back to article Logitech launches MEGA-PRICEY 15-in-1 remote

Swiss mouse master Logitech will whip out a pair of new Harmony “universal” remote controls this month, extending the range to take in home automation kit as well as your home entertainment rig. First, the Harmony Ultimate, the latest in Logitech’s line of programmable controllers. This one can control up to 15 devices and has a …

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FAIL

Who are they kidding?

A remote control for the price of a small TV.

Or perhaps you can save money by watching TV programmes on the remote control's screen?

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Re: Who are they kidding?

For the price of a *large* TV. I bought a 32" own-brand from Sainsburys at Xmas (for the kids to XBox on) with my Nectar points for substantially less than that!

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FAIL

Re: Who are they kidding?

"A remote control for the price of a small TV."

Absolutely. So there you are, needing an advanced remote control, and you see this. "Ridiculous", you say,"I'm not paying that to control my £10,000 home cinema setup - not when I can spend the money on a small TV".

One small TV later....

"Bugger. I now need a remote control for my £10,110 home cinema setup which now has an extra, redundant, small TV and an extra remote control."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who are they kidding?

Anyone who paid £10K for a home cinema setup is ether very well off, /had/ more money than sense, or now has a load of extra debt they can ill afford.

Anyhow, better to have an Android tablet with IR and use Apps to do this; then you have one less piece of expensive junk to clutter the place up.

I like Logitech products; however all their input devices have a limited life span and that price is a bit rich!

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Re: Who are they kidding?

Alternately, you spend entirely too much on an Harmony for your huge home cinema setup, and all your friends point and laugh while you try to get the durn thing to behave, finally in frustration going back to the native remotes to get anything done.

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Headmaster

@mdava Re: Who are they kidding?

Have a downvote, purely for the use of "Xbox" as a verb. "for the kids to Xbox on"...?! Seriously? Do people speak like that or are such abominations constrained to text-based exchanges? Ye gods...

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Re: @mdava Who are they kidding?

I've bought my Dad several all-in-one remotes over the years and they all fail in one way or the other. The most recent one doesn't contain and is unable to learn his Virgin Media STB's Info button, which is pretty essential! It's also too fiddly as it has a single line LCD at the top showing which device it's controlling, which is annoying to have to check. I think dedicated buttons with the current active device's one permanently lit would be better. Perhaps it's easy to tell which device is active with the Logitech's big screen but it's way to expensive for me to even consider.

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They'll need to crack on with making more products like the hub that can be controlled through your smartphone before smartphones finish the job of making remotes (near) obsolete. Get a look at this £200 remote if you can, because it and it's ilk are poised to be a thing of the past.

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The last hurrah / money grab

Logitech probably aren't going to making any more, as they are current looking to sell the remote business off http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/23/logitech-q3-earnings-selling-harmony-remotes/

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Well if they would hurry up and do away with IR as the communications channel then remotes could go away, or at least be more useful.

I have various Logitech remotes including the expensive ones with the fancy touch screen. Where they all fall down is that IR is a one way and not entirely reliable communications medium. The remote has no way of knowing the current state of the devices it's attempting to control. So it operates assuming the device was in the last known state and that any command sent is successful. The result is that it's often out of sync with reality.

By using bluetooth or some other bi-directional RF communications the remote could query the device to determine it's current state as well as get positive acknowledgment that the commands succeeded.

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Looks identical to the Harmony Touch, with the addition of RF

Have a Harmony Touch in our office so we can program all the odd projectors, TVs, and other bits of kit on it so if someone loses the remote, we have a "backup".

Useful.

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WTF?

Really?

"but it also has Bluetooth connectivity to turn on games consoles"

So you can then pick up the games console controller which also has the functionality to turn on the games console? What exactly is the point of this device and which moron is it aimed at?

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Happy

"which moron is it aimed at"

A rich one.

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Re: Really?

I think the idea is if you use your games console as a bluray or other media player then you can control it with the same remote you use to watch the TV.

