Logitech’s “Harmony” wheelhouse has always been universally controlling home entertainment systems, and have been king of that hill for a while. They recently made a smart move (no pun intended) expanding their remotes beyond home entertainment into the entire home. They still control entertainment systems really well, but have taken their functionality to control additional electronic devices in your home. The Harmony Ultimate Home and Home Control remotes bring the home of the future here today in convenient easy-to-use packages.
Both the Harmony Home Control and the Harmony Ultimate Home universal remotes control a much broader set of devices. In addition to being able to control literally well over 250,000 different home entertainment devices, they can now control a variety of connected home devices. Things like Philips HUE lights, Nest thermostats, August smart locks, and Honeywell thermostats, to name just a few. And the list will continue to grow, as more home devices enter the market.
Both home universal remotes can control the devices individually or in groups with a single button. For instance, you can now turn your entire home theatre system on, dim the lights, and turn up the heat all with a touch of one button. Although both the Harmony Home Control and the Ultimate Home can control all the same devices, Home Control can be programmed to control up to 8 different devices, whereas Ultimate Home can control up to 15.
How it Works
Both universal remotes work in a similar fashion. They come with a Smart Hub that is the core of the system and it communicates with all of your home entertainment devices. The Hub uses Bluetooth, infrared (IR), and WiFi to communicate with devices so it has amazing flexibility. If you are putting the hub inside a cabinet and want to control some devices outside of the cabinet, it comes with an IR extender that to place outside the cabinet. The Hub can simply connect to your WiFi network or you can use an Ethernet cable directly into your router.
The universal remote communicates with the Smart Hub using RF (radio frequency) so unlike most remotes you don’t have to point the remote at the hub. This is a big improvement since it is very quick, very insensitive to objects in the way, and has a great range. I found the remote to be noticeably quicker with every command. In addition to the Harmony remote you can use your tablet or Smartphone as a universal remote by downloading their free app that communicates via WiFi with the hub.
Both universal remotes are ergonomically extremely well designed. I liked the Harmony Home Control remote the best because it is extremely thin, and has a very nice feel to it with a soft rubberized coating over the entire remote. The buttons are well placed and there are quite a few shortcut buttons on the top, for lights, music, TV, power, and a several that you can customize for anything you want.
The Harmony Ultimate Home remote is not as thin but has a rear profile designed specifically to fit your hand nicely, with curves to place your fingers around. It has the rubbery skin on the back but a shiny more elegant looking surface on top. It also comes with a touch screen that isn’t with the Home Control. The touch screen is pretty slick, no pun intended. You can use menus on the screen to control devices but you can also use swiping and other motions to change volume or the intensity of lighting, etc. It is also very customizable.
The Harmony Home Control remote is battery powered, while the Ultimate Home remote has a rechargeable battery that stays charged by placing the remote in an attractive cradle that is plugged into a wall power outlet. I liked the aspect of always knowing where the remote is but I didn’t like always forcing me to place it in the cradle.
Setup is relatively simple as it mainly takes place through your Smartphone or tablet. Just download the Harmony app on your IOS or Android device and it guides you through the setup process. First pair up your phone or tablet with the Smart Hub using Bluetooth, and then connect the Hub to your WiFi network by plugging in the password. It is quick and easy to do, and now comes the more time consuming part – setting up all the devices and grouping them together.
Each device is relatively simple to add to the controller, and some were even automatically detected by the Hub, such as my Apple TV and Roku 3. The rest were easy to add manually by typing in the brand and model numbers and Harmony had no trouble locating them.
Then the real power of both remotes comes from creating full activities or events where you group various remote commands into one command. For instance, I created an event called “Apple TV,” which creates one button that turns on my TV, changes the HDMI port to the appropriate one, turns on my Apple TV, turns on my Surround Sound Receiver and changes it to the right sound input setting. I can also then turn all those devices off with the push of one button.
As I indicated, the setup of each device is relatively simple and grouping them into useful “events” is not complicated either, BUT I will warn you that it does take time to get the remote exactly the way you want it. This won’t happen in a few minutes, and not even likely in an hour. Your best bet from my experience is to add all your devices individually and maybe add the most common event, like “watch TV.” And then over the next few weeks add a new event every day or two. The nice thing about these remotes is that you can control lighting, thermostat, door locks and more devices as they become available in addition to all your home entertainment devices. This will give you a lot more options in terms of the types of events you can create, so you can change the rooms ambience when you watch TV or whatever you do.
You are probably wondering which is better, the Harmony Home Control or the Harmony Ultimate Remote? They are both awesome universal remotes so you won’t go wrong with either, but I will provide an objective comparison based on using them both. In terms of value for your hard earned dollar, in my view the Harmony Control wins hands down.
The main difference between them is the Ultimate is rechargeable with a cradle, has a touch-screen panel on the remote with swipe and touch commands, and can connect more devices. It can control up to 15 devices whereas the Home control does up to 8. But the Home Control battery is designed to last over a year and is inexpensive and easy to replace. It is a great remote control that is a thinner and a nicer profile in my opinion. Most of the time I found myself using the app on both my iPad and Smartphone, so the actual remote didn’t matter that much. I can do all the touch controlling there with the app, and on the iPad I loved the bigger screen.
For the money, the Harmony Home Control is one of the best (if not “the” best) universal remotes in the market. Only if you have a large complicated system and need to control a lot more devices should you splurge with Harmony’s Ultimate Home.