Hardware Review Logitech Harmony Link Remote for the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android: REVIEWED

Discussion in 'Accessories, Cables, and Remotes' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    Logitech Harmony Link

    Remote Control for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android Smartphones and Tablets

    Reviewed by Ronald Epstein

    February 13, 2012





    INTRODUCTION



    Remotes have been an obsession of mine for the past five years. My quest for finding the perfect device that simplifies the task of operating my entire home theater system seems to be an ongoing process. Every year I find myself discovering something new and innovative that takes my remote experience to exciting new levels.



    I have to thank Logitech for creating remote control devices that are innovative, inexpensive and (most of all) easy to program. In fact, after owning a handful of their remotes that include the [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    (Click on above photos for larger images)



    Ever since my iPad purchase in 2010, I have been wondering how long it would take until someone creates an easy-to-program, all-in-one remote that could be translated to the iOS platform. During an invite to Logitech's electronics fair last Summer, I was very pleased to find them demonstrating their newest innovation, the Harmony Link. At last, Logitech had found the means of taking the remote control experience one step further by creating a multi-touch application that integrates with portable devices that most people already own -- the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android Smartphone.



    What is most attractive about the Harmony Link is its price. While most Logitech remotes average in price at $200, the Harmony Link has an MSRP of $99 and depending which device you use it on, their free software application also includes a beautiful program guide that allows you to find the show you want to watch and do so with a simple press of the finger.



    [​IMG]

    (Click on above photos for larger images)



    The Harmony Link itself is a rather small, circular device that sits in the palm of the hand. The rear of the unit has an AC jack, two IR emitter ports and a USB connector for the initial connection that needs to be made to a PC in order to program it. A steady green light on the front of the unit assures you that the unit has paired with your home's wireless WiFi network. This may be the best time to mention this: if you don't have a wireless network in your home, then this product is not for you.



    Inside the box, in addition to the Harmony Link device, you'll find an AC adapter, USB connecting cable and a mini IR blaster. The mini IR blaster allows you to conceal the Harmony Link inside a cabinet while still allowing a signal to be sent to the unit. I was rather pleased to see that Logitech included such a cable with this package.





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    [​IMG]

    (Click on above photos for larger images)





    Logitech is renowned for creating remotes that are simple to program. The Harmony Link is no exception to this rule. In fact, I would say that the overall programming experience has become even more intuitive thanks to a recent revamp that Logitech has done on their http://myharmony.com/





    The final step in setting up your Harmony Link unit will be downloading the free Logitech Harmony Link app to your iPad or iPhone. This app can be found within the iTunes app store.



    Once completing the app download to your device, you will be asked to enter the name and password of the account you created on the Logitech website. This only needs to be done once. There will be an initial synch between the application and the settings you made online. After that, you can expect very minimal delay between launching and using the application.



    [​IMG]

    (Click on above photos for larger images)



    The real beauty in the iPad application lies in its included programming database. It's gorgeous. The free programming guide holds a day's worth of programming, and since you set it up specifically for your cable/satellite provider, it lists all the shows playing that day throughout your system with the correct corresponding channel number. Across the bottom of the guide are thumbnail images of programming that you simply flick your finger to move through. I found it rather enjoyable to browse the programming, though the guide was rather slow in loading images as I flicked from one page to the other.



    With hundreds of channels to browse through, Logitech has made it simple to display content that is relevant to your specific tastes by creating filters. Across the top of the guide you can filter programming by categories that include movies, sports, children's and news. Additionally, you can create a favorites filter of your favorite programs and most visited channels so that those listings are pushed to the front of the listing queue.



    The upper portion of the programming guide provides you with a large photo corresponding to your selected programming. There is also a full description of the program, the time of broadcast, channel number, and minutes remaining till that show is ending. If you want to want to watch that show, you simply press the WATCH NOW button and all the devices that have been programmed under the activity WATCH TV will turn themselves on as you are taken directly to the correct channel.



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    (Click on above photos for larger images)



    With each chosen activity, a sidebar remote will suddenly appear on your iPad to control the corresponding devices. The bottom picture (above) shows the sidebar remote in its simplest form. In most cases the slim panel will provide you with your channel and volume controls as well as play and pause functionality.



    However, take a look at the top two photos. As you slide the side remote panel out further, it expands into two additional stages. The first stage provides you with most all the functions related to the hardware you are controlling. The second stage is for more advanced users who need access to hidden controls. In most cases, I think most users will never need to go beyond the functionality of the first two panel stages.



