Pros: Vast online device library, programmable button layout, TV mode shortcut button
Cons: No activity modes, no LCD display, limited programming
The 300i is a programmable multi-device remote control. It can control up to 4 devices, and those 4 devices can be selected from anything in Logitech's vast and ever-growing Harmony database.
To select the devices, you register the remote on Logitech's myharmony.com web site and select your devices online. You then connect the 300i to your computer with the included USB cable and "sync" the control codes for the selected devices to your remote, just like the higher-end Logitech Harmony remotes. You can program the button functions for each device mode using the online software. It even has a built-in infrared receiver used to "learn" and save remote control codes from other remotes while connected online.
The online setup for the 300i is simpler than for the full Harmony remotes, but maybe a little too simple. A lot of the setup is automated and can't be altered if you want to. It's not easy to figure out how to specify details like which TV input to activate for Watch TV mode (it's under the Advanced option of the Watch TV button customization). I also ran into the problem reported by many people that the device driver is somewhat erratic in operation on a fast modern Windows 7 64-bit computer, failing to connect to the device during initial setup. I have two 300i remotes, and they both behaved the same way, failing to sync on the first attempt, and occasionally failing to sync on subsequent updates.
Physically it's rounded and comfortable to hold, although the top buttons are an awkward stretch from the natural holding position at the bottom where the bulge is on the back. It has about as many buttons as you could reasonably cram onto a remote control this size, including a few which can act as "spares" for programming. The button spacing is adequate, and the 4 device mode buttons are backlit, but overall the buttons are a bit small and undistinguished, being all monotone black on a black background. The power and range of the infrared transmitter seems pretty good, as it usually is for Logitech's remotes.
Overall the 300i has a good set of capabilities, but the problem I have with it is that Logitech calls the 300i a Harmony remote, implying that it is an entry-level model in the popular Harmony family. Unfortunately that's not really the case, as it lacks the key feature of Harmony remotes: programmable Activity modes combining multiple devices. There is a button on it called Watch TV, but even that is not an activity mode in the traditional sense common to other Harmony remotes. All it does it turn on the TV and select the input before switching to the single-device mode of the video source device (i.e., the cable or satellite box).
Unlike the real Harmony remotes, the 300i has no LCD display and no Activity modes. It is used as a regular programmable remote with 4 device modes selected by the device buttons. You can't create custom modes or assign functions from different devices to a single button layout, so it isn't nearly as flexible as a true Harmony remote.
A couple of tricks you can use to work around the limited programmability:
- Although you can't mix commands from different devices in the same device mode button layout, you can trick it by teaching it a command from the other device using its remote as if it belonged to the first device command set. For example to control my TV's aspect ratio, I teach it the TV Aspect command as if it belonged to the sat receiver control set. Then I can assign Aspect as a command in the default Watch TV mode because it belongs to the sat receiver instead of the TV.
- When used for Favorite Channels the numbered buttons 1-5 will only accept numbers, Enter, dot and dash as part of the command. However you can teach the remote any command from any device as a fake dash command, and use it in the Favorite settings. For example I can make the favorite buttons show my channel guide starting at a specific channel number rather than just switching to that channel.
So in summary the 300i is a better-than-average multi-device programmable remote with the nice feature of being able to program it on your computer. It would be very useful if you have lost the remote control for some obscure device. If your needs are pretty simple, you will probably be satisfied with it. But if you were expecting a Harmony remote with the power of programmable activity modes, you will be disappointed. I'm happy enough with it as a supplement to my other Harmony remotes since I got it at a bargain price, but the list price is really too high for the privilege of online programming alone.
Two AA batteries and a USB cable are included. Bring your own rechargeable batteries if you don't want to replace them frequently.
Note: Most of this review would also apply to the Logitech Harmony 200i model, which is the same except that it only controls 3 devices instead of 4, and it's a bit smaller and has fewer buttons (no Favorites, no Skip fwd/rev).