Regular readers know I am a Logitech Harmony Remote Junkie; I have owned pretty much every model since the beginning..even before Logitech bought the company in 2004. Harmony remotes require a little setup in the beginning but reward that effort with an ease of use that is difficult to match even with a professionally installed system costing thousands of dollars. All you do is select the activity you want such as Watch TV the remote will turn on all the devices required to perform that activity and set them up with the proper inputs etc. so you are watching TV in seconds with the push of one button. I suggest you take a look at my earlier review of the Harmony Ultimate, Logitech’s previous top of the line model for an overview of how hub based Harmony remotes work.
Around the beginning of 2015 Logitech started adding home automation to the already full but entertainment related feature set available on its remotes and the latest model, the Logitech Harmony Elite is designed to take advantage of the new feature set. Out of the box, it looks much the same as the previous models, a remote control, a hub with 2 IR blasters and a power supply.
The remote is the part that shows the most obvious change in that the transport buttons (Play/Pause, Fast Forward, Reverse, Record and Stop), which were inconveniently located above the display on the Harmony Ultimate, have been moved to the bottom of the display. They’re now a lot easier to reach. It is also a bit bigger and heavier (by one ounce) than the previous model.
Now let’s look at the display. Comparing it to any recent smartphone it s not the brightest and the UI is pretty basic, but it does get get the job done. It’s definitely more responsive than the displays on previous models. On the Ultimate, two touch sensitive buttons below the screen were shortcuts to the Activities menu and favorite channels. On the Elite, the Activities shortcut remains, but the other one now goes to a list of devices. This obviously in case you want to control a device or individually instead of as part of an activity. The favorite channel screen is still only a couple of swipes away.
You do get something for the bigger size. At the bottom the Elite has four buttons for smart bulb and socket control with a dimmer rocker in the middle. If you have something like Philips Hue or Lutron sockets as I have, you can program these buttons to turn groups of lights on and off. If you prefer to use your smartphone or tablet as a remote Logitech has improved the function and look of its app. This is the iPhone app.
One of the most welcome changes comes in the setup. In the past you had to use a clunky Windows or Mac app that required the remote to be plugged into the USB port of the computer. Now setup is accomplished by using the Android or iOS app on a smartphone or tablet. A lot of newer devices are detected automatically if not, you can still enter the name and model number of the device Logitech supports over a quarter million of them.
In my case since I had a previous setup, I was able to copy the activities from my Ultimate and my Ecobee 3 thermostat and Lurton Hub for lighting were detected by the app. I really enjoy being able to control my lights from the remote and the other night I was up later than usual binge watching a series so was able to delay the thermostat’s night time rollback without getting out of my chair.
Currently the Harmony Elite supports a small but growing list of home automation devices. The addition of a Harmony Home Hub Extender adds a huge list of devices to which you can connect directly: motion sensors, light switches, door locks and other devices that use the Z-Wave Plus™ or ZigBee® network.
The Harmony Elite is hands down the best universal remote you can buy for your home entertainment centre short of paying thousands for a custom professional installation. If you currently own a Ultimate or Ultimate home you may want to think twice about the upgrade at $399 for not a huge jump in usability. On the other hand if you have an older model or no universal remote to control a several device home entertainment system as well as some home autmation devices it is a really good buy evan at $400.