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Our entertainment-center remotes are like tribbles; they look warm and welcoming at first, but we swear they keep multiplying to the point of overrunning the living room. We spend more time swapping between clickers than actually pressing buttons… so we’ve replaced them all with a single, universal device: Logitech’s Harmony 900. And it does more than just duplicate the original remotes’ controls--it adds new features. We had one significant setup problem, but after we corrected the issue, the Harmony 900 excelled.
Programming the Harmony via your Mac is simple, amounting to answering a series of plain-English questions. When we first plugged it in via USB, however, our Mac identified it as an Ethernet device and asked if we wanted to open the Network Preferences. Huh?
Since the remote had no documentation identifying the procedure--and it just seemed so crazy--we thought it was defective. But after consulting Logitech tech support, we discovered that this is what’s supposed to happen. The remote needs to be set up as an additional Ethernet profile in the Network Preferences. This change can muddle your Network Preferences and certainly was confusing. At press time, Logitech said it’s working on updating the documentation to explain the process more thoroughly.
After first stumbling because the remote lacked enough documentation, the Harmony 900 won us over. It expertly replaces all of your old remotes, adding activity macros and IR compatibility.
It might look like every other remote, but it feels like the future.
After that initial problem, we breezed through the rest of the setup. The software prompts you to enter specific model numbers for your TV, cable box, audio receiver, game systems, and anything else you want to control, then the Harmony 900 adds all of the original remotes’ commands to its profile. We have yet to stump Logitech’s massive database of 225,000 devices, but if you do, you can manually program those commands. Fair enough.
More than just replacing those remotes, though, the Harmony elegantly ties everything together. You’ll set up simple macros to watch TV, play videogames, watch a DVD, or do any other activity by telling it how everything is connected. For example, after we tap the Watch TV button, the remote turns on the TV and A/V receiver, and sets both for their proper input. Most of the remote buttons then command our connected TiVo, but volume commands still go to the receiver. These macros beautifully streamline even the most complicated media setups.
The remote also feels great in your hand. Pick it up, and the motion sensor activates the backlighting. We appreciated how easy it was to figure out how to control important commands by touch since different buttons have unique textures. And we liked how the clear touchscreen augments all of the hard buttons with specialized commands, such as the TiVo’s Thumbs Up or the Xbox 360’s A, B, X, and Y.
Best of all, the Harmony 900 translates between radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) commands, and that means you can control hardware that’s in another room or a closed cabinet. To do this, the Harmony 900 sends an RF command to a small box that you place near your devices. The box then translates this back into the standard IR commands that your original remotes would send. That can feel magic-like, but unfortunately, the remote can’t normally control Bluetooth gear, such as the Wii. At least a $60 adapter makes it work with PlayStation 3, which also uses Bluetooth… but $60? Ouch!
Unfortunately, the RF mode didn’t work at anywhere near Logitech’s estimated 100-foot range, but we had no problem controlling everything in an adjacent room, which was good enough for us. But if you need to adjust music volume from across the house, the Harmony 900 might not work. Its whopper of a price tag ($399!) might also stop you in your tracks. Still, it’s worth it if your household is tech-challenged and needs the help--or if you’re willing to pay through the nose for the coolness of what this remote can pull off.