Logitech Harmony Adapter for the PlayStation 3 review

Steven Kim
S. Kim|05.19.09

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Logitech Harmony Adapter for the PlayStation 3 review
Logitech Harmony Adapter for the PlayStation 3
We all love getting new gadgets -- marketing and design departments have honed their crafts to a point that pretty much guarantees a steady release of endorphins throughout the selection, purchasing, unboxing and first impression stages. We've spent about a week putting Logitech's Harmony Adapter for the PlayStation 3 through its paces; long enough that we feel we're safely past the "honeymoon" stage and can put a little perspective on how it fits in with HT setups incorporating a PS3. Follow us past the break to see if we'll be living happily ever after, seeking counseling or filing for divorce.
When it debuted in 2006, the PS3 packed in some interesting technology. Depending on whom you ask, the use of Blu-ray was good/bad decision, but the PS3 certainly helped get the new physical disc format in front of the public. What's more suspect is the PS3's exclusive use of Bluetooth technology for remote control. Despite the existence of an official Bluetooth audio/video remote control profile, it's hard to find any devices other than the PS3 that use Bluetooth for remote control. That's too bad -- ask anyone who has used a RF remote, and they'll tell you that having to point the remote directly at a component to send commands is for the birds.

So the PS3 is caught in a bind -- it is supposed to act as a converged media device, but it's not controllable by the remote control you have for the rest of your equipment. Ask any couch potato and they'll tell you that "convergence without convenience" is a no-go in the market.

As much as we bemoan the fact that Sony didn't include a (dirt cheap) IR receiver in the PS3 to address this shortcoming, the PS3 is unrepentant. Necessity is the mother of invention, and a number of solutions for getting your existing IR remote control talking with your PS3 have come to market. Sony hasn't made things easy for enterprising developers, however. The lack of always-on USB ports on the PS3 means that devices that control the PS3 through USB cannot issue a "turn PS3 on" command. Powering down the console is also troubling, since it requires a macro that walks through the PS3's modal "turn the PS3 off" dialogs.

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At $60, the Logitech PS3 Adapter sits right between the two camps that have emerged for PS3 remote control. In the neighborhood of $20, there are IR-to-USB devices that receive IR commands and then control the PS3 through one of its USB ports. These solutions are cheap, but can't power up the PS3. North of $80, there are IR-to-Bluetooth devices that provide full control of the PS3, including products that combine sensors that detect whether the PS3 is on or off and combine this intelligence with appropriate macros for switching the console on/off. These are fine solutions, but certainly they don't have the big name backing and market footprint that Logitech enjoys.

Living with the Adapter
In terms of setup, our initial hands-on spelled out pretty much everything you need to know about dropping the Harmony PS3 Adapter into your system. Simply perform a Bluetooth pairing between the Adapter and your PS3, use the Harmony configuration app to add a PS3 to your list of AV devices, setup any activities you want, and you're set. The Adapter can accept IR commands directly through its front dome or the IR blaster cable port around back. As we noted in our initial impressions, the Adapter is only intended to work with Harmony-brand remotes; but sure enough, we've seen the IR Harmony codes pop up on the interwebs. However, the codes we found on RemoteCentral do not have the power-off macros yet, which makes it clear that the power off sequence is indeed a macro that is stored in the Harmony remote itself, and not the adapter. We'd guess that it will be another week before some solid IR macros for turning the PS3 are incorporated into the other Harmony codes into a nice tidy package.

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In use, we've found absolutely nothing to complain about -- the Adapter sits silently and does its job of gobbling up IR commands from our Harmony remote and issuing the appropriate Bluetooth commands to our PS3. In terms of functionality, the Logitech Adapter delivers on its promise -- full power control is available, and XMB navigation is there, too. Control of the PS3 was very responsive and never showed any lag that we've seen with some of the IR-to-USB solutions. Removing power from the Adapter and then plugging it back in caused no problems, either, which we were happy to see as the summer seasonal brownouts are getting ready to descend on us.

It's hard to overstate how much easier it is to use the PS3 as a media playback device from a universal remote control. We'll admit that we're pretty lazy when it comes to soaking up a movie, and not having to put down our universal remote in exchange another remote (Sony's own Bluetooth PS3 remote, for example) made using the PS3's media playback much more enjoyable. That's doubly true when comparing a universal remote to a DualShock 3 or SIXAXIS controller.

In our book, Logitech's PS3 Adapter is a success. We wish it would break out of its Harmony-only restriction (we're confident it will eventually), and we wish it were cheaper (that will come as well). As it stands, it's the cheapest solution going for complete and responsive control of your PS3 via your existing IR remote. Several commenters to our hands-on post didn't like the price, but in terms of the value delivered, we feel the Logitech solution is competitive. If you've already jumped in the pool for a PS3 and a $60 (minimum) Harmony remote, another $60 to get the most out of your PS3 as a media device probably isn't going to break you.

On the other hand, if you're looking at using the PS3 primarily for movies, then the days of the PS3 having a claim to the title of "best Blu-ray player" are long past. As media playback devices go, the field of standalone Blu-ray decks has caught up to -- and surpassed -- the PS3. There are plenty of Profile 2.0 players, and the lack of bitstream or analog output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA is a real knock against the PS3; add in features like Netflix Watch Instantly and Pandora support on the latest crop of Blu-ray decks and the PS3 has a hard time keeping up. Consumer electronics being what it is, the competition isn't letting up, either.

However, we picked the PS3 as our Blu-ray deck and we can live with its limitations. For our money, the Logitech Harmony Adapter removes a pretty big gripe we had about keeping the PS3 in our equipment list, and it does it for a tolerable $60. Until we spring for a dedicated Blu-ray deck, we'll stick with the Logitech Adapter.

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