Of course this particular remote is expensive but the logitech remotes in general are very good, mine cost about £35 and does a great job controlling TV, media centre, surround amp, squeezebox etc.

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Re: Really?

Thankfully, the Harmony line is very broad and has a huge range of remotes ranging from very basic ones for three devices on up. I personally own a couple of four-function ones. The one on display here is likely just their new top-end. I've also seen the Harmony Hub and gave it a pass as overkill for my needs.

My only beef is the need to register and connect to program the remote, but then again, this is what keeps their control database updated so easily (a common beef with universals as new devices come in).

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Can it at least be set up by browser or do I need to install some crappy software on some computer?

There may be a market for a remote control in that price range, but if you try to make one, please at least try to do it right.

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logitech encourage you to install the crappy software but you can program the remote via the web site.

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Crappy software is better than the browser version

I have a logitech remote and use the crappy software because it can do more than the web UI (last time I used it) - e.g. rename the macro functions to "Play Wii" rahter than whatever model number it used for the setting.

Its all violently annoying to setup but once you are there it is really useful

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Re: Crappy software is better than the browser version

> Its all violently annoying to setup but once you are there it is really useful

This is part of the problem I have with the entire concept. It appears to be made for people who don't want to have to fiddle with a complicated A/V setup, but on the other hand, the device itself takes a fair amount of fiddling over a significant amount of time by a knowledgeable individual in order to do its job. It seems to be more for bragging rights than for actual use.

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Meh

Re: Crappy software is better than the browser version

This is part of the problem I have with the entire concept.

I agree with part of what you say. The software does feel a bit noddy and doesn't feel like it gives much control. However in my experience and the couple of friends who also have one set up took about an hour and then it just works. You just add your devices then follow the prompts for suggested activities and your're mostly done. I think all I had to do was adjust a delay for my TV because it doesn't respond to commands until it's finished booting.

They are expensive and the quality control is dodgy (some people get a duff model) but they do what they claim and they seem to do it very well. I've never known any other universal remote that had all the keys needed and that felt right in my hand. Unfortunately I doubt that applies to this new model.

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Anonymous Coward

Concordance....

I really wish Logitech would work with the Concordance guys to provide the needed drivers so that I could program my Logitech Harmony with my Linux machine.

The bulk of the programming interface is via a web site on Logitech - all the driver does is allow the remote to be accessed by the web site (as I understand it, all the driver does for the Harmony One is make a USB network connection - the actual programming is then done by the web site doing requests to the remote over that connection). The Concordance guys have most of the work done, but Logitech won't give them that last couple of bits of information they need to provide the driver.

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Re: Concordance....

my understanding was that this was possible. I seem to remember a cli utility that allowed you to push the downloaded settings file onto the remote. The remote itself is just a standard hid device. However this is going back a while and everything may well have changed since then.

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Re: Concordance....

I have a Harmony One and this is my #1 complaint too. Their UI is terrible, and as a bonus I have to give Bill Gates even more money in order to program it.

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Re: Concordance....

Concordance works fine for me, at least with my Harmony 515 (bought for less than £20). The Ubuntu package creates a file association in the web browser so that's even set up for you. Unfortunately, though, the otherwise-impressive web wizard cannot be programmed to cope with modifications to make everything power up and down from the mains switch on the TV.

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Unhappy

I tried to go the one-control-to-rule-them-all route and had about as much success as Sauron. It was a mid-range Philips RC, for about 50 bucks. The problem was this: it only recognized a certain set of devices for its built-in support, and the memory for the learning mode was insufficient.

I have a collection of devices spanning a great age range. The radio receiver + amp, with 6 channel inputs, is a name brand, but over 20 years old. It cost a lot at the time and is still going strong, so no reason to replace it. The large plasma screen TV is an off-brand, pre-production model, about 5 years old. It doesn't even have a name and model number. Then there are a couple of DVD and Blue-Ray players. The programmable RC had in its built-in catalog similar stereo amps from the same manufacturer, but not the exact model. Sadly, the differences were just enough to make using the wrong model unsatisfactory.

