Logitech Harmony Elite review: easy to use remote that takes charge of your home

From home entertainment and wireless speakers to lights, thermostats, sensors, alarms and more, this is the one remote to rule them all – for a pretty price

logitech harmony elite review
The Logitech Harmony Elite the best universal remote money can buy, but it is the Harmony Hub that’s the smart bit with Internet of Things connectivity. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the one remote to rule them all, from TV, set-top box and console to lights, thermostat, wireless speakers and internet-connected sensors, it’ll control the lot.

Logitech has a long history of making excellent universal remotes that can not only control every IR device in front of your television, but also allow you to make custom remotes for controlling a team of different devices at the same time.

The Harmony Elite is the latest top of the range do-it-all remote, a product that has now moved beyond just your entertainment centre and wants to control your whole house.

Three-part system

logitech harmony elite review
The Elite in its charging dock with the Harmony Hub to the right. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

There three elements to the Logitech Harmony Elite. You have the remote, the hub and the app.

It is one of the best designed, most comfortable to use remotes I have had the pleasure to hold. There are remotes for show and there are remotes for using, and this is the latter.

It is easy to reach all the buttons, and they have a nice, responsive feel to them. The remote has a heft to it without being heavy and the soft-grip back makes it easy to hold on to. All these things should be a given for a remote costing as much as a television, but other solutions costing similar amounts fail on this fundamental level.

The top third of the Elite is a 2.4in colour touchscreen for choosing devices, selecting favourite channels or activities, or for setting off custom commands that are not bound to physical buttons.

The remote has its own charging dock into which it slots when not in use, but will last a good week or so between charges if you so wish.

Getting set up

logitech harmony elite review
The Harmony app makes setting up the remote via a smartphone a simple, guided step-by-step process. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Setting up the remote is also one of the easiest processes I’ve been through with universal remotes, but it can’t be done on the Elite itself.

Setup requires an Android or iOS device, or a computer. The Harmony app sets up a user account and adds devices. It also guides users through setting up activities such as “Watch TV” allowing one remote to turn the gear on, change channel on the satellite box, adjust the volume using the amp and change picture modes on the TV.

All you need to know is what you’re trying to set it up with, including the model number if applicable. Within about seven minutes I had six devices setup and five activities were ready to go.

Point it anywhere

logitech harmony elite review
The remote connects to the Hub wirelessly, which then relays the commands to the devices, meaning the remote can be pointed anywhere or used in another room. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Elite connects to the Harmony Hub, which in turn blasts out commands to your various devices via infrared, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, whichever is required.

The Hub comes with two IR blasters that can be plugged into the back to extend the footprint of its broadcasting abilities, which is useful if you have a load of equipment hidden in a cupboard.

It means you don’t have to point the remote in any particular direction and the response is fast – much faster than previous IR-based Logitech Harmony remotes.

The Elite is broadly divided into two functions: “activities”, which combines devices and actions together into one remote; and devices, which lists out all of your devices individually with full control of their every function.

logitech harmony elite review
The smartphone app also works as a full remote, with the volume buttons being able to control the TV’s volume, for instance. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Hit “Watch TV” on the touchscreen for instance, and it’ll turn on everything needed for watching TV and set a starting channel. For me that’s the amp, the satellite box and the TV, all set to the right input and mode automatically. I then get a custom remote to change volume with the amp, switch channels with the satellite box and activate picture-in-picture with the TV.

If I want to swap to the Amazon Fire TV, I hit that button and it switches the input on the amp, switches off the satellite box and we’re off.

Once you’re done with the lot, press the dedicated off button on the very top of the remote and it takes care of the rest.

In over two months using it I have yet to have it fail to turn something on or activate the right mode, but there are helpful buttons to fix things if they go wrong by sorting through what’s not on or correctly set.

All the same actions can also be performed using the Harmony remote app on any Android or iOS device, meaning others in the room don’t have to have the remote to change the channel. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing rests on the dynamics of your living room.

Internet of things tamed

logitech harmony elite review
The remote can control a variety of internet of things devices, including the Nest smart thermostat and any device connected to the SmartThings system. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Harmony Elite is about as good as a universal remote can get, but it gets a lot more interesting when you start to include your internet-connected devices in your home.

Without any configuration, the Harmony Hub can control hundreds of smart home devices from lights to thermostats to speakers.

For instance, anything configured with Samsung’s SmartThings Hub can be controlled using the Harmony. You can pause, play, skip tracks and adjust the volume of Sonos speakers. You can view the state of your presence, temperature, activity or water sensors.

It will even notify you if your Nest smart thermostat goes into away mode because it hasn’t spotted you in a while, if you’re actively using the Elite at the time, allowing you to turn it back on and adjust the temperature if you wish.

Not only can these devices be controlled individually, but they can also be combined into activities. I can turn off all the lights in the house with one button, or I could dim the lights in the lounge to only a lamp in the corner when switching on the TV.

A lot of the potential of the internet of things revolves around smart devices performing timed functions. But when you want to trigger an action right this minute, it’s often a case of digging out a smartphone, loading an app and hitting a button.

The Elite removes that rummaging, or puts it all within one remote app on your phone.

logitech harmony elite review
The remote lasts around a week of evening use per charge, or can just be left in its dock overnight. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

PS4

The one disappointing thing I’ve found with the Elite is with its control of Sony’sPlayStation 4. The PS4 makes for a great media player and while the Elite can control some aspects of it, the remote can’t turn on the PS4, can’t control Netflix playback or some other bits. It also won’t turn it off, only putting it into sleep when you hit the power button.

Logitech blames Sony for this, which insists that the primary driver is always the PS4’s controller, making for a lousy media experience.

Observations

  • It’s easier than I’d like to accidentally hit a button on the touchscreen when picking up the remote from the sofa
  • Channel favourites remove the need to go hunting in the guide for BBC One in HD every time
  • Trying to control pairs of Sonos speakers ends in one being turned up or down only, not both
  • The Elite can send IR commands directly, if you need it to, which makes it easier to controll things in another room
  • The shiny black Hub is a dust magnet

Price

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the top of the range remote from the company, costing £280. The Hub can be bought on its own for use with a smartphone for £100 or with a screen-less remote for £120, which is better value but not as convenient as not everything can be done from the remote.

Verdict

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the best do-it-all remote money can buy. It has few shortcomings and those that there are will normally be down to the device you’re trying to control rather than the remote itself, as is the case with the PS4.

The biggest problem is the price: it is very expensive for a remote. Logitech’s Harmony Hub is where the real potential lies, with its ability to control pretty much anything and become an interface for IoT devices. Controlling your home entertainment is tedious with only a smartphone, however, as it’s never a single button push to get the job done and always takes longer than you’d like.

For those that are annoyed by the plethora of remotes sitting on the coffee table and want something that just works, then the Elite is worth the price of entry.

Pros: controls practically everything, no line-of-sight required, easy to set up with the app, can also use the app to control, IoT integration, ergonomic

Cons: expensive, relatively easy to accidentally press a button on the touchscreen when picking up the remote, setup cannot be done directly on the remote

logitech harmony elite review
The back of the hub has a microUSB socket for power, two sockets for IR blasters and a reset button should everything go wrong. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian,

[Source:- Gurdian]