By Alexandra Burlacu | Oct 04, 2012 11:09 AM EDT
Logitech has announced the launch of the Harmony Touch, its latest universal remote control, which features a 2.4-inch touchscreen and sports a range of new features, including custom channel icons.
In a technology environment full of touchscreen smartphones and tablets, universal remotes are among the last devices still packing a full suite of traditional hard buttons.
Logitech, however, aims to bridge the gap between old-fashioned remotes covered in buttons and the new wave of touchscreen devices by offering its Logitech Harmony Touch as a mid-way alternative.
Logitech's newest high-end remote packs a 2.4-inch color touchscreen with fewer buttons than on most previous Harmony remotes, though still considerably more than most smartphones and tablets. The $250 gadget sports the same Web-based programming and activity-based controls such as "Watch TV," but this time the focus is on the touchscreen, which takes up about a third of the remote's length.
The touchscreen will allow users to select activities and devices, as well as to access functions that lack a dedicated button on the remote. Users can also program the touchscreen to respond to customized gestures, such as swiping vertically to control volume.
One of the most useful functions of the touchscreen is the ability to directly select channels via icons instead of having to check the DVR's onscreen guide. Users can add up to 50 channels to their favorites. Clicking the Favorite star on the remote will display a list of those favorite channels, and allow users to add, edit, and reorder their list on the remote.
Meanwhile, a feature exclusive to the Touch is the ability to tweak the remote's setup without using a computer. With current Harmony remotes, making minor changes can be quite annoying, especially with the sluggish MyHarmony Web site. The new Harmony Touch allows users to edit activities, change button mapping, and change delay speeds more easily, but other tasks such as adding a new device will still require syncing with a computer.
Other features include a built-in rechargeable battery, as well as a charging cradle. According to a Logitech representative, the remote's battery will last for roughly one week on a charge for light TV watchers, while heavy users will have to charge it once every two or three days. The relatively low battery life is likely tied to the power-sapping touchscreen.
The new Harmony Touch remote also brings a number of other changes compared to previous iterations in the line. Heavily used buttons such as Play, Pause, and Fast Forward are now located to the very top of the remote instead of in the center, while the 3-second skip and "jumpback" buttons are no longer featured.
The Harmony Touch seems to be the centerpiece of an advanced Harmony line, aiming to enhance user experience with a smarter remote control. On the other hand, many consumers may find the loss of ergonomics, the limited battery life and the extra cost are not worth it.
While Logitech's new Harmony Touch can support over 225,000 devices and control up to 15 at a time, a $250 price tag is definitely not for every budget, especially since full-fledged tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD cost just $200. Would you spend $250 on a universal remote?
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