Review: Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote

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Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote

Harmony 900 universal remote brings easy programming to audio/video enthusiasts.


Dec. 04, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Harmony One was extremely well received when it was introduced more than a year ago. Its smooth lines, higher-resolution screen and touch-sensitive operation took the popular Harmony line to a new level of sophistication.

The only missing piece was radio-frequency (RF) capability. Enter the new Harmony 900, which fills that need and then some.

Other improvements over the Harmony One are a sharper screen and color themes for quick customization, as well as a row of colored hard buttons for things like DVR thumbs up/down and lighting control.

Comfortable Ergonomics, Easy Setup
The 900 retains the best attributes of the One, namely the comfortable ergonomics, light weight and ease of setup. It’s well built and solid, though it doesn’t have the heft and robust feel of some higher-priced offerings. The gloss black on the top surface is both eye- and fingerprint-catching.

And, thankfully, the 900 retains the One’s deep and wide charging base that securely engages the contacts without slipping.

Online Setup a Breeze
Harmony’s online-based setup is extremely straightforward. After a quick survey about what equipment you have, how it’s connected, and how you use it, the software automatically takes care of 90 percent of your setup in 30 to 45 minutes, even for complex theaters including multiple sources and displays.

You can customize things like IR delays, activity macro ordering, power on/off settings, touchscreen icons and favorite channels. You can also set up complex IR-based home automation.

Unfortunately, the Harmony 900 doesn’t integrate with any home automation systems using its RF capabilities, so IR still has to be part of the mix. This is actually a downgrade from the Harmony 890 and 1000, which can integrate with wireless Z-Wave-based lighting control systems.

Flaws in Daily Use
The 900 works well in day-to-day activities, and the odd misstep is easily rectified by the help function within a couple of button presses.

Daily use also revealed some of the 900’s flaws. The most annoying was the insensitive tilt sensor. There were times when I would go to use the 900 after it powered off, and it would not jump to life until I physically shook it. It was much more responsive when I picked it up from a flat surface.

The touch-sensitive buttons on the edges of the touchscreen were also slightly less responsive than I’d like. And the right page scroll button was particularly finicky.

Streamlined RF Programming
The RF programming process is greatly streamlined. It’s handled on the remote and is as simple as selecting the devices you want controlled by RF, those you want controlled by IR, and then pairing the remote with the transmitter. One “puck” transmitter and two smaller IR blasters are included.

This setup works very well with multiple devices arranged horizontally (like in a TV stand), but is not well-suited for vertical setups and racks with components flush-mounted in front. Logitech says extra transmitters and blasters will be available for purchase soon.

One possible workaround is using the “puck” to output to individual “eye” transmitters used by other systems, though that is not officially supported by Logitech.

As Good as it Gets
All quirks aside, the Harmony 900 is as good as it gets in a universal remote that doesn’t require programming by a custom installer. And the addition of RF brings the updated Harmony One ergonomics to those who like to keep components out of sight. While RF support of home automation is missing, IR automation works well and is probably more in line with those going the Harmony route.


Specs:
- RF capability
- Gloss-black covering
- Deep and wide charging base
- Online guided setup
- Colored, back-lit hard buttons for added functions
- More than 5,000 brands and 225,000 devices supported
- Full-color touchscreen
- Ergonomic design
- Lithium-ion battery, charging station included
- $399

Pros:

  • Retains Harmony One styling
  • High-res screen
  • Adds RF control
  • Easy programming

Cons: