I'm a bit backed up here at Home Theater View, both with posts (they're in my head but haven't quite made their way out of my head and onto the site) and with products to review. Logitech had sent over the Harmony 900 remote control just before it launched, but I first attempted to configure it last night.
The Harmony 900 is essentially an RF version of the IR-only Harmony One. In English, that means that the 900 is a universal remote control that looks nearly identical to another universal remote control in the Harmony line, but instead of just being able to control components line-of-site using infrared (IR), it can also control components that are hidden behind walls/doors/retractable screens using radio frequency (RF) commands that are relayed to the components with little IR blaster pods. The Harmony One lists for $249 (and sells for $182 on amazon) while the Harmony 900 lists for $399 (and sells for $315 on amazon). The added money also gets you a higher resolution touchscreen and a few extra buttons, but the two products look basically the same (a good thing, as I love the Harmony One's button layout), act basically the same (instead of controlling individual devices, the Harmony line is activity-based), and are set up using the same process (using an online database). The Harmony 900's value proposition is pretty simple: most infrared repeater systems cost a lot more than the $150 price delta, and some of them are fairly complicated, while the hallmark of Logitech's Harmony line is simplicity.
As I noted in last year's Holiday Gift Guide, I liked the Harmony One so much that I refused to wait for a review unit and instead simply bought one. I later added the Harmony PlayStation 3 adapter, a $60 add-on that seamlessly integrates the game console into a Harmony system (the PS3 uses Bluetooth, which sounds like a good idea but is completely incompatible with any universal remote control). I also have an infrared repeater system, the Microsmith Hot Link Pro that I am eager to replace with a more elegant and responsive solution (I should note that I can heartily recommend the Hot Link Pro; when all the wires and the receiver eye are placed properly, it works perfectly, and at just $67 on amazon, it is a stone cold bargain). The Harmony 900 should have been perfect.
I have been reviewing remote controls for a long time and have been following the Harmony line since before Intrigue launched it (and well before Logitech bought the company). One of the best things about the product is that setup is done entirely online, the online database grows as users add new devices, and upgrading to a new remote control is a simple matter of telling the online software what you just bought.
Except when it isn't. The first problem I had was that Logitech's site claims that there is no software to download for the Harmony 900. A CD is included in the package, but you always need to download the latest updates anyway, and I had intended to use a netbook to do the setup down in my home theater rather than run back and forth between my office and my home theater. This problem was just an annoyance, but an odd one.
The next problem - and one that only affects people upgrading from earlier Harmony remotes - is that you cannot upgrade from earlier Harmony remotes. Despite the fact that the software is identical and the remotes look nearly identical and they function in nearly identical ways, a new Harmony account is required to use the 900, which meant I needed to go back and log every component in the home theater and re-figure out how they are all connected, which inputs are required, etc. The process is straightforward, but it is a chore I would have gladly done without.
The next problem - and the one that simply stopped me cold - was that much of the work that went into getting the Harmony remote controls working with my components over the years seems to have vanished from Logitech's database. Not only do I need a new account, but apparently I need to re-teach Logitech that the monoprice switcher has more than five inputs, that the TiVo doesn't have a power button, and that I am using Logitech's own accessory to control the PS3. I don't have time to troubleshoot all of this - again - so for now I will continue using the Harmony One/Microsmith combination.
If you are coming to the unit without an existing Harmony account, most of my setup problems won't affect you - you would need to set up your system from scratch anyway. Nonetheless, I'm holding off recommending this product until I have the time and energy to get it working properly.