We have become so connected and dependent on our technology that life would be difficult without them. Smart thermostats can be controlled while you are at work, smart TVs have endless amounts of on demand content, even electrical sockets have built in wireless nowadays so that you can turn off items that have yet to become a “smart” device.
It doesn’t even stop there, your in-home lighting can be remotely controlled or colors changed, your TV wirelessly connects to your sound bar, and what’s great about all of this is that it is all designed for ease of use and convenience.
Even though many products are “smart” they still need a little assistance when communicating with YOU, the user. Some products, like the Amazon Fire TV, have created voice commands, but that only gets you so far. The Xbox allows you to wave your hand in front of your Kinect for motion control, yet can be somewhat difficult as I have found.
To solve this problem, we need a device that communicates to hundreds of products. The first thing that may come to mind is your smartphone. Nearly all phones now come with IR blasters which are pretty handy for changing TV channels, but when you want to change the thermostat temperature you need to open a new app, and the same goes for adjusting the lights, or increasing the volume on a Bluetooth speaker. A smartphone can definitely connect to all of your products, but not as easily and is somewhat time consuming.
Just about a year ago, I took a look at Logitech’s new and heavily improved smart remote. These Harmony remotes have been around for quite a while. They are extremely helpful and handy, but they don’t seem to have much popularity around them. My conclusion of the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home ended with a five star rating and I still use it to this very day, my living room and office wouldn’t be the same without it.
In short, Logitech Harmony remotes are universal remotes that can connect to multiple devices all at once. They have the ability to use Wireless, Bluetooth, and even IR to send commands to your devices. The remotes themselves contain most of the buttons you need and additional commands and buttons are found on the touch screen.
A year later and Logitech has once again revamped their flagship remote and it is now dubbed the Harmony Elite. Bringing a new design, new layout, and some new features, this remote needs to exceed expectations and it might just do that.
Welcome to my review of the Logitech Harmony Elite remote. Throughout this review, I will be discussing the following topics: the design, functionality, and my final thoughts. A special thank you to Logitech for providing this unit.
If you took the time to read over my Harmony Ultimate Home review, right away in the design section you would have noticed that I preferred the white color and said that I would have chosen the white over the black. I was wrong.
This time around I received a black Elite remote and I must immediately say, it’s vastly superior in design. Using a glossy finish on the front with a rubber chin and back, the Elite remote blends into its surroundings without becoming an eyesore. On my previous Harmony remote, the pearl white was sometimes mistaken as a home phone, rather than a remote.
Beginning with the face of the remote, the unit received a face lift with the touchscreen relocating to the top of the remote, and the media playback keys below that.
Each button is individually backlit which allows for nighttime usage, but their smaller character font size makes it a little harder to read if you have reduced vision. I didn’t find the smaller font size too unbearable, but those who are older may think otherwise.
New buttons are introduced to the Harmony Elite and these are located at the very bottom. The Elite remote can now adjust two smart lights and two smart electrical plugs. These buttons activate an On/Off switch and the center +/- adjustment button allows for an increase in brightness/power to the items.
The activities and devices buttons have now been converted into a capacitive button, rather than the previous onscreen button.
On the touchscreen, you now get a solid black wallpaper with white text. This is great for reading the commands on the screen without much squinting or frustration. They also removed the touchscreen lock screen which was an improvement as previously it didn’t offer much functionality.
As for the brains of the operation, the Harmony Hub, remains untouched with all the same bells and whistles of previous models. It still contains all of its functionality including the additional IR blasters for when components are located in a credenza.
Finally, the docking station of the Harmony remote is new with an all-black finish and very sturdy base. It would require considerable force to knock it over. The dock has a high quality feeling and the remote snugs itself down into the station with little effort. Although, the rubber on rubber finishes do tend to resist each other when docking the remote.
Even though the Elite remote looks different to the previous model and the user interface received a face lift, the functionality of the remote remains practically unchanged.
