When Logitech brought out its touchscreen, tablet-style Harmony 1000 in 2007, it was clearly taking a stab at the high-end of the universal-remote-control market. We liked the 1000, but it did have a few kinks. Enter the Harmony 1100, an upgrade to its older brother.
The 1100 is available now for around £350.
The 1100 is about twice the size of a typical smart phone, at 140mm by 18mm by 104mm, but feels pretty light. The screen measures 89mm (3.5 inches) diagonally and features QVGA resolution (320x240 pixels). That's not super-sharp, but, considering you're not watching video on the screen, it looks very good. The brightness is adjustable, and, even at a moderate setting, the screen is easily viewable.
On the surface, the biggest differences between the 1100 and 1000 are that the 1100 is black instead of silver; has a white, instead of blue, backlight for illuminating the buttons in the dark; and the volume and channel buttons have swapped places in response to "customer research".
Logitech has also added small, tactile guides on the side of the screen to make it easier to find the right button. We're not sure what the point of this is, since you're dealing with virtual buttons.
Although the 1100 is a touchscreen remote, you'll find a handful of hard buttons on the device for frequently used functions -- such as moving the channel or volume up and down -- and a five-way navigation pad to get through menus. All of these buttons, including the small 'activities' button just below the screen, are backlit. As with many remotes, the identically sized channel and volume buttons are right next to each other, so we occasionally hit one when we meant to hit the other.
Like some of Logitech's more expensive Harmony models, the 1100 includes a docking station -- the same one that comes with the 1000 -- for charging its removable lithium-ion battery.
The 1100 also has a motion sensor -- when you pick up the remote, it automatically turns on.
We liked the overall design of the 1100, although, if you're used to a wand-style remote, the 1100's tablet style takes a little getting used to. The biggest advantage of using a tablet-style remote is that, when you click on a menu function, such as 'watch TV' or 'watch a DVD', the remote's screen automatically switches to a virtual set of buttons designed to work with that device. However, since you can only fit so many virtual buttons on one screen, you'll be dealing with layers of screens.
In each corner of the display, you'll find an icon that takes you to another set of virtual buttons. For example, to get to the number pad for changing the channels on your cable box, you click on the '123' icon in the lower-left corner. Another icon leads you to a set of buttons that allows you to access content from your digital video recorder.
Logitech has designed the remote to have a maximum of four layers of menus, so users don't get buried in an over-complicated menu tree. All in all, it seems like a good system but, as with any new remote, it will take some getting used to.
With the 1100, Logitech has boosted users' ability to customise commands on every screen. While you can't exactly create your own interface -- you can't upload your own button images, for instance -- you can customise labels and choose from the 90 icons provided by Logitech. Plus, you can add favourite-channel icons.
To customise the look of your screen, you can add your own digital image as a background, but we preferred to stick with one of the several monochrome backgrounds that Logitech offers. You can also add a series of images that will appear in a slide show when your remote goes into a screensaver-style mode.
In most other respects, the 1100 is very similar to the 1000, so much of what we said about that earlier model applies to this one as well. We're still disappointed that Logitech has yet to upgrade the desktop software to allow you to store all your Harmony remotes in one master account and easily clone settings, so you can swap in a new remote without completely having to reprogram it. Logitech does offer some cloning features, but since the 1100 has a totally new operating system, we couldn't just copy over our old settings from the 1000, or any other Harmony remote, to this model.
As with other Harmony remotes, you program the 1100 by connecting it to your Internet-connected Windows PC or Mac via the supplied USB cable, installing the model-specific version of Harmony software, and answering a fairly simple online questionnaire.