Perhaps I’m dating myself, but the television in my house when I was young required the viewer to get up and change channels manually. Although it wasn’t very convenient, there were only two channels, and the satisfying ker-chunk of the switch almost made it worth it. We’ve come a long way since then, and now the ubiquitous remote control seems like it’s just part of normal life. But just because something has become normal, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

Harmony remotes have been improving on the standard universal remote control for over a decade, and Logitech purchased the founding company back in 2004. There have been quite a few iterations on the Harmony remote, and the Logitech Harmony Elite is the current top of the line model from Logitech, incorporating the Elite remote, the Harmony Hub, and the Harmony app, into one complete solution for not only remote control, but also home automation.

My previous remote - the Logitech Harmony One

I’ve been a Harmony user for over ten years now, starting with a Harmony 880, then the Harmony One, and now the Harmony Elite. The latest model improves on its predecessors in several ways, but keeps the original brilliance of the Harmony series with a single, easy to set up, and powerful solution to replace the myriad of remotes for all of the devices in your home.

Logitech Harmony Products
Product Harmony 350 Harmony 650 Harmony 950 Harmony Companion Harmony Elite
Maxium Devices 8 8 15 8 15
Display None Color Color Touch None Color Multi-Touch
Control Type IR IR IR IR/RF/Bluetooth/IP IR/RF/Bluetooth/IP
Batteries 2 AA 2 AA Rechargable CR2302 Rechargable
Comes with Hub No No No Yes Yes
Channel Favorites 5 23 50 50 50
Price $35 $50 $200 $150 $300

Logitech created the Harmony Hub a few years back, and was their first play into the game of home automation. The Harmony Hub is the key to the Harmony Elite’s ease of use, and powerful integration with the home. Whereas the remote allows control over IR only, the Hub gets connected to the home network, allowing it to control devices through IP, and it also supports Bluetooth control. This widely expands to capabilities of the remote, from just controlling A/V equipment, to now allowing control of smart home devices like the Nest thermostat, Phillips Hue, Lutron lighting, Sonos, and more. Adding the capabilities of IP control also make the experience no longer require line of sight, and the control is more reliable than IR alone.

But the key to the overall ease of use with Harmony continues to be its unique activity-based control. For those that haven’t used it, I’ll give a quick overview of the concept.

Activities

The original genius with Harmony, especially compared to other Universal remote controls, was that Harmony groups devices into activities. The typical setup would be one remote per device, so if you want to watch a movie, you may need a remote to power on the television and choose the correct input, a remote for the A/V Receiver to select the input and control the audio, and a third remote for the disc player. Then, if you wanted to watch television, you’d turn off the disc player, switch the inputs on the TV and Receiver, and then pick up the cable box remote to change channels. This is somewhat of a worst-case scenario of course. Perhaps the television remote will also control the DVD player or cable box in some manner, but regardless this is how most people operate an entertainment setup. Even the best universal remote control is always some sort of compromise, since inevitably there will be some function you need to perform on a device that will require you to dig out the remote for it.

Harmony dispenses with this silliness. By grouping devices into activities, the remote will perform every function required automatically, and it will then control the correct devices for that activity. For instance, when you decide you want to watch a movie, you can select the activity titled “Watch a Movie” on the remote. It will then power on the correct equipment, select the correct inputs, and automatically switch the remote functions to support the activity. Play/Pause and the like will be mapped to the disc player, and volume control will be for the A/V Receiver. You can customize each activity to suit your individual tastes, and every single button can be mapped to other functions if you need to change any of the functions. Then, when you want to watch television instead, pressing “Watch TV” will power off the disc player, power on the cable box, select the correct inputs, and remap the remote buttons as required.

For any of those rare times where you need to control some obscure feature of your equipment, Harmony also has a Devices mode, where you can pick a single device and get full control of it and all of its features.

The combination of activities and devices make the cumbersome process of controlling several devices into a simple, seamless task. The Harmony Elite builds on this already powerful control that Harmony has always had, but the underlying philosophies are the same.

The Logitech Harmony Elite Remote
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  • weevilone - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    The app based setup is great, I agree. It doesn't work with the Harmony One. At least it didn't when I purchased the new models. That was a primary reason why I replaced it. Reply
  • looncraz - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    You should look at RTI remotes.

    I had to program a guy managed to buy for just $600... it was a steal, they usually go for $900.

    And the software is restricted to dealers... and the remotes can't learn other remotes - that requires another $300 piece of equipment.

    But... you do have complete freedom, which Logitech remotes do not offer.
    Reply
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    I guess I'm "remote ignorant" but what do you mean by complete freedom? I wasn't aware of any remote tyranny. Reply
  • Targon - Thursday, February 16, 2017 - link

    For those with only one to three components(including TV), then yea, you don't need a touch screen version of the Harmony remotes. Go into full surround sound, cable/sat box, bluray player, plus TV and then possibly other components, it DOES get to be a headache with all the different remotes, setting inputs, and adjusting settings to get your system set up.

    The top end comes with a RF to Infrared box, so you can keep your components in a closed cabinet, or closet, and you can still control the components without line of sight. If you continually need to help people use the TV because they need to turn on surround sound amps, set inputs, etc, then you WANT something like the 950, even without needing the RF to Infrared adapter.
    Reply
  • medi03 - Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - link

    The best harmony I have seen/used was 515 series.
    Monochrome screen, functionality of the bigger guys, but without stupid color screen that eats batteries.

    It could last one year without recharging batteries.

    The only bad part about it was shitty Logitech software with online logins and what not that you were forced to use to configure your remote.
    Reply
  • medi03 - Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - link

    Oh, and it cost 35 or 45 Euro. Reply
  • Squuiid - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    The cost is ridiculous admittedly but having been fortunate to own one of these for over a year now this is the single best piece of technology I have ever bought.
    It is an outstanding device.
    Reply
  • mammothboy - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I've owned about a half dozen Harmony remotes (none died, but a few have been given away when I got new ones). All but the Harmony Ultimate (man that was awful) were totally worth it. The 650 or 700 are all most folks with IR devices need (both can be had for under $50).

    I opted to get one of these with the hub, but it was the basic model without backlit buttons. You want backlit buttons. Anyway, Harmony rulez, check out the 700 (when it's available for $35-50 it's a steal).
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Wow, I didn't think there was a market for universal remotes anymore. Are there that many people out there that still even own devices that need remote controls? The television and the clunky DVD player were the last ones at my place that needed them and I haven't owned stuff like that in a good 15 years. Reply
  • Murloc - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    well if you have an AVR and a TV, that's 2 already. Add the playback device and it's 3. Reply

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