Logitech Harmony 700 remote control

If you like watching TV or movies the chances are you've got a couple of boxes under your television. That means a stack of remotes, which no doubt gets annoying. Yes it may give you a sense that you've gone out and spent a good couple of months wages to earn the right to have five, if not more, remotes sitting pretty on the arm of your chair, but let's be honest, it's annoying, and a bit geeky.

In steps the Harmony 700, a mid-range remote control (although it is still £89.99) from Logitech that promises to take the fuss out of all those remotes. At first glance, the Harmony 700 looks like any other remote, except this one can replace up to six different devices.

Rather than you having to spend hours learning the layout of your remote by pressing the buttons simultaneously, the entire process is done via a piece of software for your PC or Mac. You'll need the Internet mind, but we'll get to that bit in a mo.

The physical appearance of the remote is thin, weighty, with good build-quality. It might sound silly, but it's comfortable to hold with a good weight distribution so it's evenly balanced. This is quality stuff and at this price you'd expect it to be.

Powered by a pair of rechargeable Sanyo Eneloops (included) you don't get a charging cradle, but at least you can charge via the USB cable and a power socket that you plug into the wall. Charging can be done overnight and you won't need to do it too often - about once a month claims Logitech.

The remote is segmented into a number of different areas. The top offers shortcut keys, which you can pre-programme with the software. Then there is a large-ish colour LCD display for accessing certain information or selecting the devices you've got setup, before you get to the more traditional elements of a standard remote. That means menu keys, those coloured buttons and plenty more, like PVR controls, a number pad, and channel/volume up and down buttons. 

The buttons themselves, like the chassis, are well made, have great resistance and again are responsive to your push. If you find they aren't, nay bother, you can manually change their responsiveness in the set-up software.

So what about this software? Install it, plug in the remote and away you go. You'll have to create an account with Logitech to get going and this then automatically gives you access to thousands of AV devices listed in the company's database. We had no trouble finding our kit (once we had dived behind the TV to find the model number) and it's simply a case of selecting what you've got and punching in the numbers before telling the software how it's all connected (HDMI, Scart, that sort of thing).

Once that part of the set-up is complete the software then sees what you've entered and goes about offering you shortcuts that would be available. At first we set-up a Samsung TV, a Sky HD box and Denon amp. From that selection it worked out that we would want to have a shortcut button for watching television and listening to the radio.

Adding a DVD player into the mix made the software suggest a shortcut for watching a movie. There are more, and all are based on what kit you have, but helpfully you won't get offered things that you can't do.

But it's not just DVD players or PVRs that you can add. The system also supports games consoles like the PS3 (with an optional dongle) and media centres like Apple TV as well. If your model isn't there you can always teach it anyway.

Beyond the automatic set up you can manually customise the buttons within each device as well as fine tune the responses to delay or speed up reactions. After that, all that is left is to transfer what you've set-up to the remote ready to test.

Unplug the remote from your computer and press the Watch TV shortcut button and you'll be amazed to see all your equipment spring to life. If it doesn't and to be fair ours didn't straight away, you can quickly troubleshoot the set-up via the remote with it asking you questions like "Did your TV turn on?". If it didn't it automatically tries something else, which in our case did make the TV turn on. And yes it then saves that option so you don't have to worry about it again.

Overall our set-up was clean and simple. We did have to manually refine the button presses, but via the software this was very quick and easy. As a precaution, the software does warn you set up will be around 45 minutes. For us it was 33.

Verdict

If you've got plenty of remotes (up to six) and you are starting to get bored of that pile mounting up on your armrest this is a good way of clearing out the clutter. There is no RF support (that's in the Harmony 900) so you'll still need line of sight, however for most that shouldn't be a problem.

It's worth noting that if you've only really got your TV, a Sky box and maybe an amp then this probably is a bit of overkill. Yes it will still work, and yes it will work well, but we would probably recommend jumping on the forums, finding the relevant codes for your kit and then giving your Sky remote the power to control your TV and your amp as well.

If the rechargeable battery or support for that many devices isn’t needed, those on a budget might do to check out the Logitech Harmony 650 that supports 5 devices instead.

Either way, if you are wanting more from your remote and an easy to manage set-up, this is definitely a good way to go.