In these days of Christmas it’s always nice to have a few gadgets to put on your list for Santa and if you could clean out some of your existing gadget mess at the same time, so much the better. The Logitech Harmony series is designed to clean out a specific part of your gadget mess; namely the pile of remote controls accompanying your AV equipment.
We have a look at the Harmony Touch, which is the latest thing from Logitech’s universal remote division. This time the team has implemented an even bigger display and made it touch sensitive – very much aligned with these modern smartphone ages.
Logitech have several universal remote controls on their product list. The Touch seems to be either the replacement or the evolution of the existing Harmony One model. Performance-wise the remote is placed slightly above the mid-section of the line-up with a price of 249 USD.
The pictures in this review will contain some language specific screenshots, which will be in Danish.
The first thing you will notice when unwrapping the Harmony Touch is the reduced number of buttons it carries. The next thing you will notice is how this gives it a much cleaner look than its predecessors.
Logitech Harmony Touch and One
The backside of the remote has been fitted with a rough surface that makes it sit nicely in your palm. The upper side is kept in the same shiny black plastic you might know from most of the other remotes in the Harmony series. There is a sensible mass to the remote, which sets it apart from most stock remotes delivered with AV equipment today, but a little extra weight could easily have been added to make it feel even more sturdy and exclusive.
Around back you will find an IR receiver, which can be used during the setup to read IR codes that might not be stored in the vast online catalogue on Logitech’s servers. You won’t be using the receiver for anything else.
The bottom of the Harmony Touch is rough, which makes it sit firmly in you palm.
The navigation wheel has found its way to the bottom of the remote, where it sits quite natural at your thumb. In the same location you will find most of the additional physical buttons, such as the volume rocker, channel shifter and a few shortcuts for menu navigation.
The navigation buttons.
The media playback buttons have been banished to the top of the remote, which makes them rather hard to reach in any natural way. Whether this is an issue will be highly dependent on your pattern of usage, but as an eager user of live TV pausing, these buttons didn’t have the most ideal placement.
The tactile feedback of the buttons is pleasant and leaves no question whether something was pressed or not. The buttons themselves are backlit and hence easy to spot in the dark, but as you are left with only a little more than two handfuls of them you should quickly learn their locations by heart.
Front of the remote.
The primary evolution of the Harmony Touch is of course the touch interface, which is centrally placed in the middle of the remote. The 2.4” touch screen is activated by touch and gives you the possibility to add the entire repertoire of functions from your existing remotes, accessible from submenus on-screen. The touch screen is also you entry to the well-known “activities” that will carry out multiple actions in a row such as turn on several devices.
Some of the menu items of the touch interface.
At the bottom of the remote the connection for the charging dock is located along with the USB connection, which is concealed under a rubber patch. The charging dock lets the remote sit vertical and allows for easy placement of the remote – which is good because it will be visiting about twice a week.
We usually don’t devote an entire section just to describe the setup of something, but in the case of the Harmony Touch the setup procedure is actually a quite central part of the product, as it more or less defines how you wish to customize your remote. You will most likely be visiting the setup at least a couple of times before you are satisfied with the activities you choose.
Logitech has moved all configuration of the Touch remote to their website where you create a personal profile and save your setup. This means that you will be forever tied to an internet connection (and the existence of Logitech) for setting up your remote.
Initial detection of remote type.
After hooking up the remote you are guided through the setup process, which begins with identifying the devices you wish to control. In the picture below a HDI Dune HD TV-101 has just been added to the list.
Your AV components are added one by one.
The Harmony Touch can handle up to 15 devices in total and after the second step in the setup process you can see a complete list of the ones you have added, which can be used in various combinations when setting up the activities in the third step.
5 devices added...
An activity consists of multiple IR commands executed by a single button. In our example we are using an activity to turn on the Pioneer TV, the STB, and switching to the correct HDMI input on the TV.
Setting up the ”Whatch TV” activity.
The guide seems somewhat intelligent and when combining different devices in an activity Logitech has already decided what each of the devices is supposed to do. In the above example the guide asks which of the devices is used to change the channel and which is used to control the sound volume. These choices are used to determine how the physical buttons of the remote should act when pressed. When setting up the activity for the media playback you are instead prompted to choose which device is used to play back the movie and which is used to control the volume.
