Somewhat overshadowed by this week’s big TiVo Premiere announcement, one of my other favorite companies had a debut of its own. Logitech in its blog unveiled their new entry level Harmony 600 and 650 model activity-based remote controls.
The 600 ($79.99) and 650 ($99.99), due out in late March, share the same chassis and general configuration as the Harmony 700, with the 650 also sharing the same screen (the 600 gets downgraded to a monochrome display). It seems the only distinguishing factor between the 650 and 700 is that the newer model supports only five unique devices, down from the 700’s six-device support. The 600 looks to be otherwise identical to its 650 cousin, with the previously mentioned difference in display.
One of the main reasons I’ve been such a vocal Logitech Harmony advocate for several years was because the Harmony line offered a powerful consumer-programmable ecosystem and even the entry-level models shared the same core feature set as the more expensive flagship models. While this is still mostly true, Logitech seems to be trying to push advanced users up market by limiting the number of devices the lower-end remotes can control.
The prior entry-level models (the 520, 550, and gaming-oriented 360) were all capable of controlling 10 to 12 devices. Even if they didn’t have flashy color screens or RF capabilities, they could still do the job over IR, even for a complex theater with several sources and automation. I relied on a 550 for several years and only recently upgraded to the 900 (click here to read a review).
The new constraints on the number of devices the entry-level 600 and 650 (and even the 700) puts them squarely in the living-room and bedroom crowd and eliminates them from consideration for dedicated theater users with tons of sources. In a modern living room it’s not all that odd to see a display, A/V receiver, disc player, DVR, and basic automation device like a fireplace or ceiling fan ... at which point you’ve already maxed out the 600 and 650’s capabilities.
I understand the business case for wanting to push buyers up market, but it’s a big shift for Logitech and the Harmony line ... I wonder if they’ll end up alienating the budget-conscious advanced users that have long been their bread-and-butter market.
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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.