This is by far the most functional universal remote we have used - perfect combination of the touchscreen and physical keys. And is the best looking as well. If only it didn’t give so much a scare to Macbook users! With the RF module as a part of the package, you can now hide away some of the gadgets from the line of sight, for a less cluttered look to the room.
In what is essentially the successor to the Harmony One, the 900 does come with a whole lot of style matched with equal amounts of substance. Considering the price of this thing, it is expected to be brilliant. And we think it is by far the best universal remote out there.
Look & Feel
While the Harmony 900 looks quite similar to the predecessor, there are subtle changes to the entire package. The display now has a cleaner look to it, with the concept of themes now added to it. While you shouldn’t expect anything major in terms of UI changes, the better display and a cleaner UI just make touchscreen navigation a while lot better. It is dressed in glossy black at the front, with a border of silver along the sides that thickens as it spills onto the front, towards the bottom. And more appreciably so on the rear panel, the part that also acts as the battery cover. The rear is also black for the rest of it, but has a rubberized finish to help with the grip. At the very top on the rear panel are the two connectors for charging via the dock. You cannot charge this remote without the dock, but we don’t think that should really be a problem. In fact, it will be safer in the cradle, and looks classy too.
Unlike the dock that the Harmony 1100i Advanced comes with, this one is a flat bed design, and we feel that is a lot safer and less prone to wear and tear. The cradle part of the dock is glossy black, with a white LED on top, illuminated to signify that the power to the dock is switched on. Flip it over, and there is a rubberized black finish, with a thin channel for the power cable to run through, without disturbing the balance of the dock.
There are transmitters at the top and the bottom of the remote. We noticed that the Harmony 900 was even less finicky about the direction of the remote when working IR controlled devices than the Harmony 1100i Advanced. And we had said that the 1100i was good, meaning the 900 is even better. As for RF, the technology itself dictates that there is no need to aim the remote directly the module for it to work, since the range is very wide.
Above the display is the tiny power off button towards the left. The business end begins once the display ends. At first glance, you may feel that there are two many buttons to handle, the placement is soothing to the eye, and easy for the finger to find without you having to look down at the remote. There are essentially three vertical rows of keys along the length of the remote. If you notice, the keys on the two outside rows have a bulge to them while that isn't always the case with the keys in the middle row. Look hard, and you will notice that the Up/Down selection key, Pause and 5 have a distinctly depressed design. This has been done specifically to help the fingers work their way around the remote’s fascia, without you having to look down on it. Even if you do, the backlighting will be of immense help.
The display is a touchscreen, which is meant to work in tandem with the keys on the remote. Unlike the Harmony 650 that is a completely key based setup or the Harmony 1100i Advanced that is largely touchscreen, the 900 needs both. For example, press Activities and you will need the touchscreen to select what activity needs to be activated. In case you need to go inside the detailed menu of a particular device, the touchscreen is needed. There are no hardware keys to help you out alternatively. On the right and left side of the display are two touch-based keys for moving between the layers of screens. Below the display are two touch-based keys that keep getting reassigned according to the activity and task - return, activity, help, device etc. All four touch based keys are illuminated by a pale white LED, and integrate well in the design.
The entire key structure has been divided into five zones, which helps increase usage speed. Each category of buttons has been designed differently, again to help with navigation based on the touch of the fingers. Even within a particular division, we see a different key design for the critical keys. For example, Play/pause, Volume and Channels have a completely different design from the others, and even within each other.
Just below the display are the Activities and Help keys. Activities have the predefined stuff - Watch TV, Watch My Videos etc. Help, in this case, has a differently done assistant. In case of a problem, you press the Help key. It throws up two options - Guided help and I Know How To Solve It. Guided Help is the same as what we have on most other Logitech Harmony remotes - a step by step guide that helps configure the gadgets as required by that activity, in case of a problem. The second one, the I Know… one is quicker method of solving the issue, provided you know which particular device is causing the problem.
The Harmony 900 adds the Red, Green, Blue and Yellow buttons to the portfolio as well, and that will be of great help with certain Blu-ray players and DTH set top boxes.
Overall, we feel that the Harmony 900 has everything going for it in terms of design, build quality and the comfort of using it. The only thing you need to be worried about is the glossy finish, and that you don’t unintentionally scratch it.
