Review: Harmony Touch, A Simple & Capable Universal Remote

Our score: 5/5
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Published: November 26, 2012 2:00 PM
By Régis Jehl
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
For the past several months we just assumed Logitech was sitting around twiddling their thumbs on the universal remote front. But that's because we didn't know about the Harmony Touch, a new high-end universal remote control with a large, colour display that makes up for the Swiss company's first unhappy stabs at the touchscreen remote market.

Good finish and a decent touchscreen

The Harmony Touch is a high-end remote control with a high-end price (£149 on Logitech's website) and the materials to back it up. The front end is made of good quality plastic—although the glossy surface will collect smudges—and the light grey back is slightly coarse to the touch. It's a nice-feeling remote and we appreciate the precise assembly.

The 2.4" capacitive colour touchscreen is responsive. The resolution and contrast aren't anything to write home about, but they're plenty good for a remote control. And, most importantly, the Harmony Touch is infinitely better than the previous models (and the competition).

Logitech harmony touch config s Logitech harmony touch config s Logitech harmony touch config s
The touchscreen shows the actions you can take (turn on TV, change stereo volume...), the controllable devices and settings.

We wish Logitech had included a vibrate function, which has more than proved its utility on smartphones and tablets. Without that tactile response you aren't always sure if you've properly hit a command or not.

Buttons: love the backlighting, but the placement?

There are few physical buttons on this remote, but they're all practical: menu navigation, playback (play/pause, fast forward, etc.), volume, channels... There's even the four coloured buttons at the bottom. The backlighting turns on any time you press a button. That's a shame, because the automatic lighting on the previous models that turned on the second you picked up the remote was a great idea, more natural.

The button placement is open to debate. On the one hand, when you grab the remote your thumb lands naturally at the bottom of the touchscreen, which is handy. The menu navigation arrows are located just below the screen and are pretty intuitive to reach.

Logitech harmony touch hand s
The playback buttons are poorly located. Your hand ends up grazing the screen and touch-buttons, activating random commands.

On the other hand, the playback buttons are located just above the touchscreen. That's a pretty delicate place to put them, because your fingers often accidentally graze the touchscreen and touch-buttons.

Great interface and the return of "Activities"

The interface is different than all the previous Harmonies. The menus are laid out similarly to smartphones and tablets, in that they favour vertical and horizontal scrolling to multiple windows. We found no lags when flipping between menus and switching devices.

Logitech harmony touch icons s Logitech harmony touch icons s Logitech harmony touch icons s
Favourite channels (left), numeric keypad (centre) and activity shortcuts (right).

Not only can you control up to 15 devices (infrared only), but the Harmony Touch also simplifies the job with Logitech's "Activities". Activities are one of the features that have helped Logitech build its name in the remote control business.

Activities (macros) simplify the way you use your remote control by grouping devices together; for example, if you want to watch a Blu-ray you would normally have to turn on your TV, home cinema system and Blu-ray player, then select the audio and video inputs for each device.

To avoid all that hassle, you can just press one button and the Harmony Touch will send the signal automatically to each device in the right order. Once you've set it up, in this example you will see the activity "Watch a movie" on the screen. You can set up all kinds of activities such as "Watch TV", "Play video games" or "Listen to music".

Logitech harmony touch delays s Logitech harmony touch delays s Logitech harmony touch delays s
You can programme your own touch commands. In the centre image, a swipe to
the right will fast forward, a swipe to the left will rewind and a tap will play/pause.

You can set up the activities pretty minutely, too, deciding in what order the devices turn on/off and how many seconds each one waits before turning on/off. That comes in handy when you have one device that takes several seconds longer to turn on than the others.

Setup online only

The only thing is, you need a computer to set up the activities and add devices (via USB), as well as a MyHarmony.com login. But the current online setup application uses Silverlight and is clearer and more user-friendly than the previous Harmony setup app.

There are a lot of options to choose from. For instance, you can decide the length of each infrared signal, correct poorly transmitted signals (with the remote), add sequences (to activate multiple buttons in one click) and redefine the functions of the physical buttons. One thing you can setup on the remote itself, however, is the order in which the touchscreen icons appear onscreen.

Logitech harmony touch config4s Logitech harmony touch config4s Logitech harmony touch config4s Logitech harmony touch config4s
The interface requires a computer with Microsoft Silverlight installed. The remote control plugs into the computer via USB (cable included). This new interface is much clearer and more user-friendly than the previous one.

It's honestly no exaggeration to say that the number of compatible devices in the online database is gigantic. And if by some great misfortune your device isn't on the list, you can still add it manually on the remote. And if even that doesn't work, you can always use Logitech Support, which has an excellent reputation. They'll help with this kind of issue the same as they would for setup or malfunctioning issues.

In the setup app you can also select your favourite TV channels, at which point they show up on the touchscreen with the channel's logo next to the name. The good news is that this also works automatically, so you don't have to go through the tedious task of entering each channel one-by-one. You can just select your cable provider and all the channels are added automatically along with their logo. You can choose the order in which your channels appear on the touchscreen or delete unwanted channels on the remote itself. There is, however, one limit to this customisation free-for-all, which is that you can only create one favourites list—you can't make separate lists for separate sources, such as one for your tuner and one for your satellite.

5/5 Logitech Harmony Touch DigitalVersus 2012-11-26 15:00:00

Pros

  • Good touchscreen interface
  • Favourite channels are easy to add
  • "Activities" (macros)
  • Compatible with tons of devices
  • Backlit buttons
  • Quality design

Cons

  • No vibrate function
  • Low battery life
  • Poor choice of location for the playback buttons

Conclusion

Logitech has once again proven its mastery of the universal remote. The Harmony Touch may not be perfect, but it's close. It's an extremely handy home entertainment companion with loads of advanced features that are easy to set up.

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