There is no question that Logitech has been making great keyboards for years and its Harmony Universal Remotes are second to none. So what happens when you marry the two?
A keyboard for TV
And no surprise it is called the Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard. The Smart Keyboard is designed to work with the Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, Roku streamers, HTPC and some smart TVs.The Harmony Smart Keyboard is also compatible with the new Amazon Fire TV through the included USB receiver but voice search is still a work in progress.
The universal remote capabilities of the system are similar to the Logitech Harmony Smart Control, except the keyboard replaces the simplified remote. The Hub is the brain of the system, accepting commands from the keyboard or the Harmony mobile app, then issuing commands to the appropriate device using IR, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
Now, controlling set top boxes such as Apple TV or Roku and devices using IR control is pretty easy but, other devices aren’t so simple. For example, with the PlayStation 3, the Harmony Smart Keyboard can power up and navigate menus via Bluetooth, but for typing you’ll need to connect to one of the two included USB adapters. Both Bluetooth and the USB adapters end up being used for controlling the PS3 and as complicated as that sounds, it is actually seamless in operation.
The keyboard itself is a a typically Logitech it is a bit smaller than a full size unit, slightly rounded combination keyboard and touchpad with a rubberized coating which keeps it from slipping. The keys are full-sized with the exception of the function keys. Several of the keys serve double-duty, with the function keys also offering playback, volume, Menu, DVD and guide controls. The V, B, N, and M keys work as the green, red, yellow, and blue buttons. The touchpad to the right of the keys offers mouse and cursor control for compatible devices, with two click buttons. Above the function keys there are three Activity buttons, and a button to turn off all active devices.
Harmony Smart Keyboard Features:
- Harmony one-touch Activity-based control (up to 6)
- Controls up to 8 devices
- Integrated touchpad for navigation on PC, Mac, and PS3
- Type and navigate on PC, Mac, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Xbox, and PS3
All the remote control magic comes via the Harmony Hub that handles the communication with the various devices. It can be hidden away in a cabinet and control IR based devices with the included IR Blaster.
Harmony Hub Features:
- Bluetooth connection to PC, Mac, Apple TV, or PS3
- Compatible with over 225,000 devices and 5,000 brands of AV equipment
- Control devices behind cabinets or walls
Setup is simple but different from previous Harmony Smart Remotes where you could set everything up on a computer by connecting the remote or hub via USB and using the Logitech Web App. Now you must use the iOS or Android app. Still it is pretty simple as the app walks you through the process of setting up communications as well as programming your devices into the various activities you plan to use. In my case it was a really simple setup, a TV, a PVR and an Apple TV installed in the exercise corner of my basement; it took about 20 minutes.
You can also control all the devices using the app. Your smartphone or tablet becomes a powerful Universal remote with up to 50 favourite channel icons. Every smartphone in the house can be personalized.
The Smart Keyboard is great for doing searches on Netflix, YouTube and the like. Compared to picking out letters using cursor keys it is night and day and obviously way more comfortable and of course faster. It is perfect for those of you using a Media Centre PC. However, the keyboard is a bit large to use as an everyday Universal remote so most users will opt for using the smartphone or tablet app. It would have been nice had Logitech included a simple remote such as the one that comes with the Harmony Smart Control or at least offered it as an option for those who don’t wish to use their mobile device as a remote.
Priced at $149.99CAD the Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard is the answer for those who need a keyboard to control searches on a desktop box or a game console where the keyboard could be handy. If you only need the keyboard functions occasionally then the Harmony Smart Control a $130 might be a better choice.