So I had to use the learning mode for everything: point the old RC at the new one, press a button, and map that to a button on the programmable RC. Repeat for every device. After about 80 buttons, the new wonder RC ran out of memory, leaving me unable to control everything.

Memory is cheap, but when manufacturers are trying to save pennies, this is what happens.

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I had the same problem...

Bought a Phillips RC that wasn't good enough (limited set of supported devices out of the box and not enough memory for new commands). Then I bought a Logitech, but operation was weird, it was based not on devices but on activities (switch -on or off- everything you need for TV or music or watching DVDs, not very friendly if you're watching TV and decide to watch a DVD or want to put on some music while the TV is muted...)

Finally a friend recommended I buy a cheap One-for-all command. Got the 6-in-1 for 30€ and it controls all 6 different brand devices I have without a hitch, and even lets me program 3 combo modes (that I defined as TV+DVD+Amp, CD+Radio+Amp and STB+TV).

Won't replace it for a while!

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Silver badge

"I tried to go the one-control-to-rule-them-all route and had about as much success as Sauron. It was a mid-range Philips RC, for about 50 bucks."

The brand name is the clue you need. They used to be good at light bulbs, but everything else ends up with "limitations" (and it's usually 3-5x the price of comparable kit)

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Phillips

...do make good electric toothbrushes and groomers, too. And their top end TVs are both stylish and great displays...for, as you put it, 3 - 5x the price of others. Own the toothbrush and shaver, would never touch the TV or electronics...

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Pint

Product Selection Fail

1 remote to rule them all is possible. I've had a Logitech Harmony for the past 4+ years. For a while it wasn't a complete solution as I still needed to keep a PS3 blu-ray remote handy. I eventually added the Logitech PS3 "Eye" and now we really do have 1 remote that does everything.

Rather than trying to keep all device codes on the remote memory which you then select by identifying the required device, Logitech keep all their codes online - you configure your device on their web site and it downloads just the codes needed. No issues with memory on it, and the "Activity Based" approach works brilliantly. But it wasn't cheap. All up, it cost around NZ$300 - or about 150 of your UK pounds.

Universal Remote controls that work aren't cheap. But when consumers try to save pennies by buying cheap remotes .... ;)

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Harmony One

I have long used a harmony One to control my media - a TV, Projector, Receiver, HD Recorder, Cable Box, Media Player and HTPC with excellent results.

I have worked by way through many, many remotes until finding the Harmony brand which succeeds where others fail, in my experience, because it's the only brand who's remotes are context sensitive.

By which I mean the function of buttons changes according to what you're doing.

Once the remote is configured - and this is Logitechs biggest weakness - it is magic. However configuring them involves software that is extremely awkward to use. It is aimed at helping the clueless as much as possible and fails to be easy enough why frustrating more clueful people at the same time.

If one spends a lot of time learning one can configure their Harmony Remotes with extreme precision, but it requires dedication.

People are right to be frustrated at the state of IR control. In this day and age we ought be seeing a standardised RF protocol for remote control that reports state to controllers.

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These do have advantages

Whilst the new one is too expensive, my One is great. It cost about £110 plus a bluetooth adapter for the ps3 on ebay. Now, when I want to watch a movie, one button press and the tv comes on, the av kit comes on, the ps3 comes on and all are set to the right inputs and working. Even the missus loves it now as there is no digging around for the right remote, no faffing about remembering which input the ps3 is on and which is the sky+.

The amount of devices it knows is brilliant, updated frequently and if it isn't listed then you can just program it in.

And you can even change channel whilst on the phone, something that if using an app on your phone would be much more difficult.

I still think the new one is too expensive though, it looks like the One with inbuilt bluetooth, with less real buttons, something that costs £170 currently (One remote and ps3 adapter for bluetooth).

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Anonymous Coward

Too Expensive!

These remotes are just getting too expensive but at least I'm glad to see that it got less buttons and but has got physical coloured buttons rather than touch screen coloured buttons. Be interested to see if the cheaper model is actually the better of the two as is usually the case with Harmony remotes.

