Top critical review
41 people found this helpful
Potentially great, but frustratingly buggy
on 20 July 2013
Logitech make a range of universal programmable remote controls; the Smart Control is an interesting combination of a smartphone app and a small remote with buttons (for people who don't like touchscreens?) The smartphone app runs on iPhone or Android - note that there is no dedicated iPad version.
The box includes the remote hub - a small box about the size of a CD, which is the core of the system - along with UK and European mains plugs for it, a USB cable, a wired IR repeater (in case you want to hide the hub) and the handset. It's all nicely packaged and presented - Logitech have clearly taken lessons from Apple in this respect - and the design of the hub and handset is very attractive. They are both curvy and organic, and blend in nicely with your AV system. The hub acts as a remote transmitter, sending IR signals to your equipment - it also includes Bluetooth to control a PlayStation 3. The handset communicates with the hub via radio, so you don't need to point it at the hub for it to work. In fact, if your equipment lives in a cabinet with a door, you can just put the hub inside, close the door, and control everything with no need for line-of-sight to the equipment.
There's barely any documentation provided - the idea is that you use the smartphone app (which is a free download) to set everything up. You are prompted to connect the hub to the mains, and the app then walks you through connection to the network and setting up control of your devices. Using my iPhone 5, the first few steps went fine for me; it tests each piece of kit as you tell it what you have, and it found my Sony TV and controlled it with no problem. And then I hit a snag - the remote failed to control my Arcam amplifier (which is a fairly well-known brand), and at this point, the setup wizard gave up and advised me to set everything up on the web interface instead.
So I went to the relevant webpage, which crashed several times, but after a couple of reboots I got in, and manually set up the Arcam. I added the rest of my components, and sat down to play with the now-programmed remote.
And, once you have it programmed, the remote handset works really well. It actually offers a lot more functionality than it at first appears; you can set a different action for a short or long push on each button, and if you are prepared to spend the time customising it via the web interface, you can get a very nice control system worked out. It's a shame the remote isn't backlit - quite surprising for a product like this - but that's my only real criticism of it.
The smartphone app, however, is nowhere near as good. The software is far too buggy to be reliable - it doesn't sync properly with the web interface; at times I was forced to uninstall and reinstall it. It also sometimes fails to find the hub on startup, and you then have to shut the app down completely and restart. It does allow more full control than the handset; you can set 50 favorite TV stations with station logos, and there is a nice tap and swipe interface for simple operations like volume and channel changing, but it really isn't as convenient as just picking up the handset, which works first time with no mucking about. I very rapidly got frustrated with the smartphone app, which needs a lot of work before it provides a nice user experience.
I'm very much in two minds about this product. As a nice remote handset that will control up to 8 devices with a lot of customisation, it's pretty good - but with the important caveat that you will need to spend a lot of time customising everything in the web interface; it isn't as "plug in and go" as Logitech suggest. The smartphone interface is really nothing more than a gimmick - imagine if you want to turn the volume of your hi-fi up a notch, you need to turn on your phone, launch the app, select the right page, and then hit the relevant button. Or you could just pick up the handset and hit the button - no contest, really! That, combined with the fact that the software really isn't stable enough, renders this part of the package pretty much useless.
So three stars seems about right - the remote handset is good, the app isn't. But don't even think about buying it for your tech-phobic granny unless she's got someone to set it up for her!