Logitech has begun shipping the new Harmony 520 to select Walmarts, which resulted in numerous phone calls and a distant quest to two stores. Why Walmart you ask? Logitech is aiming squarely down market with this $99 model – and I’ve concluded the cost corresponds directly to the number of buttons.
The main differences between the 520 and the 6xx line are obviously the the new physical design, dropping the hard coded activity buttons along with many others, and the introduction of new software – for under a hundred bucks.
As with other models, Harmony remotes are configured online using a web-based wizard with your custom settings being downloaded via USB into the remote. The 520 is the first in the Harmony line using updated configuration and connectivity software. Logitech promises this will eventually be available to all Harmony devices – in fact it is currently willing to configure my old 659, though I haven’t tried. Keeping with the Harmony way, you program your remote using activities. For example a Watch DVD activity might turn on your TV, switch the input source, turn on the DVD player, and dim your Lutron lights. Soft buttons listed in the LCD allow for an unlimited amount of function keys.
Although the Harmony 520 trades in the hourglass shape for something more rectangular, the length and width are comparable to prior models. However the remote does shave quite a bit off of its girth – the bottom portion is 3/4″ thick while the slender top is a mere 4/10″ thick. The remote feels very well balanced, with the thicker area resting comfortably in my palm. The bottom is nicely contoured in two locations for ease of use, one ridge for accessing VCR controls and one for channel surfing. As you can see, the remote is black and grey plastic with silver metal trim and blue backlighting. Like the 600 series, it requires 4 AAA batteries. Logitech generously loads it up with 4 Duracels and provides an additional set.
So is it worth it? If you already own a 6xx Harmony you really have no reason to trade it in. If you’re a virgin, the sleek looks and attractive retail price make this a good bet for those with simple configurations or not requiring many hard buttons. Those with non-technical significant others might also appreciate the powerful, yet disarming 520.