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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  • HollyDOL - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    When reading about this I so remembered the 'Master Control' episode from Chuck series... Reply
  • gilmoreisu - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Yes! Love Chuck!!! Reply
  • Ironchef3500 - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    300 dollars for a remote? Pass. Reply
  • Ubercake - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    That's what I'm thinking. I've been rolling with a Harmony 700 for years now and before that I can't remember the model. Even these are normally $120-$160, but go on sale for $50-$70.

    $300 though? They are now competing with free phone apps that can control devices.
    They should drop the price to around $100.
    Reply
  • Azethoth - Monday, February 20, 2017 - link

    Remotes do not compete with free phone apps. A phone is not a substitute for a remote control. it just is not. Maybe if you are real poor, but for most people no. Reply
  • Ninhalem - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    The Harmony Companion looks to be the best deal. No need for the touch screen and you get 2X AA batteries instead of rechargeable. Reply
  • WithoutWeakness - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    Just bought a Harmony Companion on Saturday and it should show up today. Of course I was debating getting the Elite but I didn't want to shell out over twice as much for the touchscreen. Hoping that integration with IFTTT and Google Home can help with routines/activities for power and inputs and I can just use the remote for basic remote stuff (volume control, channel changes, etc.).

    Can't wait to get rid of my 5 remotes and just have one that can talk to everything and de-clutter the coffee table.
    Reply
  • weevilone - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    The Companion is a great remote. As long as you don't mind the lower device limit, and your family can remember what the buttons do, it's great. My family cannot remember what the buttons do, so the more expensive device works better. It's easier to simply read on the LCD than remember what a short press, or long press does on each of the pre-defined Companion buttons. Reply
  • KLC - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    I used to have a Harmony with a basic touchscreen until one of my son's friends stepped on it...So the companion just has a series of buttons for each action with no way of knowing what it is? Even the low end Harmonys used to have at least an LCD screen with physical buttons on the side of the screen. The screen showed what the action was and you didn't have to remember or guess. It doesn't sound too user friendly, have you found it to be an issue? I'm not going to spend $300 for an Elite but I need the hub since my electronics are in a cabinet. The Companion is priced right but I'm having a hard time getting around the unlabeled buttons. Reply
  • weevilone - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    Yeah one button looks like a music note. One looks like a movie symbol, and one looks like a TV. Each can be assigned 2 functions (short and long press). Otherwise it's a great remote as long as you don't have too many devices and activities. Reply

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