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Stop

The Harmony One

Was their best remote. Reasonably priced at £120 when I bought one two-three years ago and still going strong.

Since then their remote business has been in decline, with Logitech cutting back on the software (the web client is rubbish compared to the native client, which itself isn't brilliant but usable and gives you access to all the features, unlike the web client...). And charging stupidly high prices - no wonder their business is dying on it's arse.

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Unhappy

Re: The Harmony One

I had to replace my original One after several years because my budgie crapped on it and the 'P' key became unreliable. My new remote is a One+ and it was barely worth the change. It has an annoying sleep feature that means it sometimes ignores key presses unless you hold them down or have woken the remote first. Despite that it goes through battery charges too fast. My One used to last a week on a single charge but this One+ barely lasts three days. I'm thinking of giving up and just putting it back on its cradle every night.

Oh and the web UI results in the colour buttons not having their coloured icons - only the text. Luckily the Windows software still works with it otherwise I'd have sent it back.

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The price is not right

I picked up a Harmony 555 for £40 three years ago which also can control up to 15 devices but has a monochrome soft-key screen so much easer on the batteries. Wouldn't be without it although it took a while and some patience to set it up way I want it.

I agree that the web interface is clunky compared to the much slicker local app but some things seem to be only doable using the former.

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Re: The price is not right

Have an upvote- still use my 555 - four years and going strong (though I paid £45 for it) .

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Happy Harmony One owner here

I bought the Harmony one about 4 years ago and it languished in a drawer for a year because I couldn't get the software configured correctly. It's one of the worst apps I've ever seen (and I owned an HTC phone!)

After the warranty ran out I gave it another shot, and with the help of some guys on the Harmony forum, I finally got the hang of it. Now it's the only remote we use in the lounge for our modest setup (TV, XBox, Amp, Virgin V+, Sky+, media centre PC). I've had to simplify it as much as possible for my non-techie wife, but she sometimes struggles when the TV input mode gets out of sync. I blame Samsung for that as much as Logitech.

The new remote looks nice but it's vastly overpriced. These added functions should not cost much more than a Harmony One. How much does a Bluetooth chip add to the cost?

Logitech are feeling the pinch in the PC hardware downturn, but just overpricing their kit is a short-term measure and won't prevent them bleeding cash & customers in the next few years.

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Re: Happy Harmony One owner here

You're splurging on Sky+ AND V+ and are complaining about things being overpriced?

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Re: Happy Harmony One owner here

The Sky+ box doesn't have a subscription, it's picking up FreeviewFromSky and piping it to the bedrooms.

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Logitech GUI and drivers

I've had several mice from these guys. The driver software GUI has been consistently underwhelming and stupidly restrictive. Buttons can open apps but not run scripts, for example. I don't think they 'get' How to design configurable software for power users at all. I wouldn't dream of spending that kind of money on their products.

Now, if they reached out a bit to the hacker community, provided an sdk, let the Linux guys play, hooked up to script runtime middleware etc., it would be a different story. But they won't, because of their unfathomable but precious strategy.

This device is overpriced and underpowered, and soon to be obsolete. Why bother?

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Enh.

I paid $250 (US) for an early Harmony, and after five weeks it became shelfware. It my communicate with a gazillion devices, but my receiver was not one of them. It was verrrryryyyyyyy slloooowww to do anything, and often did the wrong thing.

I think these remotes work best in households with one alpha geek and one luddite. The alpha geek is necessary to debug and program the durn thing. The luddite must have an unreasoning fear of A/V systems with more than one component. The geek is forever tweaking the Harmony to find some combination of settings that will make the luddite comfortable with turning the TV on and finding something to watch.

Finally, the geek gives up, the Harmony collects dust, and the family goes back to the original remotes. (Try an armchair remote cozy. It at least keeps them all together.)

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Meh

Been done before

I bought something like this 10(?) years ago. To programe it you shone your existing remote into it while pressing the buttons on both devices that you wanted replicated. There was a button to cycle it through working for several different devices.

It didn't work.

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ssu

Worth while for people with complex setups.