    Initially, I had to program 6 components and 5 activities into the Logitech website. I was very pleased to find that once all that information synched to my Harmony Link application that every activity executed itself accurately from the very first try. By that I mean, when I wanted to watch TV, all the proper components turned on. When I wanted to switch to watching a Blu-ray movie, the components I no longer needed turned themselves off while others turned themselves on. It's amazing to watch all these functions perfectly executed with a press of a finger.



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    (Click on above photos for larger images)



    After spending a great deal of time playing with the iPad Harmony Link application, I was somewhat disappointed with its iPhone counterpart. For what it is, the iPhone application effectively allows you to control your entire home theater system by pressing buttons on your touchscreen. It has all the functionality of the app found on the iPad, however, what it does lack is the programming guide. Without that guide, the interface looks dull. For the moment, Logitech is finding it rather difficult to bring a programming guide to a smaller device, which is quite understandable given the amount of real estate that it needs.



    One of the things you are able to do on the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android Smartphone versions of the app is to edit the buttons. You can slim down the remote screen, displaying only the necessary buttons you need. As nice as this is, I don't think I want to start deleting buttons that are probably necessary to its operation. Additionally, I could not find a way to rearrange my button layout, so the editing functionality is rather limited.



    Still, despite my preference for the iPad app, there is something to be said for the ability to sit down, take your iPhone (or similar device) out of your pocket and start controlling your home theater system with it. It's certainly the kind of thing that will impress your friends to the point that they may rush out and buy their own Harmony Link.



    I want to add here that if you own more than one portable device, say an iPod and and iPad for example, whatever you synch to one device will automatically synch to the other. All your settings are shared across devices.







    CONCLUSION





    The ultimate question you are probably asking at this point is when considering an all-in-one remote, should you go with the more expensive traditional hard-button Logitech products or the more affordable Harmony Link that integrates itself with devices you may already own?



    That's an almost impossible question to answer, simply because that depends on an individual's tastes. There is something to be said for having the ability to just grab a Logitech remote off the coffee table and just start using it without having to power on the iPad or iPhone.



    Using the iPad as a remote control is a bit more cumbersome for the fact that you have a much larger object in your hand that needs to be powered on or have an application launched prior to its use. There's also no possibility of leaving your normal Logitech remote in the bedroom, car or even at work. However, the trade-off in using the iPad is its beautiful programming guide that really enhances the use of the remote. In addition, with the iPad on your lap, you have the freedom to multi-task. You can read your email or browse the internet without disrupting the remote application. In fact, if you need to close the Harmony Link or even reboot your iPad, the application retains the settings you last left it at.



    Give credit to Steve Jobs. He moved us away from hard-buttoned devices and helped us migrate to touch screen technology. It's kind of neat to raise and lower the volume on the iPad application and watch the button beneath your finger react to the command. Logitech has done an incredible job with the iOS interface and the way the buttons react to touch.



    That being said, the application is not perfect. Thumbnail images were slow to load as I moved from one screen to another. At least once, the application crashed. Sometimes the programming guide is slow to load. There is no customization of the buttons in the iPad application. All that being said, I was assured by the folks at Logitech that their application would be continually improved upon.



    Yes, I would highly recommend this product. In fact, If I had my choice of using my Harmony One or Harmony 1100 vs. the Harmony Link, I would probably grab for the iPad first as long as I had it in the room with me. The iPhone application doesn't really attract me due to its lack of program guide.



    The Harmony Link is certainly is the cheapest method of bringing all-in-one remote functionality to devices you already own. Just be aware of the trade-offs before considering a product like this.







    Harmony Link Video Part 1: Introduction and Setup





    Harmony Link Video Part 1: App Walkthrough
     
  2. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    I have to disagree with some of your basic premises, Ron: I find Logitech remotes to be nothing but a bother. I am unable to connect my Harmony 1000 to my mac to program it without jumping through a dozen hoops.
    Likewise, that remote has caused me plenty of woe, locking up regularly and at least once a week sending a command that turns the volume on my system all the way up. I'm forced to take the battery out regularly to reset the remote, and it's not just mine. My father's 1000 and 550 both have serious glitches that are not user error.
    I like Harmony products, but I spent $250 for my 1000 and I feel like that money was wasted especially since upgrading to a Tivo which has a great remote and apps for my ipad/iphone to control the system. They don't have the significant amount of lag that I am forced to wade through with the Harmony products. Similarly I like the concept of using the iPad as a universal remote and wanted to do it with Control4 but I didn't want to pay the extraordinary amount of money they wanted for the software without including the hardware component.
    That said, I appreciate your take and this does look like a good solution for the woes I have experienced with Logitech's Harmony hardware. I may check it out.
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Justin,

    Very sorry to learn of your problems with your Logitech remotes.

