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Logitech Harmony 1100 Universal Remote Review + Harmony One Shootout

Hardware Review

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#1 of 5 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 30 2011 - 05:56 AM

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Logitech Harmony 1100

Advanced Universal Remote Control


Reviewed by Ronald Epstein

May 30, 2011



Introduction


If someone were to ask me what defines a great home theater, my immediate response would be, "the remote."  For without a simplified, unified device to control all your components, what you have is a coffee table strewn with a half dozen remotes and the constant practice of having to switch between them.


So, it has been my quest for nearly the past few years to find that "perfect" remote -- a single device that is both comfortable and efficient -- that puts me in command of my home theater.


My first mistake, in 2007, was listening to a friend who recommended I pay $600 for Universal Remote's MX-980.  It was a gorgeous, majestic remote control that made a person drool at the mere sight of it.  However, in order to program it, I had to hand it off to my friend.  This certainly wasn't the remote for the typical "do it yourself" enthusiast, and anytime I needed any sort of update made to it, I had to give it to someone who knew what they were doing.  Within six months, I realized I had to look for something better.


Enter Logitech.  Here was a company that had introduced a line of Harmony remotes that were sleek, ergonomically fulfilling and best of all, easy to program.  I purchased the Logitech Harmony 880 and found it to be love at first sight.  Here was a remote, that through the use of PC software, I could configure each device to turn on and off in sequence according to what I wanted to watch.   I posted a very positive review on Home Theater Forum, and as thus, inspired other members to join the Logitech family.


As Logitech moved towards onscreen touch remotes, so did I.  My next purchase, in 2009, was the Logitech Harmony One remote which combined the use of touchscreen and hard buttoned commands.  With familiar, but improved PC software programming, I quickly found the new love of my life and for the past two years I have been enjoying what I consider to be one of the best remotes in the Industry.


However, as always, as the remote industry continues to mature and release innovative new products, I am always looking to upgrade to the next best thing.




Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal Remote



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Harmony introduced their latest remote in the Spring of 2009.  Gearing towards a more luxurious look, the Harmony 1100 gave consumers something more rectangular than narrow, boasting a 3.5-inch touch-sensitive screen that featured QVGA resolution, giving users a brilliant base from which to control their system.



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Upon receiving and opening the product package, inside I found the Harmony 1100 remote with rechargeable ion battery, charging and display base, AC charging adapter and USB cable necessary to connect to your PC in order to program. Also included is installation software and user guides.



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The Harmony 1100 remote is a very handsome system.  Made of brushed metal and with a piano black finish, Logitech has given this remote a look of sophistication that, once it sits upon its charging perch, will certainly grab the attention of anyone looking at it on your coffee table.  The 3.5-inch touch screen enables you to select your viewing activities as well as individual commands to control your components.  The hard buttons along the side allow you to adjust channel and volume as well as mute and menu functions.  Best of all, the remote is lightweight and fits comfortably in the hand.


Given the history of all the other Harmony remotes I have owned, configuring the remote should have taken a brief period of time.  Normally one would install the included software on their Windows or Mac computer, connect to the Logitech database where they would create a new account, and then simply add components and individual activities.


....that is how it should work.  However, as a Mac user, prior to even receiving the Harmony 1100 remote I knew that there was a lot of problems getting this remote to communicate with Mac computers.  This turned out to be the situation in my case.  It took an hour of researching information and playing around with settings to get the Harmony 1100 to communicate with my iMac.   For any Mac user looking to purchase this remote, I recommend that you look to the information located here prior to plugging your remote into your Mac.   What is rather disheartening is that Logitech has been aware of this problem for quite some time and has not updated their software for OS X to correct the driver problems.   Even after completing the workaround, I was able to get the Harmony 1100 to communicate with my Mac, that is, until the remote rebooted at the end of the upload, in which case I lost USB connection. Fortunately, all information had been uploaded to the remote prior to reboot.



