In a world where the average Joe owns a TV, DVD player, home theatre and cable TV set top box, there is but one use for that coffee table in the living room: remote control storage, display and, if you’re lucky, retrieval.
Universal world: May the force be with you.
If you also have a Worldspace radio receiver and a second portable DVD player like I do, then the remote control mess quickly elevates itself to crisis levels. Try to route your TV audio through the home theatre—mostly to convince the missus why you bought the home theatre in the first place—then you are pretty much spending the first 15 minutes of your Friends fix desperately rummaging through controllers.
Which is why any self-respecting gadget geek is drawn to one of those shiny, sophisticated universal remotes. You can then lean back in your armchair and control every electronic device in the room with just one single device. It’s like being a Jedi knight of consumer durables.
But good universal remotes are expensive—and bad ones suck, as we shall soon see—thus it gives us great pleasure to say that the Logitech Harmony One is everything a universal remote-controlling light sabre should be. First of all, it looks pretty awesome. And the design is supported by an array of input interfaces: touch buttons, touch screen and backlit regular buttons. But does it control? Is it universal?
A few months ago I brought home a Chinese knock-off universal remote control that came with a booklet with thousands of codes for all types of devices from dozens of brands. Universal remotes, if you’ve never used one, need to be programmed to work with your particular brands and models. So you assign codes to the TV, DVD, cable and other modes based on code tables and the remote knows what mysterious invisible signals to send. After an hour with my codebook, I pointed my remote at the DVD player and pressed the power button.
And my TV switched off as if by magic.
The Harmony One, however, makes programming ridiculously easy by using your computer and an Internet connection to code your piece. Install some software, connect your remote to your PC, log on to the Logitech website and use the simple online interface to program the device. No PhD required! The site is exhaustive and you won’t have trouble finding whatever devices populate your living room.
Wait. I can connect the device to the PC, you ask? Yes, indeed. And you can even upload pictures from your library to change the background to the touch screen. This is one serious electronic device, folks.
The absolute moment of joy when using the device is when you program in an activity—again easily explained via computer tutorial—like, say, “watching a DVD on the TV”. This will switch on the TV, change it into the required channel, switch on the DVD player and then route audio through the home theatre if required. In one single step.
There are, however, two minor issues with Logitech Harmony One. First, it comes with a criminal amount of packaging. The unpacked device left a trail of debris at home. This is both inconvenient and environmentally unfriendly.
And second, the device costs a hefty Rs18,495. Or to put it in geek terms: two PlayStation Personals or half an iPhone. But will a PSP or an iPhone give you that feeling of ultimate world domination?
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