    I will admit, most Logitech remotes are problematic if programming through a Mac.
    This is something, despite a huge amount of complaints on their support forums,
    Logitech has been unable to solve with software updates.

    I have no issues with programming the Harmony One or the Harmony Link using
    a Mac. However, I definitely incurred problems with programming my Harmony 1100,
    which is similar to the 1000 that you own. The problem only involves synching the
    device to a Mac.

    Operational wise, I have had no problems with my 1100 other than the fact that
    it has poor signal strength compared to the Harmony One. That means sometimes
    it doesn't get all the signals sent out to all the devices.

    So, I am not here to be a shill for Logitech. I do understand the problems with their
    remotes as far as synching to a Mac is concerned. As far as the extended problems
    you are having whereas you are forced to take out the battery and reinsert -- I have
    thankfully never experienced those issues. All my remotes still work perfectly.

    Perhaps, since you are considering the Control 4 integrated iPad remote, you may
    want to consider the Harmony Link. I had no issues synching it to my Mac. So far,
    it works as it should, albeit a few small bugs now and then that I mentioned in my
    review.

    I know it's difficult recommending another Logitech product after all the difficulties
    you have experienced. You are not alone. Read Amazon reviews and people have
    either gotten remotes that work well or those that malfunctioned. Speaking from
    personal experience, I have yet to get a Logitech remote that didn't work perfectly.

    Logitech gives me nothing other than the product to do this review. I don't have to
    sit here and praise them. I am free to point out deficiencies in their products. So,
    I don't want you ever to feel that I am recommending something for the sake of
    obtaining anything from the company. I can only speak from personal experience
    of owning Logitech remotes that work well for me. However, I am well aware of
    some of the complaints out there and always recommend potential buyers to research
    reviews on sites like Amazon.

    Also I feel that unless you want to pay the exorbitant costs of owning a URC or
    Control 4 remote (and they are GOOD remotes), Logitech still proves the best
    bang for the buck. Plus, they are remotes that the common person can program.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    One of the things I neglected to note in my review (and just added)
    is that if you own more than one portable device that supports the
    Harmony Link app -- such as both an iPad and iPhone -- your settings
    are synched across all devices. In other words, whatever you synch
    to one device gets shared with all devices.
     
  5. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    I've been using the 880 for a long time now.
    After about 18 months the battery stopped charging and the cradle didn't work.
    They sent me a brand new 880 that has been working for years since.
    The buttons a stickng a little now but it still works like new and has been very easy to program.
    I had the original Philps Pronto and as much as I liked it that was a pain and the First one broke very easily, the glass front that is.
    There is a good chance I'll get one of these by summer.
     
  6. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks for the review Ron. I think the coolest part is the inclusion of the program guide. Great idea!
     
  7. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    Ron: Didn't mean to imply that you were shilling for Logitech, and I appreciate the review. Before seeing it I didn't know this product even existed!
     
  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Justin, no of course you didn’t.

    I apologize if my response led you to believe otherwise.

    It's my own guilt. The more I defend the product I am reviewing,
    the more I feel I need to make it clear that there is no compensation
    involved for a positive review.

    I sympathize with the problems you and your Dad are having with
    your Logitech remotes and defending my position was somewhat
    awkward for me in light of that.
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Ron - I read the review and watched both videos. This goes on my watch list. At $99, I'll give it serious consideration. I've got a few questions for you :)

    * How's the feel? The Harmony One is a touch slow compared to using the Tivo remote. Not much, just a skosh. But I'd be afraid that this system, going iPad to wifi to Link to device might introduce a noticeable lag.

    * Does the system stay in sync across multiple devices in use? If my wife switches turns on the Blu-ray Activity with her iPad, will my iPhone know that? And work in Blu-ray mode?

    * Will the setup process import your current setup if you've got a Harmony One (or other Harmony remote)?

    * is the setup software Mac compatible?




    The Harmony software is not compatible with OS X 10.7 64 bit mode. I would not recommend a Harmony One to a Mac user, unfortunately. I hit this problem recently when I had to re-program my Harmony One (change in hardware setup). I had to boot into Windows to do it. Searching Logitech's forum shows this is a known problem with no fix in sight.

