PAT PILCHER settles in with the Logitech Harmony Elite remote and discovers not only is there no need to move from his seat and no more searching piles of remotes, but the wife is happier too.
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Logitech Harmony Elite ($499.90)
Witchdoctor Rating: 9.0/10
Logitech has been making excellent universal remotes for years. Their latest, the Harmony Elite, is their best yet – a real do-it-all that doesn’t just control entertainment gadgets, but can control connected smart home widgets too.
Being a gadget freak translates into a rarely talked about malady: Oufocontroliousremoticus, identified by a teetering pile of remotes that drives one’s spouse around the bend, and it’s a chronic and painful to treat condition. Logitech may have come up with the perfect treatment.
Not only is the Harmony Elite well designed, comfy and intuitive to use but, unlike a lot of other universal remotes, it is a doddle to set up and works well.
The ergonomics are excellent with all its buttons within reach of my thumb and intuitively laid out so that after a few days’ use it became second nature to drive. This is helped along by a small colour LCD touch-screen that occupies the top third of the Elite. It can be set up to run pre-set tasks or selecting favourite channels that you’ve pre-installed.
The Elite also comes with its own charging dock and can last up to a week between charges. Having to cannibalise batteries from other remotes becomes a thing of the past.
The second part of the bundle is the Harmony app for Android and iOS. It makes set up a simple step-by-step process. Things kick off with the Harmony app setting up a user account and prompting you to add devices for the remote to drive. Doing this is as simple as entering the brand and model of the device you wish the Elite to control.
Macro functions can easily be created and are called ‘activities’. These can be as simple as ‘Watch TV’. In my lounge, this sees the Elite powering on my TV, switching it to HDMI1, powering up the My Sky box and dimming my Philips Hue lights (if it’s after dark). Achieving this took me just 15 minutes.
The remote itself has no infrared capabilities, instead connecting wirelessly to the third Elite component, a small hub. The hub can be placed anywhere within sight of the AV gear you want to control and will relay remote commands. An infrared blaster is also bundled which gives a lot more flexibility as to where you can place the hub. The hub is a versatile wee beastie as it can blast out commands to your gear in infrared, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. There really isn’t much that it won’t control.
It also means you don’t have to point the remote in any direction. With two greyhounds who love to stand between the TV and my remote (we call this grey-mote control), the hub and IR blaster setup proved very handy indeed. The hub can also be handily controlled by the smartphone app which works as a full remote. Additional hubs can be purchased for use in other rooms.
Functionality is divided into two task areas. Firstly, there are the ‘activities’ combining devices and remote commands, so you can issue a single activity command to drive multiple gadgets. Secondly, there are individual devices, which will list the gear you’ve added using the Harmony app and provide control of their every function.
A third capability isn’t so much a function but is very handy. You can store favourite channels and upload their network logo to display on the colour touchscreen. In use, this saw TVNZ One with its round swirl graphic and other network logos displayed intuitively on the remote’s LCD touchscreen. One of the handiest features of the Elite also happens to be one of the simplest: its off button will power down all devices currently in use.
Last but by no means least, the Elite is also theoretically compatible with the Amazon Echo. I say ‘theoretically’ because even after adding the Harmony skill to Alexa and copious fiddling, I couldn’t get it to work.
That said, after using the Elite for more than a month, I’ve found it to be otherwise completely bomb-proof. I’ve yet to have it fail to work with something. If this was to happen, Logitech has also thoughtfully included helpful buttons designed to guide you through the steps needed to get things fixed in the unlikely event something is set up incorrectly.
Not content with being the one remote to rule all the AV gear in your lounge, the Elite can also control connected internet of things widgets, including the Philips Hue bulbs and equipment connected to the SmartThings ecosystem. This meant that I was able to integrate cool cinema-like light dimming effects into my ‘Watch TV’ activity.
Adding a Nest thermostat would also, for instance, allow me to take the chill out of the lounge while getting some quality idiot box time. All that’s needed now is a popcorn maker robot, and I’ll be set like jelly.
The Logitech Harmony Elite is easily one of the best universal remotes available. An easy setup combines with a well thought out design to make it ideal for use with a wide range of gear.
That said, it isn’t cheap. Depending on where you shop, it’ll set you back around $499. You do however get a hell of a lot of remote for your money. Despite its price tag, for those with an unwieldy pile of remotes and a fuming spouse, the Elite really is a must buy.