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Logitech Harmony Link turns tablets into universal remotes for $99

Logitech’s latest tidbit of technology may soon have us recycling our remote controls. In a somewhat ironic twist, the company responsible for some of the best-selling universal remote controls has created a device that lets you trash them and pick up your iPad, iPhone or Android device instead.

The notion of controlling electronics through iOS and Android devices isn’t new, but while electronics manufacturers have been struggling to code even passable smartphone apps into control their TVs, receivers and Blu-ray disc players, Logitech seems to have been quietly working away in the background designing what appears to be a system so streamlined and simple, your grandma could actually use it: the Harmony Link.

The Harmony Link itself is an unobtrusive, flying-saucer-shaped module that is designed to sit among the electronics in your entertainment system. Once plugged into the wall, it links up with your Wi-Fi network. With the Harmony Link in place, you can use your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android device to download a free app, which acts as an interface . Here’s where it gets really interesting.

Rather than emulate the remote control in your system (a solution some argue is more confusing than coordinating multiple remotes) , Logitech’s app provides a comprehensive entertainment management system in an attractive and intuitive user interface. After telling the Harmony Link app who provides your TV service, it lays out all current and future programming in a tidy graphical interface. From there, watching your show is a one-touch proposition.

For example, let’s say you want to want to watch Dirty Jobs. You would simply scroll through a series of TV shows until you saw Mike Rowe’s dirty mug, then tap the image to select the show. With one click, the Harmony Link will power on your TV, tune to the appropriate channel and, if you want, power up your home theater receiver and switch to the right input. 

Since all the browsing takes place through the app, users won’t have to annoy other viewers by pulling up on-screen menus. Another bonus is that the Harmony Link can be operated by more than one device, so anyone in the house with the app installed can use it too. 

The Harmony Link isn’t just for TV, though. Logitech says it also provides one-touch solutions for watching Blu-Ray or DVD movies, listening to music or playing games. 

It sounds like a slam-dunk for Logitech, especially considering it’s low price-point of $99, but we have a couple of concerns. First, while Logitech does say apps are available for multiple devices, the Harmony Link is clearly designed around the iPad. We have to wonder how good the other apps will be. Second, Logitech doesn’t provide any insight into the setup process and, considering how difficult setting up multi-function remotes can be, we have our concerns over whether setup will be simple enough for the average Joe to figure out. If you need to call in an installer to get things working, you stand to double your investment. Of course, there’s only one way to know for sure and that is to test it out. We’ll get our hands on the Harmony Link soon and let you know how it goes.

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