Logitech launches new Harmony remotes

If you practically need a new cabinet for all your lounge room's remote controls--let alone the actual devices that they control--then it seems you're not alone. Thankfully, advanced universal remote controls are becoming increasingly more affordable, as evidenced by Logitech's latest flagship universal remote, the Harmony 1000.

When it goes on sale for US$500 on October 17th, the device will go some way to provide what has traditionally cost closer to double that. The Harmony 1000 features a 3.5-inch color touch screen, is less than half an inch thick, has backlit dedicated volume, mute and channel buttons, a sleek brushed metal finish and a docking station to recharge its batteries.

I sat back and used the unit for a little while and noted that its easy to use interface, which populates commands (on screen buttons) as you need them, also allows pretty much any option/feature to be accessed in just a few touches, versus getting lost in a sequence of sub-menus.

Like the $340 Harmony 890 that we reviewed back in January, the Harmony 1000 can use a radio frequency RF extender: hardware that sits in another room and responds to the RF signal by sending infrared signals to your electronics gear. Though the 890 included your first extender in the box, it remains a $150 option for the 1000.

Logitech also announced the more traditionally shaped US$450 Harmony 890 Pro. It shares a key new feature with the 1000: support for the Z-Wave wireless technology standard used by manufacturers of advanced lighting, climate control and security systems. Both units also feature Smart State technology that tracks the status of appliances and lets you combine operations from several appliances into a single activity button.

I took some time out at Denver's CEDIA trade show to sit down with Brian McLeod, the vice president of Logitech's remote control business, and former CEO and owner of Harmony, known as Intrigue Technologies when Logitech bought the company in May 2004.

He explained that by the end of 2006, Logitech plans to invest between 30 and 40 million into its Harmony efforts, from marketing to Web infrastructure. The Web side of that begins to make sense if you've ever used a Harmony remote. Out of the box, they connect to your PC via USB, and you program the control information of your appliances using an Internet Browser. McLeod points out that this programming method provides access to a user community-driven database featuring details of 5000 different brands and 175,000 components. He claims that the control information of a further 3000 devices are added each week. Stay tuned for a full review of the Harmony 1000 as soon as we're able to spend some quality lounging time with one.

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