Before I begin this section, take note of some of the key terms I will be using. This remote uses a feature called “Activities” which are created lists in the MyHarmony software that can perform multiple actions at once. For example, I use an activity that is labeled “Watch Fire TV”. With a tap of the activity, the TV turns on and is set to the correct input, followed by the sound bar. These activities can include anything you want, like turning on music devices for listening to music or making sure the Xbox is turned on and the TV is set to the right input when playing a game. Everything in that activity is turned on and off with one tap. “Devices” are the individual devices connected to the remote. Devices can be individually controlled, if you desire, for one time usage like when just wanting to pair a new device to a Bluetooth speaker. Logitech’s database contains over 270,000 devices, so I have no doubt you’ll find the device you have in your living room. The last thing to take note of is, depending on what activity or device you are using, the touchscreen will automatically display commands that you can use, like adjusting the Aspect Ratio for a TV.
You first connect your Harmony remote to your computer and use the Logitech MyHarmony Software to begin setting up the remote. I was avoiding doing this as I didn’t want to go through the process of recreating all of my activities and devices. To my surprise, Logitech had me connect my MyHarmony account where it then offered the ability to transfer all of my previously created settings from my old remote; how awesome that was! After just a few minutes, the remote was all ready to go with minimum effort. First time users will need to go through the setup phase of adding devices, activities, and favorite TV channels. For the software experience of setting up the device, read over my Harmony Ultimate Home review under the Unboxing and Setup section.
The MyHarmony software is straightforward with helpful steps walking you through the process. You can make activities, add devices, change icons, change device settings and a few more things. I still found the software to be slow and sometimes hang when syncing the remote, but patches have minimised this occurrence. A new feature of the software that I really enjoyed is that you can now wirelessly sync changes to your remote. Make a change on your MyHarmony software, then go to your remote and download the changes; no longer do you need to use the USB connection to your PC.
After the Harmony hub was centrally located on top of my credenza, I sat down on the couch and began using the remote. The new interface is simple and more responsive than the last and the built in motion detector allows the remote to detect movement and promptly activate the lights/screen.
Night functionality is fair with the LEDs being acceptable although I would prefer either adjustable brightness or a slightly brighter backlight.
Tactile feedback on the buttons offer a subtle click noise with very little travel distance needed to be activated. Moreover, the physical buttons include everything you need for general usage including volume, a movement wheel, channel button and red, green, yellow, blue buttons for gaming consoles.
The remote’s body remains the same length as the previous model, but is now thinner in both width and depth and is more streamlined. This new rework prevents the remote from shaking or rocking when placed on a table, something I heavily disliked about the Ultimate Home remote. One hand operation is also much easier with your thumb being able to access all of the buttons with ease.
When it came to actually using the remote and playing around with the activities, again, the functionality didn’t change much. Speed and accuracy of the hub was all the same as well as Bluetooth connections such as when connecting this remote to my Fire TV Stick.
A feature of this remote is that you actually don’t have to use the remote at all. As strange as that may sound, you can actually use the Harmony App on your smartphone to control everything your remote can. The IR blaster on your phone replaces the one on the remote, and Bluetooth and wireless connections are still submitted through the Harmony Hub. I stuck with using the remote, but for those who can’t let go of their phone, that may be the best option.
Do note, that while I use the term “smart” quite often, this remote doesn’t require a “smart” product to work along with it. I have a 15 year old Sony amplifier and this remote functions with it just as the OEM remote does. Same goes for my normal LG TV.
My Final Thoughts
This little gadget is like having 15 remotes all packed into one device and I couldn’t go on without it. Its functionality is off the charts and it makes a living room that previously required four remotes much easier to manage. All of this however, does come at the hefty price of $299.99. If you want to become a power user who takes control of their smart connected home, then I highly recommend picking up this remote. This remote receives another five stars in my books and you won’t regret this purchase. For those who believe they can do without the touchscreen or those who are on more of a budget, Logitech does offer the Harmony Companion which does everything stated above with the exception of the touchscreen; that remote is only $149.99.
© 2016 Justin Vendette
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