Unlike many remote controls, especially universal ones, Logitech's latest remote, the US$250 (approx. £129) Harmony One requires little brainpower to use – once you become accustomed to the touch screen and are past the setup process.
The Harmony One, like the Harmony 880 it replaces, fits comfortably in the hand, and has a charging cradle. Its bright, 2.2-inch color touch screen has innovative navigation controls around its edges that make it easy to move up, down, and around the various options. The navigation controls are a huge advance from the 880's screen-side buttons. So is the new push-button area below; the new buttons have distinct sizes, shapes, and placement, making the remote easy to use by feel alone (it is also backlit).
The touch screen shows commands and icons for common activities that initiate macros; touching 'Listen to Music' can turn on your stereo and media center extender, for example. And once you've started an activity, such as 'Watch TV', you can touch further selections like 'Favorite Channels', then use the standard push-button controls for changing volume or pausing playback as you would on any TV remote. It all works together intuitively.
While using the Harmony One was a joy, setting it up was not as much fun. You start the process on your PC or Mac by plugging the remote into your USB port and connecting to Logitech's online database of more than 225,000 devices. I threw every home-theater device I had at it: a Sony HDTV, a Sony DVD disc changer, two satellite TiVo DVRs, a Linksys Media Center Extender, an Apple TV, and even an old Sony VCR. The database had information for the Sony devices and the Apple TV, but the Linksys DMA-2200 extender was too new, and I had to set up the two TiVos manually because they had different channel arrangements.
The remote has a Help button to aid in diagnosing and fixing setup issues, but after going back and forth with the Setup Wizard, I decided to contact Logitech's tech support (available via e-mail or toll-free phone). I should have done that right off the bat. Its reps can interactively solve the thorniest problems--they have direct access to your device list in their online database. They can make changes to your devices and activities, which you can then sync to the remote and test in real time. They added the new Linksys commands to the database for me, and explained how to handle the two TiVos.
The holy grail of truly universal remotes is still elusive, but the Harmony One is your best option right now.