I've visited way too many homes where the living room looks like a showroom for remote control technology throughout the decade...coffee tables taken over by three, four, even five remote controls, strewn across or piled up like a Jawa droid parts bin. It's frankly an inexcusably ridiculous and unnecessary state to be living with unless you're hoping to be profiled on Hoarders. Do yourself a favor: replace them all with a universal remote. And if you've been waiting for a remote that operates and handles like your smartphone, the Logitech Harmony Touch might be the device you've been waiting for...
A few years back I purchased the Logitech Harmony One and it's been a love/hate relationship ever since. The Harmony One proved to be a capable universal remote with a few quirks, most notably an inconsistent touch interface and an overabundance of buttons strewn that perplexed my girlfriend to frustration. Intuitive it was not. But it seems Logitech was listening to feedback and criticism, bringing a newly updated remote which takes the ease of touch-swipe user interfaces we're all already using with smartphones and tablets, offering the same experience to turn on home entertainment components and navigate options.
Side by side comparison of the Harmony One next to the Harmony Touch. Smaller form factor, yet a bigger and brighter screen.
Right out of the box I knew the Logitech Harmony Touch was a big improvement when imagining the average user's out of box experience. Where the Harmony One was practically a lightsaber of remote control options, the Harmony Touch has been refined into a smaller, more ergonomic form factor with many of the button-glut edited and moved into the touch screen controls.
The remote's improved compact form and satisfying textured back makes holding the remote in one hand easy for even the smallest hands (one of the biggest knocks against the Harmony One is some users couldn't traverse the distance from one end to another with their thumbs) and the bright 2.4-inch QVGA touchscreen display makes it clear its the centerpiece of the Harmony Touch experience. The remote's cradle has even been improved, with a vertical charging stand that makes placement options easier than the previous flat cradle design.
A slightly textured back provides just enough grip without feeling excessively rough.
But first new users are going to have to plug their brand new remote into their computer before using the Touch. For some being required to connect the remote via USB cable to a computer may be considered a hassle, but in practice Logitech probably took the right step because adding and programming device behavior is easier on a large screen than on a tiny remote display.
If you've owned a Logitech remote in the last several years, setup will feel familiar and shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes to add components for the average home entertainment center into the Harmony Touch's memory. Since I was already using the Harmony One, it was an especially simple upgrade, as Logitech specifically designed the migration of activity setting from one remote to another a dummy-proof affair.
Additional customizable options are available, including various screen background, display auto on/off timer, menu ordering choices, and probably most important, the ability to create macros specific to viewing/listening/playing activities. This is where programmable universal remotes shine, allowing users to program a combination of button presses to turn on a multitude of components from a single button or screen option.
Once setup, the Harmony Touch turns on my audio receiver, television, and satellite dish receiver upon pressing "watch TV", while similar programmed tasks can turn on the Apple TV for movie watching or the Xbox 360 for gaming hour. And as the Touch's name implies, most navigation is handled by a touch-swipe experience, with only the most common and basic options accessible with physical buttons (volume, channels, mute, play/record/stop/fast forward/rewind, and few other universal controls). Tap the screen and the best remote control display on the market lights up to bring up a home screen with your specific programmed viewing options; swipe to the left and and the settings screen is made available.
See that "?" icon on the screen? It's too easy to accidentally touch while using the Harmony Touch. I would have preferred the feature as a physical button since it's applicable across almost any device/use.
One slight knock against the Touch's system versus the previous Harmony One is in the activity of accessing individual devices. Where the One clearly displayed a "Devices" option, the Harmony Touch now uses a slightly cryptic "..." to access individual component controls. The touchscreen interface also suffers from errant button presses via the help button (designated by a question mark in the center bottom of the display), all too easy to touch/press when picking up the remote to switch channels or adjust volume. It's another case of "you're holding it wrong".
If you want to take full advantage of the Harmony Touch's capabilities the Gesture Mode permits both basic and customizable controls, including changing channels, volume control, etc. The mode I found myself most using was the game-changer channel icon navigation mode: users can add and designate up to 50 of their favorite channels represented by icons. Once setup, using the remote is like launching an app on your iPhone or Android device (it's a little slow, since the remote actually taps the numerals of each channel instead of an instantaneous channel change). But it makes remembering HGTV or NBA TV's numerals a thing of the past, and for this reason alone, I've loved using the Touch (alongside my better half, who remarked, "this is soooo much easier!").
If you're a Skype video caller, the Harmony Touch also offers simple-use integration with their Logitech TV Cam HD. A "Skype call" option is added to the home screen, with the ability to place or accept calls, mute, and control the HD camera's pan/tilt/zoom options from the comfort of your couch.
Battery life has proved to be long lasting. Only the most fervent of channel changers will need to put their remote to recharge more than once a week. Note, the Harmony Touch's battery is non-removable.
If you're partial to navigating the old fashioned way, a numerical interface is available at the touch of a touchscreen.
Overall, Logitech has taken a leap forward with their line of universal remote controls with the introduction of the Harmony Touch, offering a fairly customizable, responsive, and overall intuitive touch-gesture interface which parallels other mobile touchscreen devices we're all already using. The addition of the ergonomic changes, the Touch's icon based channel interface, and the category leading 2.4-inch touchscreen display makes this the best programmable remote in the market if you're looking to get in touch with your home entertainment setup without a pile of remote controls cluttering your coffee table.
Pros: Migration to using touchscreen is intuitive, bright and responsive screen, remote is easy to setup including macro commands, works with every device in our household, improved ergonomics
Cons: Help (?) button is too easily engaged on touchscreen; some menu options are buried; some device options are not accessible; battery non-removable.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.