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High concept, less tech.
What makes the Harmony different is not the physical remote or the hardware behind it, but rather how it operates your home theater. Instead of controlling it device-by-device, the Harmony is designed to combine a diverse array of components into a "single device" with multiple activities. So, instead of fumbling with multiple remotes or jumping around to different sections on a universal just to get everything synced up, the Harmony makes use of discrete codes, workarounds and internal variables to ensure that your components are always synchronized. When the "watch a DVD" function is activated, every piece of compatible equipment will be ready to go, powered on and set to the right inputs. The remote presents only the basic controls needed to complete that activity. But even with this simplicity, the Harmony still provides manual access to every function a device is capable of, should they be needed.
Although there's nothing proprietary about the majority of the Harmony's system configuration techniques, it's how they are implemented that makes this such an interesting and unique product. Easy Zapper is patenting what they call "Smart State Technology", which I assume has a lot to do with the use of variables, something still extremely rare in a remote control - never mind one at this price level.
So, where're my ring tones?
Before I start describing the hardware, you may want to purge that mental image of a completely revolutionary, never-before-seen conceptual design, because there's no mistaking that the Harmony is a true-blue remote control. Actually, the only product the Harmony could be confused with is... a cellular telephone! Easy Zapper seems to have borrowed heavily from the mobile communications design pot when coming up with the Harmony's physical configuration. It seems that Easy Zapper decided they didn't need to reinvent the wheel, as it were: if a cell phone is meant to be held in your hand, why not use the same format for a remote control? Just watch which one you take to work in the morning!
Appearing eerily like a Nokia model 6185 phone - an image only enhanced by the fact that it uses the identical LCD screen - the Harmony is also roughly the same dimensions at 2" wide, 5.25" long and 1.25" thick (5.1cm by 13.4cm by 3.2cm). It weighs in at a mere 3oz (90gr) and 4.5oz with three AAA batteries (120gr), making it the smallest and lightest remote I've yet tested. The Harmony is backed by a 90-day warranty, significantly shorter than the 1-year industry standard.
When I first began using the Harmony, I found it quite easy to accidentally hold upside down. Most of us are used to having an LCD screen at the top of a product - especially one that resembles a cell phone - but with the Harmony its rather diminutive screen has been slid down to the bottom. This positioning is quite smart on such a compact device, since holding the Harmony in one hand and pressing a button doesn't obscure the view of the screen. The used portion of the LCD measures a scant 1.25" wide and 0.75" high (3.2cm by 1.9cm), with a diagonal measurement of 1.35" (3.4cm) and a resolution of 84 by 48 pixels. Not exactly in the same class as other graphical remotes, but adequate for simple text.