We liked yesteryear's Logitech Harmony One but it wasn't without its flaws. Logitech has raised its game with the Harmony 900 universal remote control. It's available for around £350.
The remote looks almost identical to the Harmony One, except for some small but notable improvements. For starters, Logitech has increased the sharpness of the screen. This isn't a huge deal, but it gives the interface a cleaner look. You can now choose between four colour 'themes' that put a new skin on the interface, although it doesn't look radically different from theme to theme. We assume additional themes will become available for download.
Logitech has also added a row of buttons in the middle of the remote that correspond to the red, blue, green and yellow tabs you'll find on Blu-ray player remotes for controlling interactivity options during playback of Blu-ray discs. These buttons are also useful for mapping to various confirmation buttons that appear on DVRs and cable/satellite boxes.
The other change is the addition of radio frequency, and its implementation. With previous Harmony RF models, you had to set up the remote and RF separately by connecting both the remote and RF module to your computer via the USB port. Every time you updated the remote, you had to update the RF module -- a major pain if you had an intricate set-up and had to take the RF module out of a cabinet or closet.
With the Harmony 900, Logitech's gone to a whole new RF system and has greatly simplified the set-up and update processes. You no longer have to connect the RF module to your computer. You can just leave it in your rack or cabinet and choose which components you want to control via infrared (which requires line of sight) or RF from the remote itself in a special RF set-up menu.
The small RF module is powered by an AC adaptor (it's a duplicate of the adaptor that charges the remote) and is designed to be tucked into the back of your cabinet, behind your components. You then plug two mini IR blasters into the back of the RF module (there are A and B ports) and place the blasters just in front of your components. If your components are in a cabinet with shelves, you can stick one blaster on a left shelf and one on a right shelf. The IR signals reflect off surfaces, so the two IR blasters should cover all your components, except perhaps your TV, which is always within your line of sight anyway. If two blasters don't cut it for your set-up, you can buy additional RF modules and blasters.
The system we tested the RF with wasn't in a closed cabinet, and the TV sat on top of the horizontal component rack. We decided to let IR control the TV and RF control the rest of the components. Because we had one IR adaptor on a lower shelf next to the AV receiver, we were worried that it wouldn't be able to control the cable box on a higher shelf. But it turned out we had no problems controlling all our components, even though the system was in an open rack with three levels and included seven components, not including the TV.