"How did I ever live without this?"4.5 starson by caseyahenry
Pros: Easy to use, easy to program, supports Xbox 360 out-of-the-box
Cons: Some of the usual Harmony buttons are missing, small number pad takes some getting used to, Expensive
Summary: This is not my first Harmony remote. Even though I don't yet have a 360 (I know I'll be getting one sooner or later), I decided to go ahead and upgrade so that I could pass my older Harmony 688 on to a relative who really could use it. As soon as I heard about this remote, I knew I had to have one. As someone who is excited about the Media Center Extender abilities of the new Xbox 360 (because I've been looking for a way to hear my multiple gigabytes of mp3's and wma's through my home theater's sound system), I was thrilled to find out that I'd be able to use a Harmony remote to control the 360.
I really need say only one thing about this remote (or any other Harmony remote, for that matter), and that is that once you've used this device for a week or two, you'll wonder how you ever got along without one. Sure, I've got small gripes about the Harmony 360. Because of the added Xbox 360 compatibility, some of the buttons usually present on other Harmony remotes (such as Sound, Picture, Page Up/Down, and dedicated Activity buttons) have been replaced by the YXAB buttons necessary to emulate the Xbox 360 controller's inputs. Additionally, the number pad feels as if it's been squished into the bottom of the remote; the number buttons are extremely small and very tightly packed together, and I've already inadvertently switched to the wrong channel several times. And then there's the price: $130 initially seems a bit high for a remote. However, I firmly believe--and I don't say this lightly--that this remote is worth every penny of its price tag (even without the $30 rebate for 360 owners). Ultimately, these gripes are very minor drawbacks to one of the best universal remote controllers ever.
The biggest draw of the Harmony remote--and what sets it apart from the other 99% of universal remotes available today--is its simplicity. Whereas other universal remotes have a dizzying array of buttons and modes for individually controlling every component of a home theater system, the Harmony keeps things simple by operating a home theater the way it should be operated: by understanding and executing the activities that the user wishes to experience. When I want to watch DirecTV, for example, I simply press the large Activities button at the top of the Harmony remote, which then displays all of the available activities on the backlit, easy-to-read screen. I then press the button next to the option for "Watch DirecTV," at which time the remote turns on my television and switches to the Video 1 input, turns on my home theater system and switches it to the Video 1 input, and then turns on my DirecTV reciever.
What's even better is that the remote's "Smart State Technology" is cognizant of the power status (on/off) and current input setting (video 1/2/3/etc) of all of my devices, so that I always get to do what I want when I press that Activity button. And even when something isn't quite right (such as having the sound system set to the wrong input, resulting in no audio--which occasionally happens), the remote's Help button guides the user through a step-by-step troubleshooting procedure that even the most technologically impaired can use, by asking questions such as "Is the stereo receiver on?" or "Is the stereo receiver set to the Video 1 input?" As soon as you press the "no" button, the remote then changes the input of the stereo receiver and asks, "Did that fix the problem?" Because of this activity-based functionality and intuitive help system, my wife can operate our fairly complex home theater system like a pro, even though she doesn't have the first clue as to how each component is connected to all of the others. For those of you who have friends and family who are "technologically challenged" (and you know that we all do), this is the perfect gift.
The remote's setup couldn't be any easier, either. Programming the remote is accomplished using Logitech's web-based software and a mini-USB cable (included in the box). You simply input the brand and model number of each of the components you desire to control with the Harmony, and the software automatically configures all of the buttons and settings, in addition to suggesting which "Activities" (such as Watch TV, Play Xbox, Watch a DVD, Listen to CDs, Play Radio, etc) it can setup for you on the remote. After initial setup, the software allows you to add and remove devices, activities, and even individual button functions, so if one feature is working exactly as you'd planned you can manually "teach" the Harmony a specific command from that device's own remote and program it to a specific button. I, for instance, wanted my Harmony's "back" button to jump to the previous channel on my DirecTV receiver, so adding the new command was as simple as pointing my DirecTV remote at my Harmony, telling the web-based software to learn a new command, and then pressing the "back" button on my original DirecTV remote. Voila!
THe design, styling, and fit-and-finish of the Harmony 360 remote are top-notch. Even though I prefer the TiVo-esque design and button layout of my old Harmony 688, the 360 remote is nice; and it's definitely sleeker and sexier-looking than the 688 (or just about any other Harmony remote, for that matter). It also has a nice, solid, and substantial feel to it; it doesn't feel as if it's simply made of flimsy, brittle plastics. Bottom line: if you're home theater setup includes more than just a television and an Xbox 360, then go buy this remote now. If you don't have an Xbox 360 but your home theater has more than one or two components, then go buy this or any other Harmony remote now. Truly, the greatest products and technologies are those that are so successful that we can't imagine how we ever got along without them (the Web, anyone?), and this remote definitely falls into this category.