Published on September 5th, 2014 | by Greg0
Logitech’s Harmony Smart Is The Ultimate Media Center Keyboard
If you have a Roku, Xbox One, Ps3, Apple TV, or even the new Amazon Fire TV that we recently reviewed, then you know the pain of trying to type using an onscreen keyboard and a controller or remote. It’s far worse than typing on your smartphone or tablet, and can be excruciating when attempting to put in your network password, Netflix login, or Hulu username. Plus, gamers want to chat, and if you’re searching for a movie, it’s annoying to scroll around the keys, hunting and pecking.
That’s precisely why we’ve been loving the Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard. It’s more than just a keyboard, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly, but is compatible with not only your computer but also your home media center and all of those streaming devices. The coolest part for us was that it comes with two USB adapters, allowing you to connect to both your PC or laptop as well as your media player of choice without worrying about disconnecting and reconnecting the dongles. The box comes with a hub, which might seem a bit superfluous at first, adding another layer to your system- but it allows a bunch of nifty features, like control for up to eight devices, even ones hidden behind cabinet doors and walls. There is an IR repeater, so you don’t need line of sight anymore, and can use their app to control your system. One downside though, is that you’ll need to set it all up through your mobile device, which is a bit of a pain the first time, but only needs to happen once.
You can configure- or the system will do so automatically- a few programmed options for one-touch activities, like “Play a Game” or “Watch a Movie”, which then turn specific buttons on the keyboard into instant smart-home like functions (three buttons, with long tap/short tap options result in six total options). The Hub connects via Wifi, Bluetooth, as well as the IR from normal remotes, and they claim support for over 225,000 devices. We’ve seen- and liked- Harmony remotes in the past, and Logitech has done a pretty solid job advancing the system in a few ways. That said, the trackpad on the keyboard takes up a fair bit of space, and isn’t all that useful outside of a computer environment- it didn’t work for us on the Xbox One using Internet Explorer, which is a shame. Many people probably don’t want a full keyboard as a remote replacement- but Logitech does offer many other options for more traditional universal remotes. In fact, we really hope that the next version of the Harmony Smart Keyboard also includes a small remote (even as basic as the one that comes with the Apple TV) that would replace our multiplicity of the darned things. In the meantime, their smartphone app is OK.
The keyboard looks and feels great, balances nicely on a lap, and worked perfectly with the devices we tried. And the hub is a great idea, executed well, capable of controlling your entire home entertainment system even while it’s all hidden away nicely. For Xbox and Playstation gamers, and those who wish they had a keyboard for their various media players, the Harmony Smart Keyboard is your savior. The app could use a bit of work, and if they release a small remote, we’ll be the first to rejoice- but in the meantime, it’s an excellent package, and is available now online and in stores for around $150.