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For Windows users, I would suspect you will experience none of these problems.  Once you connect to the database, you simply enter the brand and model number of each of your components.  Logitech's online database has support for 5,000+ brands and 225,000+ devices, so the chances of your particular device being found are excellent.  Once all your devices are set up, you can create ACTIVITIES that turn on each set of devices according to what you want to do.  Want to watch TV?  You tell the remote exactly what components must be turned on in order to accomplish that function.  Want to play a game?  You can program the remote, with a single button push, to turn on your display, receiver and gaming system.


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Since the Logitech 1100 shares its operating system with the entire family of Harmony remotes, I wasn't very surprised that my newly created home screen depicting activities looked the same as it did on my Harmony One touchscreen.  As I touched each of the onscreen icons I received a "clicking" sound response from the remote which I found to be rather cool, as it lets the user know the command has been accepted.   Unfortunately, I was also met with the most disappointing aspect of this device, it's menu system.  I was not at all happy with the remote's layout of what I felt were very ugly buttons placed in a rather unpleasing configuration.  There is no way you can actually go in and change the look or placement of the buttons -- something that can only be done with devices like the Universal MX-980.



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Clicking on the 123 button brings you to a touchscreen that allows for direct channel access.  Clicking on the heart icon on the upper right of the screen brings you to up to 4 pages worth of favorite channel selections that you personally configure along with icons that can be uploaded from online websites such as this one.


With all the emphasis being put on the 3.5-inch touchscreen, I was a little disappointed that it seems to be of a lower resolution.  Images are not particularly crisp.  Overall response to the touch commands were very good and upon its initial configuration, accurately turned on and off all my devices as programmed.  In the few instances where it missed a command, I simply pressed the HELP button and the remote guided me to turning on/off the component that was missed.


As is common with most all Harmony remotes, you can easily select an activity such as watching television, have all those components turn on in sequence (TV, Cable Box, Receiver) -- and should you decide you want to suddenly watch a Blu-ray movie, you simply press the corresponding ACTIVITY button and all your former devices shut down while new devices turn on and/or change inputs.   In other words, you never have to turn everything in your system off just because you want to watch something else.


The remote is IR-based so you need to have it pointed at a device that is within line of sight.  Logitech does sell an optional RF device that can be used with their Harmony remotes.



CONCLUSION



My biggest complaint with this remote is that while Logitech definitely had an eye for bringing something more luxurious to their remote lineup, it wreaks of being a package that looks beautiful on the outside but has been a bit muddled on the inside.


The biggest fault I found with this remote (other than its problems connecting to a Mac) is the fact you have to deal with the ugly menu layouts.  I wish Logitech was able to allow full customization where users could upload buttons of choice and create their own unique configurations.  I suppose this the very thing that attracts high-end users to more expensive remotes. 


Another problem I have is that I don't think touchscreen adds anything to the remote experience.  Having used the older Harmony Remotes for the past few years, my fingers conform much better to the hard buttons and they don't leave fingerprints as they do on this screen.


All that being said, I certainly am not giving the Logitech Harmony 1100 a bad review.  In fact, I really feel the device works as well as the other Harmony siblings while giving consumers a remote with a look of luxuriousness for which they may be seeking.


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The Logitech Harmony One still remains, to this day, the most popular remote in the Logitech IR lineup.  It's the perfect combination of both touchscreen and hard buttons.  It's my guess that many people reading this review, who own a Harmony remote, have this one in their homes.


So, like myself, when you have a remote like the Harmony One that works very well and you discover that Logitech is offering something a little more sumptuous in the Harmony 1100, is it worth the upgrade?



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For its Harmony 100 remote, Logitech has given up on its standard narrow design in favor or a rectangular one.  While this does add a touch of finesse to its new remote, it actually makes a bit harder to use.  Whereas the Harmony One can be operated with just one hand, you'll find yourself using two hands to properly navigate through the 1100 remote.



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While most people would figure a bigger touchscreen is better, I actually prefer the resolution and layout of buttons much better on the Harmony One remote.  Please note that each device shown in the above photos is only showing one of many pages of individual menus.


