If you've seen the Harmony 1000i then the design of the 1100i will seem familiar. While it's had a few tweaks to the design, it's essentially the same remote with a new paint job. When we saw it on display at CES 2009 we thought it felt a lot lighter than the original. Logitech, amused by this, told us the new model is actually a few grams heavier. Well, they do say black is slimming.
The remote is still a two-handed design, and sits quite comfortably. The device consists of a 3.5-inch colour touchscreen on the left, and there is a selection of hard buttons on the right including a D pad, channel, volume, back and page up/down buttons. For some reason, the CH and VOL rockers have switched sides, which could be an issue if you upgrade from the older remote.
The desktop stand remains from before, but like the Harmony One we wish it had a USB port to allow the remote to charge while you update it. Though, the Harmony does seem to fit better in the cradle this time around — and the back seems a little different to accommodate this.
Tablet-style remotes are almost a category on their own, and are usually associated with home automation with the help of remotes by the likes of Control 4 and the Philips Pronto range. However, the 1100i is actually not as advanced as some of its competitors, and could be considered the Harmony One in a different form-factor. While there is a Logitech Harmony RF Extender available for controlling devices which use RF codes, it won't allow users to control the PlayStation 3 as it uses proprietary Bluetooth. It could also enable users to get around the previous remote's difficulties with multi-room. But a further dampener to its automation compatibility is that the remote also lacks Z-Wave compatibility, which may be an issue for some.
As you'd expect with a remote consisting mostly of a touchscreen, each activity is broken down into a series of up to four screens — one for each corner of the remote. Each screen can consist of whatever controls, and to some extent graphics, that you want. Usually you'll get a page of Play/Pause controls, another for numbers, and another for favourites, for example. To access each page you press a different corner of the screen. Whereas the advantage to a remote like the One, is that most of these buttons are already at your fingertips and there's no flipping between screens to get the control you want. Meanwhile, while we appreciate the use of a dedicated "Activities" button, a hard "Devices" button would have also been useful.
The Harmony 1100i won the "Design and Engineering Award: Best of Innovations" at CES, but to be honest we're not as enamoured by it. While it looks great and will impress the pants off visitors it's quite constrained by its lack of hard buttons. But some of the problems we experienced with the 1100i are ones we would have if we started with any Logitech remote from scratch. While the web interface allows a lot of power, it can be frustrating to get everything to work as you want it.
For example, the Logitech device didn't have the six-month old Sony STRDA5400 receiver on file — only the 5300, so we had to reteach it all the buttons we knew it already had from previously setting it up on the Harmony One. Four different pages to each activity — most with duplicated buttons. It's tedious teaching each page which activity it should be using.
But it's not all bad news, when the Harmony 1100i works it works elegantly. While we've noticed some quirks with our Logitech One (particularly in that the touchscreen can perform the wrong action if you don't touch the icon you want with mathematical precision), we noticed no such problems with the 1100i. There is also sufficient space between the icons so that the risk of touching the wrong thing by accident is reduced.
In the end we found ourselves reaching for the Harmony One each time instead. Admittedly, we've spent a lot of time setting the One up, but its plethora of ergonomically-designed hard buttons makes it more intuitive and pleasurable to use. And while we're on the topic of ergonomics, the 1100i requires you to use two hands to control it — which limits its flexibility. You could always lay it down on a table, though.
Touchscreen remotes are a matter of preference, but if you are used to remotes with more "buttons" then you may find it hard to come to terms with the Logitech. Adding to this, our crappy dollar has meant Logitech has tacked an extra hundred dollars or two on its remote products, and the 1100i suffers because of this. There is no way we could in all conscience pay AU$900 for this remote control. Especially when the Harmony One can be had online for AU$199.