Read more about the Features and Performance of the Logitech Harmony 900 on the next page, along with our verdict...
Features & Performance
You may follow the traditional pattern of installing the Logitech Harmony Software on the PC to set up the remote. However, we attempted to get this remote to configure that way, and while it was seamless on a Windows machine, the remote refused to connect to the server on a MacBook. Despite multiple attempts, there was no handshake. However, the Harmony 900 does something that we had criticized the Harmony 1100i Advanced for not being able to do - online configuration. Head to www.myharmony.com and follow the steps to installing the web browser plug-in before the remote can be configured. The download and install takes about 5-10 minutes, and once that is done, you sign up/ sign in and connect the remote to the PC. It gets detected immediately, and you can set about configuring each activity by adding devices and the other configurations. Incidentally, this didn’t work properly on Chrome (Mac OS X version) for some reason, and we used Firefox instead. And surprise surprise, the online setup tool is much more visually appealing than the desktop utility that Logitech offers. Why, we really cannot understand, but a process that we expected would be boring and dull immediately became a beautiful task!
The device configuration process is the same here, as on the desktop utility. There is the same select activity, add device and set the individual settings for each one of them. However, where the myharmony.com utility has an advantage is that individually configuring certain buttons for certain devices is much simpler here than on the desktop utility. You will need to keep device model numbers ready to be able to configure properly. Despite the rise in popularity of HD media players, they are still shoved in the category of Media Centre PCs.
Since the Harmony 900 includes a RF module with it, you are allowed to set which devices use IR and which use RF. The RF module is powered separately using its own adapter. Two IR blasters are connected to it, which can then be placed around the gadgets that aren’t in the line of sight. Adequately long cables ensure that it can snake all the way to the other edge of the shelf on a different level. What this allows you to do is hide away gadgets from the line of sight, cleaning up the ambience in the process! One blaster is enough for two gadgets, if placed on the same shelf close to each other. We placed the Tata Sky HD box and the WD Live on the same shelf, and one blaster in the middle, slightly ahead of the two. The other blaster snaked its way to the Denon AV Receiver on another slelf. The RF module was kept under the TV, since the power cable’s limited length doesn’t allow for it to be kept somewhere far away.
Even without the RF in play, we were impressed with the way the 900 made the devices respond. Dual blasters on the remote mean that you don’t really have to aim at the device religiously even in IR mode. But the gadget has to remain in the line of sight, albeit somewhat, for this to work.
Something that hampers the proper use of the Harmony 900 is surprisingly something that isn't the 900’s fault! Some devices like the WD Live HD media player have the habit of starting at full power, instead of on standby mode or waiting for user input to switch them on. This confuses all Harmony devices, including the 900. Allow me to illustrate the issue. Power on all the devices, and while the likes of the TV and the AV receiver start in stand-by mode, just as you had powered them off, the WD Live will start immediately. Even before you select the activity. Now, if you wish to select Watch My Videos, the remote is expected to switch on the WD Live along with the TV and AV Receiver, while keeping the DTH switched off. However, since the WD is already on, when the remote sends a command to the device to actually switch on, it switches off. Now, you need to head into the assistant feature to manually rectify the issue.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery, once fully charged, does last for a week, with a couple of hours of daily use. The rechargeable battery needs to have the remote cradled in the dock to charge.
Apprehensions were quickly laid to rest once we managed to configure the Harmony 900 and got it into action. Even before deploying the RF setup, the remote impressed us. It didn’t require you to point at gadgets with precision to elicit a response! While we had missed the RF add-on in the more expensive 1100i Advanced, it was a very welcome feature here. With all devices out of the line of sight, the control was seamless. Cable lengths of the IR extenders that connect to the back of the RF module are long enough to snake around the entire home theater setup - full marks to Logitech for not reducing the cable length here. While the Harmony 900 is an expensive universal remote, you will not fret about the expense too much. It feels expensive to hold, has oodles of functionality, remains very comfortable to use and looks very classy while doing all this! Have budget? Must buy!
Price: Rs. 25,995
Device type: Universal remote; Connection type: IR and RF combo; Controls: Touchscreen physical keys, resistive type touchscreen; Add-ons: RF Blaster; Compatibility: works with 15 devices, 225000 compatible devices; Battery: Rechargeable, on dock
Contact: Logitech Harmony Support
Phone: 000 800 600 1133