The Ultimate Universal Remote Control?
Logitech is the undisputed king of programmable universal remotes. They have sold millions of their popular Harmony line.
These handy gadgets let you control your television plus a slew of related audio/video equipment from a single handheld device.
The Logitech Harmony line is affordable offering different models with a range of prices.
Starting with the Harmony Companion for only $149 which is a full featured system including both the handheld remote and the Harmony Hub that makes it all work.
All Harmony products work with both Apple and Android smartphone apps. If you only want app control and don’t want the physical remote, the Harmony Hub is available by itself for $99.
Not as crazy as it sounds – all Harmony remotes work with Amazon Alexa voice control or Google Home so that makes a voice-only solution at a lower price.
Moving up the product line, the Harmony Elite for $349.99 adds a miniature color touchscreen built right into the remote itself and additional smart home integrations.
With the touchscreen, you aren’t limited by the built-in buttons on the remote, and can select TV channels from colored icons with each network’s respective logo instead of having to remember channel numbers or names.
Please note these prices are the nominal retail price and you’ll find better deals online at the usual suspects or your local big box stores.
Not Your Basic Remote Control
Logitech makes a lot (and I do mean a lot) of remote control products.
Although they work fine for basic use, I recommend the more advanced Harmony family products with the Harmony hub. Avoid the entry-level products that only use infrared signals.
The Harmony Hub provides the magic – radio frequency (RF) control in addition to conventional infrared (IR), smart home integration, and advanced programming.
Towing The (IR) Line
IR signals require line-of-sight between the remote and the device. This means you must aim the remote directly at the TV with nothing obstructing the path in between.
IR technology has improved quite a bit over the years, so many IR remote will work if they aren’t pointed precisely at the TV, and the signal can sometimes bounce off walls and cabinets – if you are lucky.
With a modern open family room / kitchen arrangement you may have been frustrated when you go to the fridge looking for a snack and find the remote you have in your hand will not work.
The Magic Of The Harmony Hub
Since most devices today still only have IR, the Harmony line of products includes the Harmony Hub to bridge between IR and RF.
The Harmony Hub is a separate palm-sized device that communicates using RF with the remote control wand, and then sends out IR signals to the TV and other devices.
The Harmony Hub has several IR emitters inside the device itself and jacks on the side where you can plug in additional wired IR emitters or sensors.
Using the Harmony Hub gives you the best of both worlds – a handheld remote that uses RF that can be pointed in any direction or even another room while the Hub provides the traditional IR signals needed to actually control your TV.
Just to help you visualize this – the Harmony Hub is placed on your coffee table, side table, or your TV stand equipment cabinet. Anywhere that puts it within line-of-sight of the devices you wish to control.
The Harmony Hub has a Wi-Fi connection to connect to your home network and a power plug so it doesn’t use batteries.
The Harmony remote itself, is a stick or wand shaped device that either uses batteries (the Companion model) or has its own rechargeable base (Elite model).
The Harmony remote communicates wirelessly using RF to the Harmony Hub, but they are not connected with any wires.
The Harmony remotes are intelligent devices so they need to be programmed to understand how to communicate and command your television and other devices.
Originally you were required to use a desktop or laptop computer, but now you can setup and program the Harmony remotes using an app on your smartphone.
This makes it easier, but not easy. Simple things are simple, but complicated tasks can be daunting.
The beauty of the Logitech products is that the software has a lot of built-in help and wizards that are designed to guide you through the process and smooth over some of the challenges.
But TBH, although this is a consumer product, it can be devilishly confusing to program and hard to set up for novices.
As a professional home automation and AV integrator, I install remote control systems like Logitech quite frequently.
I do it successfully only because I’ve done it many times before, have already suffered through doing everything wrong, have gotten help from Logitech tech support, and simply know “where the rocks are” to get the job done.
I’m not trying to say you must hire a local professional (like me, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area), but want to warn you that installing and using Logitech Harmony remotes to their fullest is not always a simple task.
If you are an avid tech geek or DIY’r, you’ll do fine. But if you get easily frustrated by multi-step installation and setup procedures, I want you to be realistic of the challenge you may be facing with this otherwise excellent product.
Not that it helps if you get stuck, but Logitech is actually the easiest and simplest remote control system of this kind to set up.
Larger, more expensive traditional systems such as Control 4, Crestron, URC, Savant, and RTI require extensive training – often in person or a lab setting, before one becomes proficient in programming them.
That’s why these bigger system are only sold by authorized dealers and require professional installation and programming. No consumer options are even offered – or allowed by the manufacturer!
Putting the “Pro” into Harmony
The bigger professional systems cost a lot more but do more. Typical prices can be anywhere from $800 to $2000 for a remote control system for a single room.
Yes, they are expandable to whole-house larger systems, but for a family room or media room by itself, they aren’t cheap.
As always, there is a bit of “you get what you pay for” and professional grade remote control systems have many capabilities – both hardware and software – not available in consumer products.
In September 2019 Logitech launched a new Harmony remote, the Pro 2400. This new addition to the product line is designed to provide a lot of the advanced capability that professional dealers have been requesting.
Coming in at $549 retail, it is more expensive than the Logitech Harmony Elite and doesn’t replace it, but is a welcome addition to the product lineup.
So here’s what makes the 2400 a Pro version:
Wired Ethernet – In addition to Wi-Fi, the network connection can be wired. This reduces latency and avoids Wi-Fi signal issues when the Harmony Hub is located inside a cabinet or deep in an equipment rack.
Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) – using PoE for power instead of a plug-in transformer is now an option. This is very convenient in equipment racks where Ethernet is available but power plugs are at a premium.
Eight IR jacks – The number of wired jacks for connecting IR signal blasters and emitters has been increased from 2 to 8. Much greater flexibility when controlling a lot of equipment (receiver, cable box, DVD player, streaming media box, auxiliary gear).
3.5mm instead of 2.5mm jacks – This might seem minor, but changing the size of the jack to the industry standard 3.5mm makes it much easier to connect additional IR emitters and blasters without having to make custom cables or use a lot of extra conversion adapters.
External RF antenna – This crucial antenna which is used to communicate wirelessly with the remote control wand is now external so it can receive a stronger signal or be placed further away such as in a closet or behind a wall.
New RF Hardware – This one is subtle. The Pro 2400 handheld remote looks identical to the existing Logitech Harmony Elite, but the radio hardware inside has been upgraded for greater range.
I’ve recently installed several Logitech Harmony Pro 2400’s and have been pleased with the results.
The changes are all hardware related so installation and setup is just about the same as for the existing Logitch Harmony products.
With the new and improved RF circuitry, you can’t mix and match hardware. So do choose wisely.
For most installations, the existing Companion or Elite models will be fine, but it is good to understand the capabilities that can be added by “going Pro”.
If you are looking at Logitech Companion or other remote controls at around $150 or less, there is certainly a big sticker shock to move up to the Harmony Pro 2400.
In fairness to Logitech, the additional features can be what makes the difference in being able to use it all or having to consider the much more expensive larger systems.
I won’t deny that if it was $200 or less it could really fly off the shelves, but I’m glad to have this option available.
You Can’t Touch This
The Logitech Harmony Pro 2400 is sold by Logitech only through dealers and custom integrators.
You won’t find it on the shelves of your local big box store or the typical online retail websites.
But like most products these days, if you look long enough you can probably find it for sale in some of the Internet’s side alleys.