    And that's the biggest problem with Logitech: they're got a bad reputation with software updates and fixes for the Mac.


    That said, I love my Harmony One (as does my wife), and this review has me very intrigued. I'd like a new Harmony with Blu-ray buttons (those RGBY buttons), but paying $399 for the 900?!?! For four buttons? No... And I find that the remote is never where I am. But my iPhone is always at hand. And while I'm a long believer in hard buttons, this at-hand convenience might outweigh hard buttons.
     
  10. Raul Marquez

    Raul Marquez Supporting Actor
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    Ron,
    After reading your review now you can see why I liked the Link so much in my posts several months ago, I bought a second one for the bedroom, but haven't installed it yet. My only complaint deals with the Apple remote for the Apple TV. The center button turns off the AppleTV instead of selecting an item. Other than that (which is a problem Logitech is aware of and supposedly dealing with, I love it.
    Raul
     
  11. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    http://www.amazon.com/gp/cart/view-upsell.html?ie=UTF8&newItems=C2ZKQEC53X4PMQ
    89.95 amazon
     
  12. Nextdaytechs

    Nextdaytechs Auditioning

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    Thanks for the review. I am getting one today because of the iPhone functionality. I am sick and tired looking for the remote controls all over the house.
     
  13. bigshot

    bigshot Cinematographer

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    I just ordered one of these, but I'm a little concerned about an issue that I haven't seen any review address.... I don't have TV. My projection system is just for movies using a bluray player and a Mac Mini. I'm wondering if the ipad app forces you to input a cable provider. (I hope not.)
     
  14. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I doubt it, not based on my experience with the Harmony One. It takes whatever devices you've got and helps you set up activities and control schemes.

    It sounds like the iPad app is TV-centric, with its recommendations and so on. But I'd expect it will work fine as a controller if you have no actual reception / subscription.
     
  15. bigshot

    bigshot Cinematographer

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    It did force me to enter a cable provider, but at the end of the setup, I just deleted the Watch TV action and it went away. Still, i would love it if I could lock the pull out control drawer open, so I didn't have to look at a big empty place where the listings go.
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I apologize for getting back to everyone late. By accident,
    I did not subscribe to this thread so I had no idea of the follow-up
    questions.




    Hi, Dave! Outside of not having the feel of an actual hard

    button beneath your finger, the feel is fine. I kind of like the

    fact that some the iPad keys via the app, react to the touch

    such as sliding up or down.



    I never really noticed a lag with the Harmony One. With the

    Tivo remote, you are turning on one device. The Harmony One is

    turning on several, so for me, that is where the lag would be.



    Yes, the Harmony Link does sync across all your devices.

    However, they have to be linked to the same Logitech account

    via the app for that to work. So, technically (and I have not tested

    this out), your wife's iPad and your iPhone, though under different

    ownership, should sync.



    Your settings on the Harmony One (or any other Harmony remote)

    will NOT import over. This is a glaring problem with all the Harmony

    remotes. You always need to start from scratch with each new remote.



    Yes, the setup is Mac compatible.



    I can tell you that a friend of mine recently bought the Harmony

    Link based on my review. He had problems with the unit holding

    the WiFi signal, which I found very odd. I don't know how far from

    the router he had the device set up, but that's the first I have heard

    of this problem. He ended up returning his.



    I would recommend buying from a store or online retailer (Amazon)

    that you can return the unit to if you don't like it. It's certainly worth

    trying, and it is my hope you will like the Harmony Link.
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Thanks. That's very cool. I'm pretty interested, though my wife is not convinced. :) Going on my wish list.
     
  18. Eric Samonte

    Eric Samonte Screenwriter

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    Hey Ron, thanks for the review. I got this thing hooked up now but I have to find a nice spot for it so it can "see" my projector as well as the components in a closed door. Sucks that u can't make macros with it though. Guess I'm kinda spoiled with Prontos.
     
  19. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Eric,

    Congrats on the purchase.

    Keep us updated on how well the product is working for you.

    Just wondering what macros you are missing out on?
     
  20. bigshot

    bigshot Cinematographer

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    I've used this for a while now and I really like the iphone app and really don't like the ipad app. The iphone layout is logical and focused on remote functions. The. Ipad is confusing and cluttered with all of the functions hidden in a pull out drawer. I hope they streamline the ipad app soon. The directory should be in a drawer, not the controls.
     

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