Touch.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
Harmony Touch Remote
The Harmony Touch features a 2.4” swipe and tap color touch screen, backlit buttons, rechargeable battery and the ability to control up to 15 different devices. It packs all these features in a medium sized handheld controller that won’t intimidate the gadget phobic members of your household.
The ergonomic shape of the remote is comfortable in hand and a good layout of the buttons allows you to reach all them with your thumb.
You won’t need to worry about keeping this remote fed with batteries because it is rechargeable. The only thing you will need to figure out is where to put the charging cradle since it will require you to plug the AC adapter into an empty wall socket.
Setting up the Harmony Touch is all done via your web browser on your Windows PC or Mac. In order to make things easier, it’s suggested that you write down the brand and model number for all your devices before you start. This can be a pain if your devices are housed in a cabinet where you can’t easily see the model numbers, but skipping this step is a mistake. Lucky for me, all my devices either displayed the model numbers in on-screen menus, or I was able to find them without unplugging them and looking on the back for the label.
Once you have your list of brands/models, it’s easy to add devices to your remote via the Logitech web app.
Within a couple minutes I had my 6 main devices entered and ready to configure the TV settings and activities.
Configuring the TV is just a matter of entering your ZIP code and choosing your content provider. In my case DirecTV. Then I was able to choose my favorite channels that would be displayed on the touch screen of the remote.
Setting up Activities is easy too. You can think of Activities as a group of commands that would normally require you to use multiple remotes to perform. But when programmed, the Harmony will do it all for you with one tap. For example, you can have an activity to Watch TV, which will turn on your TV, turn on your A/V receiver, turn on the DVR and set all the appropriate inputs so that you’re ready to go in a couple of seconds instead of juggling remotes.
After you’ve setup the devices and created an activity, you can sync the data to the remote by connecting the included USB cable. This is where I ran into a little trouble… Several times on more than one occasion, syncing would make the fans on my Macbook Air start running full blast and would freeze the sync process until I unplugged the remote from the USB port. When this happened a couple of times, I had to reboot the computer in order for it to work. This was annoying to say the least and happens each time I want to update the remote with a new activity, favorite channels, new device, etc.
After successfully syncing the settings to the remote, I was able to start testing it. I have been using it for about a week now and have found that it works pretty well except for a few quirks.
The remote is always on, so as soon as you touch it, it’s ready for action. If you tap the Home button, you’ll see the main activities screen that you see above. You can swipe the screen to scroll through the activities and then tap on it to perform the commands associated with that activity. In my case, Watch TV will turn on my Samsung TV, my DirecTV DVR and my Onkyo A/V receiver.
Tapping the Star button will display a scrolling list of your favorite 50 channels. Tapping 123 will bring up a number pad so you can manually switch channels that might not be in your favorites list. You can also use gestures to fast forward, rewind, play, pause and change channels up/down. The touch screen and the physical buttons all work well. It’s just that you have to manually switch to the different modes. I wish the remote was smart enough to know when I want to use gestures and not require me to switch to the gesture screen, which I can never seem to remember how to bring it up.
Using the Harmony is definitely more convenient than using multiple remotes. Other than my issue with syncing the settings via the web app, the only other problem I ran into was when I was trying to fix a problem with my Watch TV activity. It’s a problem I’ve had since getting my Samsung TV and Onkyo TX-SR608 receiver. For some weird reason, I can turn on the TV, DVR and receiver and press the CBL/SAT input button to switch the audio input and a few seconds later, the input will automatically switch back to the TV/CD on the receiver. This happens 99% of the time. Sometimes I have to press the CBL/SAT input button 2 times before it “sticks” and doesn’t revert back to TV/CD. I was hoping I would be able to manually add an extra button press to the end of the Watch TV activity macro, but as far as I can tell, there’s no way to add that particular command. I can add other commands to the end of the Activity, but just not that specific one… To get around the problem, I changed the assignment of the physical Mute button on the remote to be the CBL/SAT input button. So now in order to watch TV, I press the Watch TV activity and then wait for everything to come on and then as soon as it switches back to TV/CD, I press the Mute button to go back to CBL/SAT. Works for me, but I wish I could automate it
I’ve tried Harmony remotes in the past and always had problems getting them to work with my equipment. I’m happy to say that my experience with the Logitech Harmony Touch has been much better. Now there is the question of whether buying a $249.99 remote control is actually worth it. If you only use a couple remotes then the answer is probably not. But if you have a large assortment of devices, the Logitech Harmony Touch remote does make controlling your home theater equipment quicker and easier.