While most TV remote controls nowadays let you power on the cable box and TV set with a single click, there are many benefits to integrating a full blown universal remote control into your home theater or casual TV watching setup. Brands and prices range from the $10 Mystery Brand X available at any random store to fully integrated automated systems costing thousands of dollars. A popular and known name is the Logitech Harmony series of remote controls, which also range from the (relatively) inexpensive to "you paid what?" pricing. So what's the difference? We go through the full Logitech Harmony lineup to help you understand what the differences are and figure out which Harmony remote is best for you.
A glance across the Harmony lineup and one can quickly get lost in minute differences in features. Throw in a constantly updated numbering system and it's hard to tell where each model lies in the hierarchy. Logitech’s website does give you the option to select from their lineup and view a comparison chart, but it’s limited to four of their current seven remotes. A checklist falls short of really explaining what those differences actually are and how they affect you. The current Harmony models are the 300i, 650, 700, 900, One, and 1100. That’s a lot of remotes, ranging from $40 to $400. We’ve provided a basic summary of the features that matter.
General Harmony Features
All of the Harmony remotes are programmable via software installed on your PC or Mac. It’s a clunky method of programming the remote, but for beginner to intermediate users provides a pretty streamlined method of getting your remote to do what you want without having to really learn how to program. Advanced users will get a bit frustrated with the software’s wizard approach, but it should work well for the general populace.
Activities are Logitech’s name for programmable macros, although the functionality falls just a bit short of true functionality that only the diehard home theater fans will notice (a popular example is the inability to program your lights to come and blinds to open when you hit the PAUSE button). Activities do let you program a series of steps that are activated by a single touch, such as turning on the TV, cable box, and sound system at the same time.
Logitech Harmony 300i ($40)
Pros: Cheapest entry into the Logitech brand and system
Cons: No LCD; No touchscreen; Not rechargeable; No backlight; Only controls 4 devices
The Harmony 300i is the cheapest way to get a Logitech Harmony remote. For only $40 you gain access to the Logitech programming wizard for setting up the remote, as well as Activities. It lacks a screen and the batteries aren’t rechargeable. There is also no backlight to see the buttons in the dark. As a simple universal remote it does the job.
Logitech Harmony 650 ($100)
Pros: Color display with 4 hard buttons; Great value when on sale
Cons: No touchscreen; Only controls 5 devices
The Harmony 650 introduces a color screen but it doesn’t provide touch capabilities. Instead it has 4 physical buttons which correspond to icons appearing on the screen for any given activity. It’s a fairly decent alternative to a touchscreen at a fair price (The $100 remote is often discounted for as much as 50% in stores such as Best Buy). This remote isn’t rechargeable either, which given its color screen we wonder how long your batteries last before having to be swapper out?
Logitech Harmony 700 ($150)
Pros: Color display with 4 hard buttons; rechareable battery
Cons: Controls only 6 devices
The Harmony 700 isn’t much different from the 650 except it controls one more device (six total) and has a rechargeable battery (albeit without a cradle). Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same as the 650 in features, also having the color screen with 4 hard buttons.
Logitech Harmony One ($250)
Pros: Additional touchscreen for custom soft buttons; Good combination of hard and soft buttons; Automatic backlight when picked up; Controls up to 15 devices
Cons: Expensive without built-in RF functionality
The Harmony One was supposed to be the remote to rule all remotes. However, Logitech left out one key feature - there’s no built in RF capabilities. You can always purchase an RF adapter but an additional $100 plus having to point it at the adapter makes the case to move up to the Harmony 900. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the 900 in look, feel, and functionality.
Logitech Harmony 900 ($300)
Pros: Additional touchscreen for custom soft buttons; Built-in RF; Good combination of hard and soft buttons; Automatic backlight when picked up; Interactive help attempts to automatically fix problems; Controls up to 15 devices
The Harmony 900 is the strongest product in the lineup, but is really hurt by its $300 price tag. It’s got all the physical hard buttons you need with a customizable set of soft buttons for each activity. The rechargeable remote has a nice cradle for recharging and as a resting spot. The built-in RF is great, although the IR blaster system it utilizes requires mini blaster dongles that aren’t quite as versatile as their previous Precision IR cables.
Logitech Harmony 1100 ($400)
Pros: Customizable interfaces per function; RF right out of the box; Rechargeable battery; Controls up the 15 devices
Cons: Love it or hate it touchscreen design; Expensive
The Harmony 1100 immediately looks like something completely different than a traditional remote. Shaped almost like a tablet (before tablets became all the craze), it’s a touchscreen remote that removes most of the physical buttons and puts them into into customizable screens. A few standbys like the volume and channel still remain as real buttons, but most of the interface has been moved to the screen. Diehards will scream that this makes it impossible to use the remote by feel (ironic for a touch device), but it does allow you quite a lot more variations and options for the interface that change based on what function you’re using (DVD, TV, etc.). We’d generally recommend staying away from the 1100 unless you like to show off unique tech gear as you’ll spend more time futzing around with the touchscreen interface than actually getting to what you want to do quickly.