For anyone with a home cinema system these remotes are brilliant as they automate a lot of tasks for you without having to use multiple remotes. Mine controls Sky+, DVD, PS3 and 360 etc and changes the TV input, amplifier input, amplifier settings, HDMI switch input etc. If you just have a TV and a PVR then living with two remotes is fine.

I have a Harmony One and find the software is fairly easy to use - you tell it what you have and then it suggests some 'Activities' such as 'Watch TV' and then it automatically does a basic setup. It took me less than 30 minutes to get 9 devices setup.

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Wii

One project I've been meaning to look into for a while is rigging up a Wiimote to control the mouse pointer on a computer. For the past few years I've had various HTPC machines plugged into my TV and the remote has been the one thing I've wanted to get sorted. At the moment I have Keysonic RF keyboard/trackpad device which works ok. But really for moving a mouse pointer around and simulating left/right clicks, up/down/left/right enter and escape keyboard buttons the Wiimote could be perfect. I'm a bit fed up of battling with flaky joystick/HID support in programs or trying to use HID re-mapping software which stopped development in 2001.

So if someone can make or find me a wiimote-like device with proper drivers and utils for mapping and works cross platform then that would be super.

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Re: Wii

This is actually remarkably easy. It's a little fiddly to pair the WiiMote with the PC, depending on the manufacturer of your bluetooth chip and your OS, but it does work. I forget the name of the software involved, but it's perfectly possible to make the WiiMote emulate a mouse and remap the buttons to various keys/functions; pairing it to the PC doesn't involve any extra software at all, though it is pretty useless unless you can map it to functions...

Though you do need to use the "sensor" bar in order to achieve this. This is all from several-year-old memory, but the info is quite easy to find with everyone's favourite data-snaffling search engine. IIRC, the "sensor" bar doesn't actually have sensors but has IR sources for receivers in the WiiMote. The cables only have two pins - ground and +5v - so pickup a sacrificial one on the cheap, find the pinout on the web somewhere and hack a suitable power source together (if you're using it with an HTPC, don't forget about those handy-dandy Molex plugs with both +12v and +5v...). I've read reports of people using lit candles to simulate these IR sources, but YMMV - I'm not about to stick lit candles anywhere near my PC or TV to test that...

Alternatively just leave your sensor bar plugged into the Wii and have it on standby all the time - IIRC the sensor bar still gets power when the console is in standby.

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Paris Hilton

So last decade

I used to use one of the Philips Pronto universal touchscreen remotes; it took a lot of effort to set up, but worked like a dream for a long time. It's now dead (I blame the kids) and I can't justify replacing it: modern AV amps take a lot of the hassle out of switching AV inputs, SKY+ remotes can be setup so that the volume buttons control the amp, etc.

Phone/tablet WiFi control isn't quite there yet, but soon the Harmony et al will seem like overpriced anachronisms. I'll struggle on with a two-remote setup until then.

Paris; because it's springtime.

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FAIL

Re: So last decade

Phone/tablet as a replacement for a remote control with hard buttons? Are you out of your mind?

Although the touchscreen on a Harmony One is handy for seldom used functions, no touchscreen will ever replace hard buttons that can be found and pressed in the dark, or without looking. Fumbling around with an entirely touchscreen remote is never gonna work.

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Facepalm

Re: So last decade

Yes, that's why touchscreen smartphones never caught on.

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Facepalm

Re: So last decade

Yes, that's why touchscreen smartphones never caught on.

A touchscreen smartphone is a very different use case to a TV remote control.

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Flame

Re: So last decade

Phones are a different use case from remote controls? Thanks for the insight.

You (deliberately?) miss the point: you can use a phone in the dark, but as soon as it's controlling an AV amp's volume only physical buttons will do?

I wasn't making a point to say that phone/tablet apps are innately superior to harmony et al, but I do think that WiFi control has a lot of advantages over one-way IR/RF.

Feel free to disagree. Downvote again and go buy some Logitech shares, we'll see if they're still in the remote control business in a few years.

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