Logitech Harmony Elite
- Replaces other remotes
- Simple setup
- Multiple control options
- Smart home integration
- Premium price tag
- Absolutely none that I have found. It's brilliant.
Do you know what I find frustrating? Remote controls. They seem to multiply in my household, yet incomprehensibly the ONE remote I am looking for can never be found. Every time I buy a new device, it comes with a remote control. Then I have to learn how to use the damned thing all over again.
And don’t get me started on batteries…
Fortunately, there is a better way. That better way is the Logitech Harmony Elite.
Logitech Harmony Elite
After using the Logitech Harmony Elite for the last couple of months, I can happily say it has cured my frustrations with remote controls. In fact, now I quite like them (or more specifically, it). There are many, many things about the Harmony Elite that make me feel this way. Let’s dive in and take a close look at what makes this universal remote so special.
I have tried several universal remotes in the past, but they have all suffered the same fate. The problem was consistently the same – they couldn’t quite replace every function of my standard remote controls. With most universal remotes I could program them well enough that they covered the basics, but inevitably there would be something they couldn’t quite manage and I would have to dig the old remote out from the back of a drawer, dust if off and fix the problem.
Guess what would happen then? The old remote would stay out and the universal remote would be forgotten.
For a universal remote to be worthwhile, it has to be able to be set up to replace EVERY function of the original remotes, on every device. The Logitech Harmony Elite does that brilliantly. It takes some patience with setting up, and you do have to be specific when selecting your devices, but the effort is well-and-truly worthwhile. The Harmony Elite is in a league of its own when it comes to universal control.
The Key to Success
The key to this amazing ability is in the touchscreen remote and the mobile app. The touchscreen enables complete customisation to the point where you can drill down to access any controls that would normally be found on the remote. This removes the need for a thousand physical buttons to cover every possible combination of every remote control known to man, instead allowing for a small number of physical buttons. The more obscure functions are still accessible via touch screen.
The mobile app makes setting up a breeze. It takes all of the hard work out of pairing the Harmony Elite with a device. No more manual “teaching” the universal remote functions (although that can be done in the worst-case scenarios). Instead, you simply look up your device in Logitech’s extensive collection of remote control profiles and download the appropriate one. If Logitech has your device on file, they know exactly how it functions, and how it needs to be set up in order to work seamlessly with the Elite. It is brilliant, and as far as I’m concerned it is the only way to set up a universal remote.
Be warned that you do need to have specific model numbers if you want to set up your device properly. I found out the hard way that near enough is definitely not good enough when I tried to be lazy with my television. It turns out that, even within line-ups of the same brand, there are subtle differences in remote function that can cause problems. However, once I had realised and corrected my error, the television worked perfectly. The Harmony Elite may be brilliant, but it can’t overcome user incompetence!
Replacing all of my remotes is one thing, but that in its self is not a legitimate enough reason to shell out for this beauty. Activities however… that’s a game-changer.
Activities is where the Logitech Harmony Elite shines. It’s where the increasingly complicated setup of home entertainment devices gets simplified into single commands that even the most technophobic members of your household can appreciate. It also means that you can fine-tune your setup to be exactly the way you want it. Then it works that way, every time.
In my setup, even watching the television is a two remote deal. One controls the actual television, while the other controls the DVR. The Logitech Harmony Elite has combined those two controls into one simple command. All I need to do is press the Watch TV button. The Harmony Elite does the rest. It selects appropriate inputs and turns on the television and DVR. I then select channels (it automatically sends channel selection through the DVR) and control the volume with the one remote.
If I want to switch to a Blu-ray movie, I simply click the Watch Blu-ray command. Then I sit back and enjoy my newfound simple life as the Logitech Harmony Elite does all the heavy lifting. It switches off the DVR, changes input on the television, turns on the Yamaha AV receiver, selects the correct HDMI input (I can never remember which one it should be), then turns on the Blu-ray player.
When I’m finished with the Blu-ray, I can either give the command to turn everything off (a simple press of the off button), or switch back to the Watch TV activity. Again, the correct devices are selected and the unused devices powered off.
Activities can be set up to turn even the most complex of setups into a simple-to-use and reliable automated process.
Always Charged, Never Lost
Changing remote batteries is a thing of the past in my house now. The Logitech Harmony Elite remote comes with its own charging stand and built in battery. This makes absolute sense for a remote like the Harmony Elite, because it’s touch screen would otherwise chew through batteries.
