Today I want to share my thoughts about the Logitech Harmony 1100 universal remote control. For the last 3 years, I have been using the Harmony 900 from Logitech which has been a great remote until recently. For some reason, the 900 has gotten to a point where it doesn’t respond like it used to. Plus, the touch screen on the 900 has started turning completely white making it useless until I remove the battery & reinsert it and wait for the remote to restart. Because of the issues I was having with my 900, I felt like it was time to upgrade to the 1100. So, my loving fiancee bought me the 1100 for Christmas which I have used for the past week and am now ready to review it.
Differences between the 900 and 1100
To begin with, both the 900 and the 1100 include touch screens. However, where the 900 is a typical candybar shaped remote like most universal remote controls that include buttons for changing channels and other functionality, the 1100 is a rectangular shaped remote that does not have physical buttons for typing in channel numbers and other functionality. Instead, the majority of the remote’s functionality is available only from the touch screen. If the screen on the 1100 ever starts turning white like my 900 did, the remote will pretty much be useless and need to be replaced also. At least with the 900, I can still type in the numbers for the channels I want to watch. Aside from having buttons for channel numbers, the 900 also includes physical buttons for accessing the guide & menu for my satellite receiver and DVR as well as physical buttons for pausing, playing, stopping, recording, fastforwarding, and rewinding TV and movies.
Another big difference between the 900 and the 1100 is that the 900 included IR blasters which allows me to control my entertainment system even if it’s enclosed in an entertainment console that has the doors closed. This is a very nice feature which allows you to place your components out of sight but still control them with the same remote. Where most universal remotes only work over IR (infrared) requiring unblocked line-of-sight for your components, the Logitech Harmony 900 and 1100 also support RF (radio frequency) which communicates with a small device that sits inside your entertainment console and transmits signals received from the RF remote to IR blasters which relay the commands to your components. By using RF to IR, you don’t have to have direct line-of-sight in order for you to use your Harmony remotes with your entertainment system. However, as mentioned, the 900 includes the IR extender where the 1100 does not. At a price of $400 (currently $355.00 on Amazon), the 1100 should include the IR extender. Instead, after spending the initial $400 for the remote, you are stuck having to pay an additional $130 (currently $115.00 on Amazon) for the IR extender if you plan on using your Harmony remote with components that are not in direct line-of-sight of your remote.
Like the 900, before you can use the remote, the 1100 requires you to connect it to your computer via the included USB cable at which point you have to install the setup software from Logitech and register for a free account with Logitech. After you have done that, you can use the setup software to add your devices to your remote. If you do not have a computer or do not have internet access, do not buy this remote or the 900 as you will not be able to use them since you won’t be able to add your devices to them. Once you do have your devices added though, you can setup “activities” which allow you to send multiple commands with the push of a single button. For example, if I want to watch satellite TV, I can push the “Watch TV” activity button which will turn on my TV, set it to the correct input, turn on my surround sound system, set it to its correct input, turn on my satellite receiver, and turn off any other devices I’m not using at the time such as my bluray player and Xbox 360.
The reason you are required to create an account with Logitech is because they keep their device list up to date. When new devices become available, they add support for them on their website which become available in the setup software allowing you to add those new devices to your Harmony remote. Another reason you are required to create an account is because Logitech stores your remote, devices, and activities information on their servers. If something ever happens to your computer and you lose the setup software, you can download & install it again at which point you can resetup your Harmony remote without having to reenter all of your devices & activities. Even though most people would think this is a nice feature, I found it extremely annoying. I would rather have the ability to use my remote without being forced to register with a website. To make things worse, you cannot add multiple remotes to your account. If I decide to use my 900 on another TV in my house, Logitech requires me to create a separate account for each remote I own. This is complete bullshit and makes me hate Logitech. If I’m already being forced to create an account with them before I can use my remote, I would at least like to have the ability to register multiple remotes with the same account. I guess this is Logitech’s attempt at getting a larger user count.
One thing that the 1100 does that the 900 does not is it allows you to register your favorite TV channels on the remote which are available from the touch screen. Whereas the 900 requires me to navigate to my channel of choice thru the Guide or by typing in the channel numbers directly, I can go to my “Favorites” on the 1100 and jump to the channels I want by tapping the channel in my favorites list. I can even register the channel logos with the favorites’ buttons so that I can easily know which channel is which by simply looking at the icons and not having to remember which channel numbers belong to which channels.
Another cool thing that the 1100 does is that it can also control X10 devices. Since I have recently been overhauling my house for complete home automation and I’m using X10 for some of it, having the ability to control X10 devices from my remote control was one of the biggest reasons I chose to go with the Harmony 1100. I haven’t had a chance to set it up yet, but when I do, I will post an article showing all the steps that were involved to make it happen.
Aside from the cons that I have already mentioned, there are a few other things I don’t like about the 1100. With the 900, it didn’t really matter how fast I pushed the buttons. The commands were transmitted immediately to my devices with no delay. With the 1100, there is a slight pause between every command that gets transmitted which I have found to be extremely annoying. For example, when I’m flipping thru the Guide on my satellite, if I press the up or down arrow several times, I have to wait (~0.5 seconds) between every button push. At times, some commands either aren’t transmitted or don’t get picked up by my devices. When that happens, I have to wait on the remote to finish its transmissions before I can push another button. If I push the up arrow too many times and need to backup one or two times, I have to wait on the remote to transmit all of the up commands before I can push the down arrow. When having to wait about half a second between every command that gets transmitted, this is really annoying as I would rather be able to quickly navigate thru Guide channels and not have to wait on the remote to transmit its commands.
Overall, I am satisfied with the Harmony 1100. However, if / when the time comes that I need to replace my remote (again), I will either go with the 900 again or choose a different manufacturer all together. Since the 900 is now available on Amazon for $150 and it includes the IR extender, it is a much better deal with better value than paying $400 for the 1100 plus an additional $130 for the not included IR extender. At least with the 900 only being priced at $150 and it includes the IR extender, if something was to happen to either the remote or the IR blaster, it would be a lot cheaper to just buy a new 900 than it would be to spend the $530 to replace the 1100 and separate IR blaster for it. BTW, I should mention that the IR extender that comes with the 900 is not compatible with the 1100 nor is the additional IR extender for the 1100 compatible with the 900. So, this alone is enough to push me away from the 1100. Also, from what little I have messed with the X10 control from the 1100, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to do a lot more than expected / planned when I get around to configuring the 1100 to work with my home automation system.
If you find yourself wanting to replace a pile of remote controls with a single remote and choose to go with one of the Harmony remotes from Logitech, I would recommend saving yourself some trouble (and a lot of money) and going with the 900. I think the 900 is way better than the 1100 even aside from the drastic price difference. Also, if you do decide to go with Logitech, I think I should warn you now that you are going to be pretty much on your own when it comes to support. It has been my experience (and the experience of plenty others from what I have read online) that Logitech’s support is worth very little when it comes to their universal remote controls. Even though I’m not happy that Logitech forces you to create an account with them before you can use your Harmony remote, I do like both the Harmony 900 and the Harmony 1100 remotes. But, as I have already mentioned, if / when the time comes to replace my 1100, I will either go back to using the 900 or will find a different manufacturer altogether.
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