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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  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Yes you can set the remote to do the IR rather than the hub. Reply
  • Oyeve - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Sorry, I have gone through too many Harmony remotes. They work great but are made like garbage. Reply
  • sl149q - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I have been using Logitech universal remotes for about a decade.

    Just picked up the Hub with Companion Remote and have been using it for a couple of weeks. The success rate with controlling equipment from the Hub is far better than with the older remote only versions.

    I have also paired it with an Amazon Echo, with reasonable success.

    Overall even to a longtime Harmony user I'm impressed and happy with the Hub and new remote.
    Reply
  • stux - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Been looking for a replacement for my One that is slowly dying, thanks for the article :)

    I too hope that it has macro/sequence functionality that at least matches the One, if not exceeds it. Many of the remotes after the One did not.

    With the One, the long bar format is getting dated, IR only is no longer very satisfying and it's lacking hard computer buttons is a pain. Add to that the keys that don't work anymore or that require excessive pressure, and its time to replace the poor thing. It's had a hard life :)

    Elite looks like it may be up to the job
    Reply
  • stux - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Computer = coloured Reply
  • stux - Thursday, February 16, 2017 - link

    This certiainly seems to imply that the Harmony Elite (at least the hub) has fairly good sequence/macro capability.

    https://support.myharmony.com/en-ca/creating-butto...

    Unlimited number of sequences each with up to 25 steps and delays.
    Reply
  • ABR - Friday, February 17, 2017 - link

    I don't know how it is on the computer, but I can tell you you just don't want to go there with the mobile app. Programming is absolutely excrutiating for more than 2 or 3... Reply
  • stux - Saturday, February 25, 2017 - link

    Well, I bought the Elite last week for 309AUD (235USD), and finally set it up today. I'm very impressed with it compared to a Harmony One.

    1) setting it up via the Harmony Control app was a dream.
    2) I was able to import my settings from my Harmony One, and as far as I can tell it works flawlessly.
    3) it picked up my Samsung and Xbox One over Wifi, and as they were both a bit deficiient over IR that's great
    4) it can now control my Wii. Great.
    5) the new channel favourite buttons worked great, and they're really good
    6) able to scroll the buttons with swipe gestures is cool.
    7) I like the hapic feedback
    8) its great having RF instead of having to steadily hold the remote points at the screen for tens of seconds
    9) the buttons seem much more responsive! I already had bare minimum timinings but the hub just seems capable of sending command sequences significantly faster than the old One.

    All up. I'm very very happy with it :)

    Finally, a worthy upgrade to the Harmony One :)
    Reply
  • Mannypace - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    I use to have a Harmony 650 which I stopped using because of the issues with HDMI-CEC conflicting. Most devices I have found only allow HDMI ARC (Audio return channel) when HDMI-CEC is turned on. Using Optical over HDMI ARC isnt a good solution as it only supports 5.1 sound none of the newer surround modes. Reply
  • Mannypace - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    How do the newer remotes fix these issues? Reply

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