Logitech is well-known for their PC peripherals, but the company does a whole lot more than just mice and keyboards. Like most companies in the last few years, Logitech has ventured out into the smart home space, and the Harmony series of remotes is actually the piece that ties the entire smart home together, even though it was original created to give users one remote to control their entire home entertainment system. The Harmony Elite now controls everything, even your lights and thermostat. We've spent quite a bit of time with the Logitech Harmony Elite, checking it out and seeing how well it runs with different products, and well let's talk about it.
Setting up the Harmony Elite is quite simple, actually. There is the hub, which is where everything is stored. With the hub, you can add other remotes to the household and not need another hub, as they can all work off of that one. That's great if you have more than one TV. There are also a pair of IR receivers available for the remote to interact with the hub. We used just one, as we didn't need the other one, but there are two in case you need them. Once you get everything plugged in, the Harmony app available on Google Play and the Apple App Store are going to walk you through the process of getting it paired with your WiFi network and the products in your home.
Some of the different devices that you'll add to your Harmony Elite will require different steps to get them setup. For instance with the Amazon Fire TV, you'll need to go into the settings and add the Harmony Elite as a Bluetooth controller, and the same goes for the PlayStation 4 (presumably the Xbox One as well, although we don't have one here to test out). Pairing it with your TV is pretty simple, and during the setup process, Harmony Elite will also test it to be sure it is working correctly. Now for our setup, we have the Harmony Elite controlling a Hisense TV, a Comcast Cable & DVR box, a PlayStation 4, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, a MacBook Pro, and some lights from LIFX. That's a whole lot of devices connected to one remote, and Logitech has done a great job to make these work together virtually flawlessly.
One of the features that really makes the Logitech Harmony Elite different from other universal remotes out there is the Activities. Using Activities, you can start up an app like Netflix with just one button. With Netflix, the Logitech Harmony Elite will turn on the TV, set it to the Input that the PlayStation 4 is connected too, turn on the PlayStation 4 and open up Netflix. That's a lot of steps, but the Harmony Elite can handle it all seamlessly, which is a really nice feature. Logitech has a number of Activities available for the Harmony Elite already, but you also have the ability to create your own. These activities include playing your gaming system, which in my case is PlayStation 4. Also starting up the Amazon Fire TV stick or another set-top box that you have plugged in here. It's pretty robust and works really well.
Now the remote itself has a touch screen, which is a bit different for a TV remote. This touchscreen gives you some controls that are specific for different devices. For example, when set to the TV, it'll offer a number pad, different inputs and even a power toggle. But while set to a cable box, it'll give you things like skipping, previous, etc. The touchscreen is where you'll change devices, or start activities. There are buttons set specifically for the DVR, TV Guide and others. There are also buttons for lights and smart plugs at the bottom. So you can adjust the lighting in your room before you watch the movie.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the Logitech Harmony Elite is the fact that it works with Alexa. So even with your older TV, you can control it with your voice. Using the Alexa skill for Harmony, you'll be able to tell Alexa to turn on the TV, or turn on Netflix. She can also change to different inputs. However, she is not quite robust enough (and this might be because she's working with Logitech and not your actual TV or set-top box with this skill) to start playing a specific title on Netflix, Hulu or Google Play Movies & TV. Setting up Alexa is pretty simple, just add the skill and then login to your Logitech account. Unfortunately, there's no Google Assistant support just yet, but that should be coming shortly.
If you lose the remote, or don't want to pick it up, you can also control everything from the Harmony app on your smartphone. It'll give you the same interface, more or less, for you to turn things on, switch channels, inputs and such. Making for a great alternative, especially if your significant other is hogging the remote, you can still change the channel.
The Logitech Harmony Elite is normally priced at $349, which is quite pricey for an all-in-one remote, but it is worth it. Especially if you have a robust entertainment center and have smart lights and other smart gadgets around the home. Is it a need? Not really, but it is nice to have. Despite being out for quite a while already, Logitech is still actively supporting the Harmony Elite and sending out updates quite often. I've had this remote for about 3 months, and have received about 4 updates (still a bit funny to see your remote needing a software update). Which is quite good for Logitech, and great to see.