The Logitech Harmony Elite Remote

Before we dig into the software side, let’s first look at the part of the Harmony Elite system you will more than likely use the most, and that is the remote itself. Logitech has meandered over the years in terms of remote design, and they have been putting screens onto remotes for over a decade already, but the Elite is the best design they have ever come up with.

Touchscreens are something we now use every day, but that doesn’t mean they are always the best use case for a given situation. The biggest downside to a touchscreen is that it forces users to interact with it by first looking at it. That might sound obvious, but it’s one of the biggest detractors from a touchscreen as well. Forcing someone to look at a screen can make a simple task into a complex one, at best. At worst, they can be outright dangerous in some scenarios like in a car, where many manufacturers have forgotten that sometimes it’s important to be able to turn on the defrost without going through five menus first. The car scenario is perhaps a stretch when discussing something like a remote control, but the same principles are in effect. Touch requires the user to divert their attention, focus on a screen, ensure the screen is showing the correct options, and then touch it in the right location, where there is little to no feedback that the correct option was touched.

The Harmony Ultimate One

Logitech has made some poor choices over the years with Harmony remotes, to the ultimate (pun intended) mistake of the Harmony Ultimate. This remote featured a touchscreen in the very center of the remote, between the volume and navigation buttons, and the transport buttons. It was an insane decision. Luckily, Logitech has seen the error of their ways, and they’ve now situated the touchscreen at the top of the remote, where it is less likely to be accidentally pressed.

Let’s talk about the screen itself. It’s a 1.5-inch diagonal display with a whopping resolution of 128x128. It can display 65,000 different colors. Considering the use model for the display, it’s adequate, but that is the best thing you can say about it. A sharper screen would go a long way to make the Elite look a bit more premium, especially for the price. The colors are washed out, and the text is pixelated, but at the end of the day, it does function well. For most interactions, the screen is mostly used to choose activities, and to use less-used buttons, so the touchscreen works well in this scenario, since you end up using it less. On a remote control, one of the keys is not needing to look at it, after all. Still, a better display would be one way Logitech could step up their game.

The remote itself is very well designed. The top is a smooth, glossy, black plastic that is pleasing to look at, while the underside is a coarse texture that prevents the remote from slipping out of your hand. It measures 54 mm wide, by 29 mm deep, by 192 mm high (2.13 x 1.14 x 7.56 inches) and unboxing the remote, the short height was one of the first things I noticed. It is significantly shorter than the Harmony One it was replacing. It also weighs 164 grams (5.8 oz) which makes it feel solid, but doesn’t give you any sort of fatigue in use, and most of the weight is near the bottom, meaning it is easier to hold in your hand.

The smaller remote was achieved by removing many of the buttons off the remote, which might sound like a disaster, but in fact, it was very well thought out. The number pad was moved to the touch screen, which is likely the only casualty that will really be noticed, but those were buttons that I never used often so I don’t miss them at all. Other buttons were removed, such as skip, and those could be an issue, except that the Elite allows all buttons to offer two controls. Press is one, and press and hold for a second is another, so skip and fast forward now share the same button (unless you change it of course, since you can). By default, fast forward was press, and skip was press and hold, but in my home that is the opposite of how I would use it, so I swapped them around.

In fact, the removal of buttons has made the remote somewhat easier to use. As an example, delete on my DVR was a button beside the zero on the number pad. With the Elite, it is programmed to be a long press on Stop, which is much easier to access.

Regardless, shrinking the remote has made it more comfortable to use, and much easier to access all the buttons that are there. It really was a smart move. The new buttons are also just the right amount of click, and are an improvement over the Harmony One this model is replacing for me. In over ten years, I’ve never had a Harmony button stop working, and the remotes have been replaced for other reasons, so hopefully that continues to be the case with the Elite.

The remote feels solid, is comfortable to hold, and the layout is much easier to use. After a few generations of Harmony mucking up their remote layout, they seem to have made just the right course corrections with the Elite.

