If you own even the most basic of home theatre setups, you should own a universal remote control. One button on one remote to switch between your DVD player, your DVR or your games consoles makes your home life so much easier. But which remote should you choose? Logitech have all but cornered the market with their Harmony remotes, but do you really need to spend $900 on the top of the line 1100i? Or will the $130 525 do the job. We put them up against eachother to find out.Setting up both the 525 and the 1100i are essentially identical. They both use Logitech’s Harmony software to download all the necessary IR codes for each component in your home theatre setup. The only major difference is that you can customise the background on the touchscreen 1100i. The process of setting up your remote does take a bit of time, and a little tweaking to get right, but once you’re done, it works almost perfectly for both remotes.
To test, I set up my system with a range of activities: Watch Foxtel, Watch DVD, Play Xbox, Play PS3, Play Wii, and Watch TV. Unfortunately both remotes were unable to actually control the PS3 and Wii, but by setting up the macro control I could switch on the rest of my system and select the necessary inputs to do those activities.
The task of selecting an activity is much quicker and easier on the 1100i, thanks to its large touchscreen input, which features six options on the front screen. The 525 isn’t any more difficult as such – it just restricts the number of functions to four dedicated buttons next to the small LCD. After a while you automatically know where each function is, but for simple ease of use, the 1100i wins hands down.
However, roles are reversed when it comes to actually controlling your devices. The 525, with its entire body filled with dedicated buttons for each task, makes it much easier to enter specific channel numbers, control playback or choose your favourites through shortcut buttons. The 1100i offers all these functions, but they are generally found one level down through the touchscreen interface. There are certain buttons on the 1100i dedicated to particular functions, like volume, mute and channel selection, but on the whole, the 525’s dedictaed array of buttons makes it easier to control your devices.
Build quality, meanwhile is definitely far superior on the 1100i. It’s solid in every way, while the 525 feels like the cheap plastic that it is. Some of the buttons on the 525 require a much harder press to actually work, including the often used volume controls. It’s not enough to recommend against buying the 525, but it is a case of you get what you pay for.
The other thing with the 525 is that it uses four AAA batteries rather than a rechargeable unit like the 1100i. That’s not a problem until you need to change them at which point the remote seems to lose all memory of its settings. It’s easily fixed with a simple sync with the Harmony software.
And yet, despite all of the advantages of the 1100i over the 525 remote, when all is said and done, I’d probably still recommend the cheaper remote. Considering you can pick one up for about $75, as opposed to the $450 online price for the 1100i, the remote works just as well, controls the same number of devices and doesn’t require you to drill down into menus to control different aspects of your devices.
It’s worth noting that there are a few models in between the two extremes here which may suit your needs much more than the entry-level or top of the line. So if you don’t like the 525’s use of AAA batteries, the Harmony One has a rechargeable built-in, for example. But the bottom line, ultimately, is that there really isn’t any reason to have a loungeroom with more than a single remote control.