The beauty of having a charging stand is that I also know exactly where to find the remote. It is always resting right where I expect it to be. The stand is small and unobtrusive, so it doesn’t stand out amongst my other home entertainment gear. The Harmony remote is never lost in my house.
Beyond the Television
The Logitech Harmony Elite becomes particularly exciting when you start to use it for functions beyond the home entertainment unit. I’m just starting to explore the Harmony Elite’s potential, but I love what I have seen so far. For example, I can control my Sonos One in the kitchen from the comfort of my couch. I have an activity set up that turns on streaming of the ABC grandstand digital channel, and another for ABC Radio Sydney. When playing Spotify through the One, the Logitech Harmony Elite displays the album cover of the song that is playing and it can be used to skip forwards, backwards, stop the music and adjust the volume.
The other big application for the Logitech Harmony Elite is in the rapidly growing field of home automation and smart devices. The Harmony Elite (with Harmony Hub) is already capable of controlling thermostats, lighting, motorized window shades, smart locks, smart switches and smart plugs. These devices are increasingly working their way into homes and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are the norm before we know it. The ability to control them from the Harmony Remote in the living room, not to mention to integrate them into activities is a fairly exciting prospect. The introduction of the Harmony Elite into my home has already got me thinking about installing a smart lighting system like the Philips Hue.
The Harmony Hub
The Harmony Hub is the device that enables all of the connectivity between your home entertainment and smart home devices. It receives signals from the Harmony remote and distributes them to all of the other devices. The Harmony Hub can send a range of signals, including IR, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
With the Harmony Hub, you can close all of your devices away behind cabinet doors. This is great for those who like a neat and decluttered look, and particularly for those parents who wish to hide away bright lights and tempting buttons from tiny toddler hands. The Harmony Hub has not missed a beat since I installed it. It reliably sends signals to my devices every time I give it a command.
With Bluetooth connectivity, the Harmony Hub can also communicate with devices such as Windows-based laptops. This means that I can connect my laptop to my television and use my recently-acquired Plex Pass to stream all of my content stored on my Western Digital My Cloud Home Duo. Again, the Logitech Harmony Elite has enabled me to turn a fairly complex task into something fairly simple.
Harmony App as a Remote
Logitech’s philosophy with the Harmony Elite universal remote seems to be make it as useful as possible. Not only is the Elite able to control many devices within the home, it is able to do so in many different ways. The Harmony app allows me to communicate with the Harmony Hub from anywhere in my house (or even away from home).
The app works well. I can trigger an activity and complete standard functions like change the channel and volume. In my testing it has been smooth and effective, just like the Harmony remote. When watching television, I still find the Harmony remote to be my preferred option, as the back-lit physical buttons for standard functions is a more familiar feeling. Still, the app is handy to have. I can turn off the television from upstairs if it has been left on unattended.
Alexa, the ace up the sleeve of the Logitech Harmony Elite. While not technically necessary, the addition of Alexa compatibility to the Harmony Elite was an inspired move. To put it simply, I can control my television (and other home entertainment devices) with my voice!
I paired the Logitech Harmony Elite with the Ultimate Ears Blast – an excellent Alexa-enabled wireless speaker. The Blast is perfect for the job because of its rechargeable battery, which means that it can be moved and placed wherever is most convenient.
When I’m watching television on the lounge, I place the Blast on the coffee table. I can ask it to turn on the television (I even have a command to “Turn on the footy”, which sets the television to 9HD), to change the channel, or to raise or lower the volume. When I’m away from the television (say, in the kitchen preparing dinner), I can ask Alexa to turn up the volume or change the channel. That is incredibly handy if I’m half way through disassembling a raw chicken, for example.
Voice control may not be something I use every day (after all, that Harmony Remote is so easy to use), but it does provide another layer of usability and simplicity. It comes back to my statement above – make it as useful as possible. There are definitely times when voice control is a handy feature to have.
If I am to go down the path of the universal remote, then my feeling is do it properly or don’t do it at all. With the Harmony Elite, Logitech have got it absolutely spot on. The device is easy enough to set up (even if it takes a little time) and even easier to use. Activities elevate the Logitech Harmony Elite to a whole new level of simplicity and usability, while added features such as the mobile app and Alexa compatibility complete the package.
For those with complex home entertainment setups, or anyone entering the realm of the connected home, the Logitech Harmony Elite hard to resist.
Disclaimer – the products featured in this post were provided to Blog of Dad free of charge. All opinions expressed in this post are based on my experiences with these products.