Introduction The Hub and App
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  • mjeffer - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I've had a phone or two that had integrated IR blasters. While they work, most of the apps for them were clunky at best and tactile buttons are just so much better when you want to quickly grab the remote and change the channel or volume. Reply
  • SpartanJet - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I bought the Elite and love it, though if I had to do it again I'd opt for the hub and cheap remote option as I use the iphone app almost 100% of the time. Though if I was an ADroid user (like the remote tablet that came with my TV) I'd have stuck with Elite as the ADroid Harmony app constantly crashes or loses connection with the hub...ADroid being ADroid I guess. Reply
  • mjeffer - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    "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."

    As a kid, I remember we had a VCR with this fancy new "remote". It was attached to the VCR with a long cord that plugged into the front of it that you had to drag across the room and risk tripping anyone who wanted to walk by.
    Reply
  • Makaveli - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    As a current Harmony One user I like the upgrades however the price is a non starter. For an upgrade from a perfectly working remote its just too much. I would consider it at $199. Reply
  • CalifLove00 - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    This is a great product. I will say like most here, the cost the item is high when you think of it as just a remote. That said, this is an item that likely gets used every single day. IF you find it useful, it is likely because it is saving you from having to use multiple remotes EVERY day. When put in perspective, the benefit outweighs the cost. Should it be cheaper - yes, even $200 is fair. BUT, given it proves it's usefulness more than any other competing product (IMHO) at the end of the day, it's worth every penny.

    ALL that said, I would like to see Logitech offer better batteries. For whatever reason, EVERY single Harmony device I've had has had its battery die extremely early in the product life. While my elite bat has not died out right, it's life has fallen way off, The thing cannot stay off the charger longer than a days use without needing to be recharged.
    Reply
  • Houdani - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I have an Ultimate, and agree that placing the buttons north of the screen was a rubbish decision. In order to counteract their awkward placement, I opted to reprogram the channel up/down buttons to behave as skip forward/back buttons instead. From a usability standpoint I think this is better overall. I would do the same thing with an Elite.

    As a side benefit, this remapping of the buttons counts as a page up/down when browsing the channel listing.

    As for the number buttons; I imagine folks mainly use them to type in their favorite stations. As an alternate, they can simply populate their screen with direct links to all of their favorite stations (including the logo for each station). Works great.
    Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I've got several issues with this review, but I just want to mention an error here.

    The Harmony does not have a knowledge of state. What it has is a knowledge of whatever setting it has made. There really isn't any feedback to the unit as to real time state. That's why, if you make a manual change to any basic setting also available on the Harmony, it isn't aware of it.

    A knowledge of state is when a device is updated as to the state of the devices it's being used with, regardless of whether the device has been used to change those settings. The Harmony has none of that knowledge, and it does lead to problems.

    I've tried a number of their devices over the years, and I stopped using all of them after a short period of time. A problem is that the limitations on Harmony devices can exceed its usefulness. Any adjustments to the system often require a manufacturers remote to accomplish. As the remote has no idea of what you're doing, you need to reprogram it for these changes.

    When someone sits down and grabs a different remote, which you can't always remove because there is some function or other the Harmony doesn't do properly, or at all, everything is thrown out of wack. The problem is that not every family member is going to understand how these remotes work, and will prefer to grasp the tv control instead. The works with kids, and even my wife.

    Another problem comes when you have several ways to do basically the same thing. You need to make multiple set-ups for that which becomes clumsy, particularly since the screen doesn't allow good descriptions of functions. have three different ways to watch a movie? Three ways to watch Tv shows, music? That's a problem.

    Yes, it can be done, but most people will find it a hair pulling problem. I'm not happy about it myself.
    Reply
  • Makaveli - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Some good points there.

    The easiest fix for the wife and kids is to hide those old remotes so everyone is forced to use the harmony. This way no can change state because there are no remotes to do so. My girlfriend is pretty bad with technology and doing this forced her to learn to use the Harmony and now she is fine with it.
    Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Sure, until they go and push a button on an a/v device, and leave it that way. Reply
  • Makaveli - Thursday, February 16, 2017 - link

    Time to invest in locked cabinets :) Reply

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