Today it is not uncommon for many of us to have several remotes to operate all of our home theater components—TV, audio receiver/tuner, satellite or cable box, DVD player, and so on. Over the years I have experimented with several universal remotes to cut down on the clutter, but I always wound up needing multiple remotes in order to do everything I wanted to do. In addition, there was the hassle of entering in codes for the various components and hoping that the remote would be able to operate them. Finally, there seems to be a remote that is truly universal—the Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote, which was given to me by the company. This remote is about as advanced as you can get, allowing you to control up to 15 different components. However, with all its bells and whistles, it is still incredibly easy to set up and operate.
Once it was out of the box, I was struck by how stylish the Harmony One remote is. It has a 2.25-inch color touch display, a black high-gloss finish, and well-spaced buttons that are easy to press. The buttons glow white on black, which makes them easy to read in the dark. In addition, the Harmony One doesn’t seem as heavy or bulky as most other universal remotes I have used, due to its ergonomic design.
The Harmony One is the first remote control I have ever used that requires the installation of software on my computer. The software is both Windows (including Windows 7) and Mac compatible. Inserting the installation CD into my Windows-based laptop launched the guided online setup. Once the installation is complete, you start the Harmony remote software to start setting up your remote. This involves first setting up a Logitech account and then connecting the remote to your PC via the provided USB cable.
Once the remote is connected to your computer, you can start setting up the devices you wish to control. The guided online setup prompts you for the device information. This requires you to collect information regarding your A/V components, including the device type, manufacturer and model number. For me, this was the most time-consuming aspect of the entire setup process. According to Logitech, the Harmony One supports over 225,000 devices from more than 5,000 manufacturers.
Logitech describes the Harmony One as an activity-based universal remote control, and these activities form the basis for its functionality. Activities can range from watching TV or a DVD to listening to the radio or playing a game. When you select an activity, the Harmony One sends a series of commands to turn on the necessary components and configure them for the desired activity.
The next step in the setup process is setting up the activities you wish to perform. To help you in this process, the software shows you a collection of recommended activities based on the devices you have set up. For example, if you are setting up the Watch TV activity, the software asks which device changes the channels (TV or satellite/cable box), what channel the TV needs to be on (Channel 3, Channel 4, Video 1, etc.), and so on.
Once you have entered all of your device information and set up your desired activities, the final step is to upload this information to your Harmony One remote.
After I set up my Harmony One, it was time to test it out. Going through my list of activities, I found that all of my components turned on as they should and were properly configured. If for some reason things don’t go as expected, the onboard Help button will attempt to correct the situation.
The Harmony One also has a Remote Assistant, which guides you through starting an activity. When you select the Watch TV activity, for example, the assistant asks if the TV is on and if the other devices you configured for the activity are functioning properly. You can choose to disable to Remote Assistant temporarily or permanently.
There is also an on-remote tutorial that teaches you about the Harmony One and how to use many of its features.
What impressed me the most about the Harmony One is that I didn’t have to keep using another component’s remote to accomplish more nuanced tasks, which I have always had to do with other universal remotes. With the Harmony One, I was able to watch a DVD, listen to the radio, set up my DVR to record, and more.
While I didn’t have any problems with the range of my Harmony One, it is worth pointing out that the remote is infrared (IR) only. Remotes are now coming to market that are radio frequency (RF), which have better range and can penetrate walls or cabinets where your A/V components may be housed. However, since most components are IR-based, you will need an RF receiver to make use of such remotes.
Users can personalize the look of their Harmony One’s touch screen. You can change the order of activities on the touch screen so that the ones you use most often appear at the top of the list. You can also modify the theme to change the look of the Harmony One’s screen.
The Harmony One has a rechargeable lithium ion battery which, according to other reviews, should give you about a week’s worth of operation between charging. To conserve battery life, the remote will automatically turn off when it is not being used. Built-in sensors will automatically turn it back on when the remote is moved. The included charging station also has a light on it, making is easy to locate the remote in the dark.
I have fallen in love with my Harmony One universal remote. It is by far the most complete universal remote I have ever used. Since I have been using it, I haven’t had to use any other remote, which is why we buy universal remotes to begin with. The setup was extremely easy and straightforward, as is the operation. The remote retails for $250, although you can find it much cheaper at popular online outlets such as Amazon.com. For those who have spent several thousand dollars on a quality home theater system, this cost is more than worth it. If you have a more austere setup, there is a complete line of Harmony remotes to fit almost any budget.
Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote
$249.99 (currently $161.87 from Amazon.com)
- Control up to 15 components
- One-touch control performs multiple tasks with the press of a button
- Easy setup
- Expensive compared to other universal remotes
- Requires a PC and an Internet connection to set up
- Lacks radio frequency (RF)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of "Gadget Corner." All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.