Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Logitech Harmony Touch remote control
A programmable universal remote with a colour touchscreen
- Comprehensive device support
- Supports 15 devices simultaneously
- Works well (after setup)
- My Harmony software is finicky
- Adjusting activities is complicated
- Limited customisation of device controls
Logitech’s newest remote controls sits comfortably in the middle of its product line-up. The Harmony Touch is more than capable enough for most home theatre setups, but setting it up is more complicated than it needs to be.
Price$ 249.95 (AUD)
The Harmony Touch is a remote control from Logitech’s Harmony line-up. It’s more advanced than the Harmony 700, but less so than the Harmony 900. It’s $20 more expensive than the “only remote you may ever need” Harmony One, with which it shares an almost identical feature-set, but the Harmony Touch is much simpler and abandons most of its physical buttons for the versatility of a 2.4-inch colour touchscreen.
Logitech Harmony Touch: Design and construction
The Harmony Touch is a great-looking remote control. Like so many of Logitech’s accessories, it’s very well designed and built — and what stands out first is the palm-friendly base of the remote, which is contoured to fit your hand comfortably when you’re holding it normally. It’s a small touch, but it helps more than you’d think.
The face of the Harmony Touch is relatively clean — a grand total of 27 physical buttons are used for the remote, all of which have backlighting which turns on automatically when the remote is activated. These buttons are organised around the central 2.4-inch touchscreen, which also has some touch-sensitive buttons above.
The physical buttons cover most basic playback and navigation, although the placement of play/pause/stop and forward/back skip buttons above the touchscreen is an odd choice. If you’re generally sitting down to play a movie and watch it the whole way through, this isn’t a problem, but if you find yourself stopping or starting, or skipping through scenes, the placement stands out.
Interestingly, it’s only possible to activate the remote by pressing a button or tapping the touchscreen. We would have liked to see an accelerometer built in, to wake the remote and turn on the touchscreen whenever there’s significant movement.
There’s a non-removable rechargeable battery built into the body of the Harmony Touch, the remote can be charged using the bundled charging cradle, which has a microUSB connector and runs off a wall-socket power plug. A microUSB cable is also included for connecting the Harmony Touch to your PC or Mac, but you can’t combine the charging cradle and microUSB cable — the remote doesn’t charge or connect if you’ve got it set up this way.
Logitech Harmony Touch: Setup and My Harmony
Button placement and battery charging aside, the stand-out in our experience with the Harmony Touch was setting it up through the Logitech MyHarmony website. MyHarmony is an online portal, although it does require a software install, that lets you configure your Harmony remote control through a Web interface, adjusting settings and then synchronising them to your remote control once you’ve made all the changes you want.
Our initial experiences setting up the Harmony Touch with MyHarmony were mixed. The setup procedure is very simple and organised through a series of steps asking you about your devices and your activities — we successfully set up a Pioneer PDP-LX509A, a Cambridge Audio Azur 351A amplifier, an Oppo BDP-103, and an Xbox 360, then set up activities for playing a game, watching TV, or watching a movie.
Favourites are also a big part of the Harmony Touch’s appeal — they’re shortcuts to take you straight to a digital TV channel. With a grid layout not unlike Apple’s iOS, you’re able to create and name channel shortcuts through MyHarmony, choose their order on the Harmony Touch, and assign a picture for each. Annoyingly, there’s no online database of channel logos on MyHarmony, so you’ve got to jump on Google for each one — we’ll soon put up an archive of the logos we used for Australia’s free-to-air networks to save you a bit of time.
The activities are great, in theory — tap the touchscreen to turn on the TV, change its input, turn on the Blu-ray player, and jump directly to the disc menu, for example — but their basic implementation requires some work. We found that directly after setting up Harmony Touch afresh, operating the Watch A Movie activity after previously selecting Watch TV actually turned the TV off as part of the procedure.
We tracked this down to the remote sending a power toggle command rather than a power on command, expecting the television to be turned off by default. We also found that some buttons weren’t mapped correctly to their corresponding physical counterparts — the Back command worked fine when controlling the Oppo Blu-ray player, but not the Pioneer TV, for example — and the whole process required sitting down with MyHarmony and checking and adjusting configurations and activities where necessary.
After a few more trips to the PC and back to the home theatre setup, we had everything drilled down appropriately, and activities and button presses worked exactly as we were hoping. When it’s set up correctly, the Harmony Touch works exceptionally smoothly and reasonably seamlessly over a range of devices — it just takes some setting up to get to the point of being correct.
Once you’ve got it set up properly, using the Harmony Touch is simple, and it effectively replaces the remote controls of an entire home theatre setup. It works best when used alone, though — if you turn the television off with its own remote control temporarily (we do this sometimes to prevent image retention), selecting a new activity won’t have the intended effect.
Logitech Harmony Touch: Conclusion
The Logitech Harmony Touch is a technically competent, physically impressive, theoretically simple universal remote control. For the average user it should offer a reasonably trouble-free and accurate setup process that acceptably replaces a handful of remote controls.
The touchscreen interface is a smart move, with the biggest advantage over traditional universal controls being a simple and organisable list of less-common commands. The favourites list of TV channels is also a time-saving convenience, especially if you’re spending most of your time watching movies rather than TV.
We did encounter some issues during the setup that required some troubleshooting, but once this procedure was complete we were definitely happy with the experience we had with the Harmony Touch.
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