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Not everything is shades of black and white.
In a break from equipment thatís available only in traditional black or the new trend towards light grey platinum, the new Harmony is available in a variety of colors. Thereís a pleasant medium-hued royal blue, vibrant candy apple red and, predictably, silver grey. My sources indicate that the silver model is outselling the other two available colors by a fairly high margin, which is a shame since both the red and blue units look absolutely fantastic in real life and provide a higher contrast to most of the unitís keys.
A surprising discovery is that the Harmony isnít merely a painted-on surface color: although the metallic non-grippy exterior of the remote is indeed sprayed on, the underlying plastic is also colored a similar shade of blue (or red). This should give the Harmony better resilience to scratches and scuffs, as a dramatically different color wonít show through if the surface treatment wears off. The remote is held together with three screws and admirably resists any attempt at lateral twisting. Overall the remote looks sturdy, but as with any $300 item that fits in a hand, care is needed.
Surrounding the LCD screen is a chrome-finished circular bezel with an embossed ďHĒ that gives the Harmony an additional touch of class. At the top of the remote are two IR emitters, shielded by semi-transparent plastic. The Harmony uses an arrangement of forward-pointing and downward-angled IR emitters that work great during normal remote use, but looked rather odd when exposed as on the original Harmony.
The new unit also includes an industry-standard Mini USB connector positioned at the top between the emitters, an upgrade from the originalís full-sized USB ďType BĒ jack. This is an excellent placement as it both keeps the exposed port away from finger grunge, and makes it easier to learn infrared codes by keeping the cable clear of the learning sensor placed at the bottom. Just below the infrared shield is a small LED that illuminates whenever a command or macro is transmitting.
The large battery compartment on the rear of the Harmony now holds four AAA batteries instead of the originalís three. This provides the Harmony with a much longer battery life, especially now that the SST-768 can draw power over the USB cable whenever connected to a computer (also sounds like a new opportunity for a rechargeable battery system). This added battery increases the weight of the unit slightly to 4.87 ounces (138 grams) from the originalís 4.27 ounces (121 grams). Weight without batteries remains nearly identical at a feather-light 3.17 ounces (90 grams). The batteries, which are held fairly loosely, are prevented from rattling around with two small pieces of foam placed on the inside of the compartment cover (a small touch absent on the first model). My only concern is with the coverís main latch, which appears fragile in light of the amount of leverage the long plastic cover plate could generate.
Two scoops of buttons!
Some owners (and some window shoppers) of the first Harmony model felt that they needed more buttons to play with... and Intrigue Technologies has responded! Despite having a footprint only 19% larger than the original remote, the SST-768 packs in a whole lot more hard buttons. The first model sported a restrained 13 buttons on its top, while the new Harmony crams in a respectable 31. Taking into account only the areas where buttons are placed, thatís an increase in density from 2.9 to 5.5 buttons per square inch.