Viewing Review: A simplified, extremely powerful remote - AVS Forum
A simplified, extremely powerful remote Edit
by scottsh Combined Rating: 4.5
I purchased the Logitech Harmony Smart Control to replace an aging Harmony 1100. The previous 2 remotes I had were a Philips Pronto Pro and a Pronto, so I have become accustomed to a macro-capable...
Pros Cons
  • Easy to use, use from phone/table as well as included remote
  • Included remote does not do IR itself
I purchased the Logitech Harmony Smart Control to replace an aging Harmony 1100. The previous 2 remotes I had were a Philips Pronto Pro and a Pronto, so I have become accustomed to a macro-capable remote with a high degree of customization. However, I've also learned that I need some hard buttons as the initial Pronto was too spartan. Relying on just the touch screen is not as easy to use as I want. After looking hard at the Harmony Ultimate I decided on the lower end model because it seemed to offer all the control and features we need in a simple package.

Setup
Initial installation was a breeze. I plugged the unit into my USB port on my PC, and from there went to the myHarmony web site. It handled everything very cleanly and most importantly it copied all of my settings from my 1100. I will note that I had initially tried to setup the unit from my iPad however using that app I wasn't able to copy the 1100 settings over. By switching to the PC browser it all went very smoothly.

I appreciate that this experience isn't what most will have, especially if you come to it fresh. From what I can see it is pretty simple, but I can't comment on how hard or easy it is in that case. The Smart Control has all of the Harmony features I have come to expect, including the ability to create customized macros and control all the devices I have from my Tivo, to my decades old Marantz pre-amp, to my Playstation.

While doing the installation, I learned a few things I didn't like. First, the handheld remote does not transmit any IR signals like the 1100 did. It only connects via RF to the base station. While all of my components are behind a closed cabinet and controlled with IR blasters, I was taking advantage of the 1100s capability hear to control my main TV monitors on/off and input settings. Without this, I had to drag an IR blaster out into the room so it could control the TV. I was able to do this without too much trouble, but I can appreciate that others will find this a deal breaker. It looks like the Ultimate has this feature, so if you need it you might look there instead. When setting up this additional IR blaster, I then ran into the second problem. The IR blaster port on the back of the base unit is a 2.5mm mono plug. The IR blasters I have from multiple other solutions (including the 1100!) are all 3.5mm. It was annoying to have to get an adapter for this (even if it was just $10 at Radio Shack.)

With these problem solved, the last thing I did was set it up to be able to control my PS3. I has some trepidation about this use because I had given up on the 1100 doing it historically. The 1100 was so slow at it that we always found ourselves reaching for the PS3 controller instead. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Smart Control has no such issue - the response is snappy and does almost everything we need it to do.

Which brings me to the last, and most impressive aspect of the Smart Control. When my daughter needed to use the triangle button from the PS3 remote, I was able to whip out my iPhone, start the Harmony app, find out the key was unbound, and easily add it. In real time! No need to take the remote to a PC and reconfigure it there, then bring it back to test, etc. I've done this a couple of times now to fix something (like add a 'back 15s' for Tivo) and the convenience is too cool. Sometimes technology really does make things better.

Use
So far the day-to-day use has been great. The Smart Control is faster than the 1100 at all controls. The included battery in the control failed within a few hours, but a new CR2032 solved that problem. I'm hoping we get a decent life from the new battery. It will beat having to remember to put the 1100 on a charger to.

There isn't a color touch screen with your favorite channels on it. As my family never used this feature, I don't miss it, but some might. You also don't get to customize the icon on the remote for an activity. There are three activity hard buttons: Music, TV, and Movie. Given how prevalent game systems are I'm surprised to see there isn't a default icon for a game controller activity on the remote. But, maybe the Xbox One approach will take off and we'll see a mostly integrated TV/Game/Movie systems in the future anyway.

Summary
I am very happy with the simplified yet powerful capability of the Smart Control. If you have a family that has always been daunted by your 'one remote to rule them all' approach I think you'll find the Smart Control to be an intuitive solution.
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