About the Logitech Harmony Elite
You’ve probably used a universal remote before, even if it was the primitive one that came with your cable box. Most such remotes allow you program different devices using a series of button presses, then using the buttons along the top—TV, CBL, DVD, and so on—to tell it which device you want to control at any given moment. It’s easier than using multiple remotes, but it still requires a lot of button presses to perform certain actions.
Think of the Logitech Harmony Elite like a “smart” remote. For $250, you get the remote, a charging cradle, and a wireless hub that can communicate with your devices over infrared, WiFi, or Bluetooth. It can control your TV, soundbar, game consoles, and Blu-ray player. It even works supports some smart home devices, like your lights or thermostat, with the buttons or built-in touch screen, and thanks to its WiFi connectivity, it also works with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
What We Like
“Activities” are a game changer
Logitech’s Harmony system is all about automating as much as possible—which is incredible when you have a TV, surround sound system, and multiple game consoles or streaming boxes. Instead of controlling each device separately, Harmony uses what it calls Activities: you press a button that says “Watch a Movie,” which turns on your TV, A/V receiver, and Blu-ray player, while “Play PS4” will turn on the TV, receiver, and game console, with the buttons automatically programmed to the actions that make the most sense within that activity. You can even add in smart home devices (like dimming the lights when you choose Watch a Movie), but we’ll get to that in a bit.
At first, these activities can seem a bit confusing, but once you start using them, it becomes second nature—even the less tech-savvy members of my household got the hang of it pretty quickly. Best of all, you can program each button individually using the app or desktop software, so if you want the Menu button to open your TV’s menu rather than your PS4’s menu for your video gaming activity, you can do so. Every other function is available from the Devices screen if you need it, but the Activities feature ensures that the functions you use are always front and center.
Alexa integration makes TV hands-free
The remote itself is pretty advanced in the way it communicates with your devices, too. It can send commands to the Harmony Hub over RF, which then controls each individual device using infrared, WiFi, or Bluetooth—whatever that given device supports. This alone is amazing, because it means you don’t have to point your remote at the TV, waiting for everything to turn on—you just press the “Watch a Movie” activity, put the remote down, and go make yourself some popcorn while everything powers up.
If you have a voice assistant, this gets even better, because you don’t even need to touch the remote. Start making that popcorn, say “Alexa, let’s watch a movie” (or whatever phrase you’ve programmed to match your activities), and Alexa will get the job done. You can even tell Alexa to turn the volume down, pause, or change the channel, which is perfect if you’re, say, on the other side of the room and need to pause whatever your kids are watching.
The touch screen allows for custom buttons
Logitech has a number of Harmony remotes, but the Elite is the only current model with a touch screen, and it makes a big difference. While the remote has all your typical buttons—play, pause, rewind, volume, channel up/down, and so on—I often find myself wanting to access specific, less standard buttons as well. For example, my receiver has a button that switches it in and out of surround sound mode, which is useful when listening to music—that button doesn’t exist on the Harmony remote, but I can add it to the touch screen for easy access.
I also use it to toggle subtitles, switch to my favorite streaming channels, or use the Roku’s “Instant Replay” feature (which replays the last few seconds in case you missed a line of dialogue). None of these are standard remote buttons, but the touch screen ensures you have one-tap access to them anyway.
Sequences turn complex actions into a single button press
That touch screen is also useful for custom automations I’ve created, which Logitech calls “Sequences.” Some functions don’t have a corresponding button on your remote—even the one that came with the device in question. So every time I play video games, for example, I have to hunt through the TV menu to turn on Game Mode (for the least amount of input lag), then turn it off when I’m done (for best picture quality when watching movies). It’s tedious, to say the least.
In Logitech’s software, however, I can create a sequence that does this for me: my custom “Game Mode” button opens the TV’s Menu, waits one second, presses Select, Down, Down, Select…you get the idea. Then, when it’s time to plow through orcs in Shadow of War, I can just press the button I created, and Harmony will do the heavy lifting, like a ghost seeking through my TV’s menus.
What we don’t like
The software is slow and clunky
In order to add devices, create activities, and customize your remote’s buttons, you need to use Logitech’s Harmony mobile app or the older MyHarmony desktop software. Neither is particularly pleasant to use, though at least you don’t have to use them super often—only during setup or the occasional button customization.
Logitech pushes the Harmony mobile app for new users, which is sometimes an exercise in frustration. The app will often make you wait while it syncs with your Logitech account at random moments during the process. Pressing the forward button sometimes takes you back, and it’s often unclear where a certain function is—like customizing the touch screen buttons. I avoid the app whenever I can, preferring to use the desktop program with a mouse.
The MyHarmony app for Windows and Mac has its own quirks, though. The interface feels about a decade old (which it is), dragging and dropping lacks precision and sometimes takes a couple tries to get right, and smart home control isn’t available at all—you have to program smart home devices from the inferior mobile app. But for most of the setup process, the desktop program is the way to go.
Smart home control is lackluster
Speaking of smart home, Logitech makes a point of advertising integration with products like smart lights, smart shades, WiFi outlets, and smart locks, among a few other products. There are even buttons on the remote designed to control lights and outlets, and you can add functions to the touch screen as well.
In my experience, though, smart control is just okay, at best. These days, it seems to work more often than not, though I have had a few occasions where it only dims half the lights in a room, or something like that—and its list of compatible devices isn’t particularly huge to begin with. Mostly, I just ignore the smart home functionality, since it’s easier to ask Alexa to do that stuff anyway. If you want the lights or shades automated for movie night, you can do so through Alexa’s routines instead of putting smart home control in your Harmony activities. You may find it works better for you, but based on my experience over the past few years, I wouldn’t necessarily bank on it as a selling point of the remote.
It’s expensive (but Logitech has alternatives)
At $250, the Harmony Elite is not cheap, and for some it may seem crazy to invest the same amount in a remote that you paid for your soundbar. If you’re like me and you want to tweak and customize every corner of the remote, though, it’s well worth it.
That said, Logitech has some less expensive remotes that might fit the bill too. The Harmony Companion is similar to the Elite in that it uses the Harmony Hub for communication over infrared, WiFi, and Bluetooth—complete with Alexa integration and not-having-to-point-your-remote-at-the-TV goodness. It eschews the touch screen for a huge price drop, though, costing only $100 on Amazon at the time of this writing. If you only need the standard buttons (or can program your custom buttons to them and remember which one goes where), it’s a great way to save some money while keeping the most important functionality. Alternatively, the $70 Harmony 665 uses a non-touch screen for your custom buttons, but ditches the Harmony Hub for a more traditional, point-the-remote experience (with no voice control and no support for WiFi and Bluetooth devices).
Should you buy it?
If you’re tired of juggling remotes and you have a smart speaker, yes.
Logitech’s Harmony remotes aren’t perfect, but they’re still the best in the game, and they’re well worth the price (whichever model you go with). Going back to a standard remote feels archaic in comparison, and the ability to create context-based activities, control your TV with Alexa, and program custom functions is a huge upgrade to the traditionally clunky home theater experience.
It takes a bit of work to set up, and you definitely need to have some tech-savviness to do so, but once all is said and done, you’ll have a remote everyone in the family can use, without having to constantly ask which button does what, or which remote on the coffee table they need to use for Netflix.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Whitson Gordon is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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