Logitech Harmony 300
Price; easy setup
No screen; limited functionality
Back in April Adam Turner reviewed the Logitech Harmony 900 universal remote control, which costs a cool $899.95. In the interests of balance, we decided to also have a look at the cheapest model in the range – the $59.95 Harmony 300.
It’s a nice-looking, ergonomic remote with 54 programmable buttons.
Setting it up is easy and takes between five and 20 minutes, depending on your home entertainment gear.
You plug the remote into your Mac using the supplied USB cable, then go to the myharmony.com website, create a Harmony account, then download a software package that allows you to continue the browser-based setup.
The next step is to type in the make and model number of all the gear you want your Harmony 300 to control. You can specify four devices; if you want to control more you have to move up the Logitech price scale.
The Harmony 700, for example, controls six, and the One and 900 go up to 15 each.
I added the four most important elements of my home theatre setup – Pioneer plasma, TiVo PVR, Denon universal disc player and Denon receiver. They were assigned to the device buttons TV, Cable/Sat, DVD and VCR/Aux, respectively. (VCR, Logitech? I don’t know anyone who still uses one!)
The TV and disc player controls are straightforward, so they translated easily to the Harmony 300. The TiVo is more complicated, but a little experimenting with the buttons showed which button controlled what, and it became second nature after five minutes. The TiVo remote is one of the best around, though, so it’s hard to beat for ease of use.
The Denon receiver, however, proved to be a bit problematic.
Not many of the buttons appeared to do anything. I could turn it on or off and adjust the volume, but that was it.
Luckily, you can reconnect the remote and go back into the browser setup to assign or reassign functions to the buttons. It’s a simple graphic process in which you drag a command from a menu and drop it onto the button you want to program. If a command isn’t on the list you can use your existing remote to ‘teach’ the Harmony.
There’s no screen to help you on the Harmony 300, and many of the buttons are generic, so you need to remember the assigned functions. For example, I need to remember that Button 1 puts the sound to 5-channel stereo, while Button 2 changes the sound to Dolby PLII Cinema.
There’s just one macro (command string) you can program, and that’s the ‘Watch TV’ button at the top left of the remote. This turns on your selection of devices, plus an input on the receiver if you like.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
Like a bottle of Penfolds wine, you get what you pay for with the Harmony remotes. The 300 has a fraction of the functions of the 900 and isn’t as easy to use, but it’s $840 cheaper. There are eight remotes in the Harmony range, so have a look at them all before you buy.
This review originally appeared in the August issue of Australian Macworld magazine.