Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote Control

the list System control can be a nightmare. Almost every gadget comes with a remote, and many "basic" systems require multiple controllers. Even my parents - whose entertainment system is built around a 27-inch tube TV and a VCR - have three remotes. With each remote having around 40 buttons, it all adds up to 120 or more chances for something to get out of whack.

The Short Form
Price $249 / harmonyremote.com / 866-291-1505
An ergonomically crafted marvel that instantly feels at home in your hand while simultaneously taking control of your A/V system.
•Inspired ergonomic layout •Exceptional low/no-light visibility •Works like a Harmony
•No RF support •Touchscreen works best with two hands
Key Features
•Programmed via Internet on PC running Windows 2000, XP, or Vista or Mac OS X 10.3 or later •40 hard buttons and 2.25-inch color capacitive touchscreen •Includes lithium-ion rechargeable battery and docking cradle •Activity-based system control with Harmony's patented "Smart State Technology" •Controls up to 15 devices

Of course, a universal remote control is supposed to prevent things from getting out of whack, and probably no company does that better than Harmony (now owned by Logitech). I've played with, programmed, owned, or reviewed just about every remote it has ever made. And the Model 670 that's been part of my system for the past year has been a flawless performer. So when the company decided to replace the best-selling Model 880 with the Harmony One Advanced, I figured that this remote must be something special. But as I unboxed it, the tagline from The Matrix crept into my mind. "In a world of 1s and 0s," I asked myself, would this remote be "a zero, or The One?"

Setup Like all universal remotes, the Harmony does nothing straight out of the box; a good dose of programming is required to bend it to your will. I first popped in the rechargeable battery to get the remote powered up. Even then, it was clear that Logitech had listened to the feedback from dealers and customers. The One's flatter shape and larger charging contacts make it fit snugly into the charging cradle, and they make it more stable when it's sitting on an armrest. The charging cradle has an adjustable backlight, so you can have the light on or dimmed to find the cradle in a dark room or completely off if the white glow is distracting.

To program the One, you need an Internet connection and the latest edition of Harmony's Remote Software, now version 7.4, which is included on a CD-ROM. My new laptop runs Windows Vista, so I was concerned about compatibility, but the software worked without a hitch. Windows 2000 or XP users and Mac users running OS X 10.3 or later are also in luck.

The One is amazingly simple to program, with the wizard guiding you through each step. You enter your components by type, brand, and model number. Harmony's database has commands for more than 225,000 devices from more than 5,000 companies, and if you own something that's not listed - well, 99.9% of you won't, but the One lets you learn IR commands from another remote.

Next, you set up Activities, such as "Watch a DVD" and "Listen to Digital Music." Once you tell the remote how your system is configured for each activity - such as whether you use your TV or surround speakers and what input each device needs to be set to - a quick USB download makes you the master of your digital domain.

There are some additional programming options: adding images for a slideshow, entering favorite channels with their station logos, customizing button layout, and so forth. All told, it took me about 45 minutes to program the remote.