The Logitech Harmony has always been the kind of remote you wouldn’t want to stuff in between the couch cushions. Besides being able to control a plethora of AV devices, these controllers look good enough to leave right in the middle of the coffee table. There are options for both the budget-minded and those looking for something with a bit more flash. That said, they’ve always had limited capabilities when used in the Electronic House.
Oh sure, each Harmony controller can replace multiple remotes. The cheapie Logitech Harmony 350 ($39.98) can tackle up to eight AV components, while the Harmony Ultimate One ($249.99) can handle as many as 15. However, the great thing about the newly announced Logitech Harmony Elite ($349.99) is that it can control up to 15 AV devices, but also adds in support for an unlimited number of connected home products. Unlimited!
The Harmony Elite also has the company’s slickest touchscreen to date, along with gesture controls, motion sensing, vibration feedback, and a replaceable battery that promises 20 percent greater capacity over previous models.
Of course, one of the best things about the Logitech Harmony Elite is something that’s included on all Harmony remotes. Having those one-touch Activities means that you can use the Harmony Elite to dim the lights, adjust the shades, fire up the AC, and turn on the TV—all with the touch of one button.
The Logitech Harmony Elite is packaged with the Harmony Hub, two IR mini-blasters, a charging station, power adapters, and a USB cable.
Every smart home system has some sort of hub these days and the Harmony Elite is no different. The Harmony Hub is really the center of this setup. Every command sent from the Harmony Elite or even the Harmony app goes to the Hub, which relays it to the necessary devices. It features support for Bluetooth, WiFi and infrared (IR). The Harmony Hub is slim enough to slip into any available space, but if you’d prefer to tuck it into an AV cabinet, Logitech recommends adding in the mini-blasters. If you opt for that setup, one blaster connects to the Hub, while one is left out in the open. My setup isn’t enclosed. However, I never had problems turning living room devices on and off from the kitchen or another room.
While you’re trying to figure out where to place the Harmony Hub, charge up the remote. Just plug in the included charging station and park the remote in it. In fact, Logitech says that you should keep the remote charging whenever you aren’t flipping channels. I left it in the cradle overnight before trying to configure anything.
The next step is to download the Harmony app, which is free for iOS and Android devices. Yes, even a remote has its own app! After launching the app, you’ll be prompted to connect to an existing Harmony Hub or a new one. This was a really easy process from my iPad, since the app found my Hub in seconds. Just know that you will need your WiFi password to complete a new installation.
You’ll also need to create a Harmony account, if you don’t already have one. This involves a name, an email address, and a password. Once you have that account, you can start adding devices—or have the Harmony app scan for them automatically. Within seconds, the app found my DISH Network Hopper DVR and the two Joey boxes in other rooms, my Yamaha receiver, a Roku 3 streamer, and the Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge. (Sadly, my Nest thermostat is currently disabled, while we finish adding in a new furnace.) I had to manually add my TV and my Blu-ray player, which basically involved typing in brand names and model numbers.
From the app, I was able to flip devices on and off, but it also makes suggestions for Activities and devices to include in those. For instance, the app recommended putting the TV, the DVR and the receiver under one button labeled “Watch TV.” Besides clicking the devices you want to include, you can also set inputs during the Activity setup process, so the entire action is seamless.
Here’s where I get a little nit-picky. I love the Activities, but found it annoying that you couldn’t go back during setup. (Yes, my tiny but clumsy fingers made an input mistake.) Instead, I had to complete the process and go back to edit. Another bit of weirdness was that when setting up the Watch a Movie Activity, the on-screen prompts asked which device I use to operate volume. I didn’t get that same message when setting up my Watch TV Activity. Once again, it needed to be edited after the fact.
These are hardly dealbreakers, since they were easy to fix. Of course, the home control options make up for those minor annoyances. In fact, the Harmony Elite has a few hard Home Control buttons that can be programmed for one-touch access to smart home devices. In the app, I set the remote’s bulb button to tap into my Lutron Caseta system, so that the Harmony Elite could turn the table lamp on and off, as well as dim.
Once everything is set up, your preferences are stored in the Harmony Hub. This allows you to use either the app or the Harmony Elite remote as a controller. Of course, we are here to talk about the Elite, so let’s get to it!
Using the Remote
Despite the word count leading up to this point, getting this remote up and running is not a daunting process. I would say the entire setup took me maybe 30 minutes—with snacks. Once all of the information is stored into the Harmony Hub, it will sync that info to the Harmony Elite remote.
Every time you take the Harmony Elite out of its cradle, the screen “wakes” up with a list of Activities to choose from. At the bottom of the touchscreen, there are touch options for Activities and Devices. You could go to Devices and turn the TV on that way. However, the Watch TV Activity turns my TV, receiver and DVR on simultaneously. It’s easy-peasy and much appreciated.
Once the TV was actually on, there was a slight learning curve. My son seemed to pick up the remote quite easily. (He loves everything with a screen.) However, it took me a minute to learn where everything was, while my husband will get the hang of it sometime next week. (He resists change.)
Those Activity options are what I love, love, love about the Harmony Elite. There’s no flipping between remotes or inputs. It’s literally one-touch access to multiple components. If you want to watch a movie or listen to music, there are one-touch options for those too. Activities are pretty much limited by your imagination and the devices you own. Once you’re inside an Activity, you can scroll across the touchscreen to access Favorite channels, Pandora, Netflix, a keypad and other options, depending on your device and the Activity. It’s extremely easy to use.
I do appreciate that the remote still has hard buttons, since they mimic much of what we’re used to, including DVR functions, Guide and Info buttons, Volume Up and Volume Down, and more. I also like those hard buttons for home control devices at the very bottom of the remote. This gave me one-touch access to my Lutron Caseta-enabled light, as well as dimming features. I’m looking forward to adding the Nest thermostat, once it’s up and running again. (I will also add in a Goodnight Activity that will shut off the lights and turn down the Nest with one touch.)
Despite Harmony having a huge library of something like 270,000 compatible devices, the number of connected home devices that can be controlled by the Harmony Elite is still on the small side—but it’s growing.
One thing I didn’t love was the option for gesture controls. When I think of gesture controls, I picture waving arms at the TV. However, these are swipe gestures, which can adjust volume levels, fast-forward content, rewind, and more. It almost feels like Morse code. Maybe I will get used to it over time, but it’s not really a feature that I see myself using that much, when easy control is just a push away.
At $349.99, the Logitech Harmony Elite is the most expensive of the Logitech lot—but with good reason. If you don’t want the screen or the gesture swipes, it’s possible that a less expensive Harmony will be fine for your setup. However, for someone with an Electronic House (or at least the smart home devices this remote supports), the Logitech Harmony Elite is a great way to pull it all together.