The Harmony 1100 is mostly touch-screen controlled in that the only hard buttons you have on the remote is dedicated to volume, channel, and mute and some menu functions.  The Harmony One is mostly filled with hard buttons that take care of channel numbers, component functions (Stop, Play, Forward, Skip, Pause, etc.) as well as activity functions.  The Touchscreen on the Harmony One is reserved for commands related to that specific device.


Unless you had time to use both remotes, you may find what I am about to say difficult to believe.....using hard buttons is much more pleasing experience than using a touchscreen.  Additionally, since the Harmony One is narrow, it wraps around your hand quite comfortably, allowing for easier access to its buttons using your thumb.  The Harmony 1100 takes two hands to use -- one just to hold it, and the other to push the buttons.


Additionally, you'll find that the Harmony 1100 depletes battery life much faster than the Harmony One, thanks to the fact it has a much bigger screen to power.  Whereas I can leave the Harmony One remote sitting on my coffee table uncharged for a full day, using it occasionally, I can't see getting a full day's worth of use out of the Harmony 1100 without returning it to its charging cradle.



The Bottom Line



If you already own the Harmony One, there is no need outside of aesthetic purposes to upgrade to the Harmony 1100 considering the exorbitant price of the remote.  You really lose more than you gain with the upgrade.


On the other hand, if you are looking for something more stately in your remote, you certainly can't go wrong with the Harmony 1100 as long as you are aware that its device menu button layouts are very basic and it cannot be further customized.






Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 5 Adam Gregorich

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Posted June 06 2011 - 03:49 PM

Thanks for the review Ron.  After having both touchscreen and "combination" remotes like the MX-980 you didn't like (NOTE: I was not "the friend" mentioned in the review Posted Image) I have decided I really like having hard buttons for not just the volume, but for the DVR controls (FF, REW, Play, Pause, Skip, etc).  It makes it so much easier to use.



#3 of 5 AlexO

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Posted June 08 2011 - 01:48 AM


All that being said, I certainly am not giving the Logitech Harmony 1100 a bad review.  In fact, I really feel the device works as well as the other Harmony siblings


I am quite perplexed with with this statement.  The fact is that the 1100 does not "work as well as the other Harmony siblings".  Before the 900 and the 1100 were introduced, all the Harmony remotes supported sequences (a.k.a macros).  Logitech chose to limit the length of those sequences to only 5 steps, which limited their usefulness, but it was better than nothing.


With the 900 and the 1100 remotes, Logitech removed the ability to send multiple commands with a single keypress inside of an activity altogether.  There is a petition on Logitech's forum calling for reinstating the feature, with over 390 posts as of now, but so far Logitech chooses to ignore their customers.


The 1100 should get a bad review, for removing functionality that is available in remotes that cost a fraction of its price.




#4 of 5 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 08 2011 - 02:27 AM

Thanks for the review, Ron. My only experience with a touch screen remote was the universal remote that came with an old Sony ES receiver I used to own. I really disliked using a touch screen at that time, and find that hard buttons on a device that can be easily operated with one hand is the ideal solution.


I currently am still using a Harmony 880 remote, which meets all my needs -- it's my second Harmony remote. If/when the 880 dies, hopefully Harmony will still offer something similar. I do not want something that requires two hands to operate, removes the hard buttons, or limits the "activity" functionality that currently makes Harmony such a great remote control. I want a remote control, not a tablet computer!





#5 of 5 Rocco Jibraltar

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Posted July 08 2011 - 12:12 PM

"...limit the length of those sequences to only 5 steps" um... i just bought a harmony 900, and with the "one-touch tuning," as-it-were, there is no longer a need to program sequences! having input all my devices' model numbers, i just touch "watch TV" and it turns on my projector which picks the receiver input instead of the DVD carousel or the PS3, the HD tv tuner, the receiver, which picks the tv tuner as its input, and i sit back and relax. if i want to watch a DVD, it switches everything over to that. if my son wants to play guitar hero, that's available at the touch of a button, too. sequences? we don' need no stinking sequences! vamanos! :D just my 2¢. R J





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