Monday, January 23, 2006

Logitech Harmony XBOX 360 Remote

Look at how thin this thing is:


$93 shipped free - $30 MIR (if you also bought a 360) = $63

This remote is very similar to the Harmony 676 so see that review for addition info.

There is also a $50 MIR on the 676 right now (not sure if this works since it says for Tivo users but there doesn't seem to be a Tivo purchase requirement). That takes the price down to around $70 which is an awesome deal.

- Aesthetically more pleasing than the 676. It just looks more modern to me and it matches my XBOX 360. The LCD display (higher resolution, text is sharper) and back light is better too. The draw back here is that there are only 4 custom buttons (2 on each side) vs the 6 on the 676. Buttons are rubber with a few jeweled.
- Button layout is very good but not quite as nice as the 676. You can feel out the location of most buttons. I don't like the VCR button area as much as the 676. You loose a couple of dedicated activity buttons too. All activities are selected through the LCD custom buttons which works fine. Ergonomics are very good and feels nice in your hands. I like how the top half is very thin and light and the bulk of the weight is in your palm (very well balanced). I think I prefer the 676 shape just a tad more but both are very good.
- I think there is a motion sensor in the thing. If you pick up the remote not having used it in a while it automatically lists the activities on the screen and turns on the back light. Freaky but I like it!
- The IR is very strong (point it practically any direction in the room) just like the 676.
- max 12 devices vs 15 devices on the 676.
- takes 4XAAA batteries. Yeah! I hate proprietary batteries.
- The software has gone through a major update (v5.x). Gone is launching IE and separate java windows. Everything is in it's on application window (probably an embedded IE object). They really cleaned up the interface and it's much better than v4.x. It seems they pushed a few of the more obscure options into the menus instead of being buried in a step in a wizard.
- The site is still pretty slow. It still takes a long time to customize the hard buttons and add new custom buttons to the LCD. This is where I wish for a traditional windows application where it would only communicate with the server in batches or something. It still feels like it posts back to the web server on every little click you do.
- The database of IR codes are as strong as ever. It found discrete codes for the inputs on my new Samsung LNR409D TV except for a few of them. But that's ok. It has a very robust Input configuration for each device. You can tell it if you have discrete IR codes, menu selection, or cycle. If you cycle you can tell it things like Switch to PC (VGA) and then hit the toggle input key once. So as long as you have a relative point of reference that you can always get back to (lets say changing channels would always put you back in tv/antenna mode) then you are set. Even if you don't have a point of reference the remote keeps track of the current state of the device and will keep things in sync (this was the case with my receiver which has ONLY toggle and no discrete IR codes). It all works beautifully with the activities and should meet everybody's needs.
- Activities takes away 99% the need to have true macro support but I wish there was a way to program a macro within the context of an activity. (Ok I haven't really found a "need" to do this yet but it would be nice to have the flexibility).
- I still don't like how device changes (within the context of an activity) carry across all activities. An easy work around is if you only need a few commands from another device in your activity you can just learn those commands into your primary device for the activity. For example I learned TV aspect and TV volume down into my XBOX 360 device. Learning IR codes worked flawlessly. The other work around still works by creating two identical devices but give them different names (like TV and TV2) and then assign each device to different activites. But I think that burns a device slot and I'm already using 10 out of 12.

Overall this is a great remote for $63. If you can get the 676 for $70 though I think that might be an even better deal. It comes down to do you want a nicer looking remote with a nicer display vs a more "traditional" looking remote with a trade bit more functionality (15 devices). I still need to check to see if there is a software upgrade for the 676 to bump it up to v5.x.

Highly recommended. You can't go wrong with either remote.

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