Harmony 900: The Staid Harmony Line Evolves
Logitech’s Harmony remote controls have been solid performers for the last few years, and consumers have responded by snapping up the devices at retail. From a usability standpoint, in its early days Harmony broke ground by offering one-button launch of activities and a PC-based setup process that did not require the intervention of a custom installer — high end functionality for the masses.
From that auspicious beginning, change has come rather slowly to the Harmony line. The addition of a color touchscreen here, some improved ergonomics in the wand design there… these were all welcome improvements, if a bit incremental.
As of today we can add radio frequency (RF) control to that list of advances. Yes, before now you could achieve RF capability with a Harmony 1100 by purchasing an RF extender for another $100, or you could purchase a Harmony 890. But since its launch the Harmony One has been the icon of the line, and it was purely an infrared (IR) remote. Now the newly announced Harmony 900 — in essence a Harmony One plus RF capability and a couple of included IR blasters — looks set to replace the Harmony One. Or at least it might if it did not cost $150 more.
The reality is that the Harmony 900 isn’t much more than a rebranded Harmony 890. It has the better ergonomics of the Harmony One, but in terms of functionality it doesn’t really offer anything that we didn’t get in the 890… except a higher price tag. Needless to say, we were a little surprised to see all the gadget blogs buzzing with the news this morning.
Don’t get us wrong: the Harmony One is a solid remote, and adding RF capability is a welcome improvement. Logitech may even be underselling the utility of RF in remote controls. Particularly in devices like the Harmony that allow “macros” — one button touch to play back multiple commands in sequence — IR remotes require the user to hold her hand steadily pointed at the equipment until all of those commands are executed properly. We just wonder whether these changes are worth all the fuss, especially considering the new $400 price point.