After completing the setup the commands are syncronized to the Harmony Touch and it is ready for use.
Syncronizing the commands.
Once you have all the vital functions settled and have confirmed that everything is working as intended you can start diving into further tweaking and personalization of the interface. You can add logos for each channel in the favorites list even though the setup will attempt to add them on its own. Likewise the icons for each activity can be modified to your liking along with the backdrop of the display.
Harmony Touch in daily use
After programming we removed all other remotes from the table and leaned back into the sofa. The real test is to see if you can do everything with Logitech’s remote. To turn on the TV and all connected devices you press the ”TV” button on the touch screen that transmits all the ”Turn On” commands to devices one by one. That also means that you have to keep pointing at the devices – or else you risk missing some of them.
At first you might experience some hiccups in the timing which can prove a problem if you want to turn on a device and afterwards switch to a new input on the TV but luckily you can adjust the delay directly on the touch screen and adjust the macro functions for future operation. With the previous version this had to be done from the PC so it is a nice addition to Harmony Touch.
The remote is fairly reliable when it comes to infrared signals and you do not have to point directly at devices. It was noticeably better than a Harmony 200 that was used as a reference and also better than the remote control for a Pioneer TV and for a standard TV box.
However, we also noticed that if you press too eagerly on the buttons the remote gets confused, and executes the commands with a delay. This happens when trying to scroll a list too quickly or when trying to navigate the menus really fast. It is not a big problem; just something we noticed.
Above the touch screen you will find two buttons; “favorites” and “home”. The first button can store for example channels when you watch TV. In the picture below you can see how the TV channel logos can be used to quickly switch between channels. It basically works just be sending out the channel number; for example “01” or “14” and it therefore requires that you enter the channel numbers during set-up. That also means that you have to re-enter the favorites if the channels change position in the channel list.
Channel logos on the remote screen.
Harmony Touch is great for your daily routines but if you want to use some of the more advanced features of your TV or another connected device you often have to go through the menus. This is possible but is a bit time-consuming. First you have to wake up the touch screen, then you have to press ”…” in the corner, then select your device, and lastly scroll though menus. Navigation is further delayed because you have to wait for a short animation to finish for each step. This may not sound too difficult but try comparing with you standard Blu-ray remote and see how much easier it is to activate subtitles for a Blu-ray discs. Luckily, you can use the four colored buttons at the button of the Harmony Touch for such tasks – but four buttons is not a lot.
The touch screen has a help function where you are guided through a problem solving process if not all devices are turned on as expected. This help function is located at the button of the touch screen which is highly inconvenient. Sometimes you activate it by mistake which means that all you devices turn off because the remote sends out commands again. To avoid this you should always activate the touch screen by touching the center – and try to avoid the lower part where this Help button is located.
Another challenge is that a touch screen is hard to operate without looking so every time you need to activate a function on the touch screen you need to look down. This is not great from a usability point of view and the same is true for tablets and smartphones. We need to either have completely revamped user interface on the TV or move the entire user interface onto the touch screen if we want to make touch interfaces perfect.
We could also have wished for a bit more control over the touch screen. The activity buttons are quite big and you have to constantly scroll down to see each activity. The touch screen feedback could have been better and we are left feeling that the touch interface could have been utilized better. You can change some things but we want more freedom to individualize. The lacking flexibility leaves you with a universal remote that is fairly good at what it does but simply lack more buttons. We hope that a future firmware update can bring more choice into the equation.
Logitech has produced universal remotes ranging from very cheap to quite expensive, and the latest Harmony Touch is somewhere in-between. For a mid-range price you receive a versatile, stylish and easy remote device that can control up to 15 devices.
It a well-made, has a quality-feel and the physical buttons are great. But the touch screen is not customizable enough and the actual touch screen is not great, which makes the touch part of Harmony Touch a bit disappointing. It leaves too little room for individualization, which is a problem as living rooms setups vary. For more advanced functions it also involves too many levels of menus.
If you want a remote that can replace your myriad of existing remotes on the living room table and seek a quality device, Logitech Harmony Touch is indeed a good choice – as long as you do not use the advanced features on a daily basis.