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I’ve been using Logitech’s Harmony Ultimate Remote with the company’s Harmony Hub for the better part of 10 months. So this review is more a long term review. And while not perfect, the Harmony Ultimate Remote is the best universal remote on the market that is designed to not only control your home theater devices, but can interact with your home’s smart devices, including Sonos, Apple TV, Philips Hue smart light bulbs, August door lock and a few more.
So keep reading my Harmony Utlimate One Remote review to learn more. If you also want your TV to look great, take a look at the best TV mounts on the market.
Price: $299 on Amazon ($193 without the Harmony Hub) or $217 in white
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Easy setup, smartphone compatible, easy to use. Done.
What We Liked:
What We Didn’t:
The Harmony Ultimate universal remote has an excellent ergonomic design. Thanks to a curved back it fits nicely in the hands and is weighted towards the base to make it easier to not only hold, but adds confidence when picking it up.
The keys are all backlit and the touch screen is full color. The volume and channel buttons are placed in a logical position and are easy to reach. Controlling most smart devices, along with a PS4 or PS3, works fairly well as you can use the directional keypad.
That said, the PS4, for some reason, can’t be turned on via the Harmony Ultimate remote, despite the PS4’s iPhone app having this capability. A small caveat, but an annoying one as it worked with my PS3 and made turning on all my devices via an “activity” (macro) very easy and pain free.
Related: Also check out our Redeye Universal Remote Control review.
The Harmony Ultimate’s touchscreen is responsive enough, but is slow from menu to menu. Moreover, scrolling down you’ll notice some lag and judder, which is a disrupting experience if you’re accustom to the iPhone’s kinetic scrolling feature.
At the the base end of the Harmony Ultimate is a microUSB port. It’s used for initial setup and some software updates. That said, some updates happen over the air (OTA), though why some do and don’t is beyond me. It just frustrates the hell out of me in this “all things wireless world” that you have to plug-in what is intended to be a smart device. Nevertheless, you now know, so manage your expectations accordingly.
Of note: the Harmony Ultimate Remote does include an “off” button. It works with some devices to shut them down. But holding it will also power off and reset the Harmony Ultimate, which can be handy if the universal remote freezes, which happens very infrequently.
See also: Our GlideTV review.
It’s been sometime since I set up the Harmony Utlimate Remote, so you’ll have to pardon the absence of details here. What I do recall is some frustration. Which if I remember correctly was a result of having to download the Harmony software to my Mac, then plug in the remote via USB to my computer.
If I am being honest, I expected everything to happen wirelessly, much like Sonos. But alas, you do need to pair the Harmony Utlimate Remote to your home’s WiFi, such that it can interact with devices such as Sonos and those alike. Fortunately, the Harmony software will remember your devices and activities (macros). So if you’re upgrading you can quickly copy them over to the Harmony Utlimate. Additionally, the software will also try to detect devices in your home and suggest adding them, along with suggesting activities.
Accordingly to Logitech, the Harmony Ultimate can support up to 270,000 devices from 6,000 brands. In the event you can’t find your device in the database, the Harmony Utlimate remote has “learn” function. Just simply add a new device via your smartphone and walk through the onscreen instructions. All you have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions, and point your device’s remote at the Harmony Hub for each prompted command.
I setup the Ecovac Deebot D45 robovac with the Harmony Hub and it worked perfectly, allowing me to hide yet another remote. But you should note, that finding the “learn” function is a process of elimination. You’ll need to try and add a device that isn’t listed, where upon you’ll be prompted to enter the make and model. Following that, and only following that, will the Harmony Ultimate app ask you to teach it the universal remote’s commands (full disclosure: i’ve only taught IR commands and I’m not sure if RF would work).
Note: The Harmony Ultimate remote supports up to 15 devices. The Harmony Hub, which can be purchased by itself for $99, is artificially limited to 8 devices.
That all being said, you’ll want to place the Harmony Hub in an area that allows it to reach most if not all your IR devices – IR is limited to line of sight, unlike WiFi, Bluetooth and RF. If this can’t be accomplished, Logitech includes two IR Blasters, which plug-in to the Harmony Hub and allow you to reach components, such as a home theater receiver, hidden away in a cabinet. The Hub only supports up to two IR blasters, so you’re a bit SOL if you have a third device that is out of reach from the other two.
My uses case for the activities, or macros as I like to call them, is largely just one, though I’ve added up to 5 so far. My “go to” is something I call Home Theater, which turns on my projector, drops down the 115″ Screen Innovations screen (love that screen!!), turns on the home theater receiver and sets it to the PS4 HDMI input. As previously stated, the Harmony Utlimate used to be able to automatically turn on my Playstation (when it was a PS3), but apparently Sony no longer supports this in the PS4. Update: it looks like the Harmony Hub now works with the PS4. Problem solved.
Once all of my gear is fired on, I largely use the Harmony Ultimate remote to control my receiver’s volume and PS4. That and shut down the entire system when I’m done for the night fragging foes using the latest GTA 5 cheats. Why?
Well, in the case of DISH, I prefer the company’s dedicated remote, largely because I know that remote’s buttons without looking, allowing me to easily channel flip, recall the last channel and scan through the guide page by page. It’s feasible to perform the same functions with the Harmony Ultimate. But you see, sometimes you’ll need to use the touchscreen to access functions that would otherwise be a physical button press on the standard DISH remote. And to be honest, I just don’t have the patience for that.
Update: I’ve since discovered that you can easily map additional (physical) buttons on the Utlimate Harmony Remote via the app. Moreover, Harmony makes it very simple to do this. So in theory, provided you don’t need too many functions within a thumb’s reach, this should resolve (my) any issues.
I do, however, often end up using the Harmony Utlimate remote to control my PS4 when I’m watching Netflix, Amazon Prime or media stored on a connected hard drive to the console. It’s worth noting that the back button doesn’t work in every PS4 app, which means I occasionally have to scan for the O button in the touchscreen. This also takes time and builds slight frustration.
Furthermore, and this might be a result of how I setup my remote, I can’t control my receiver’s volume once i’ve selected the PS4, unless I wait for the remote to return to its locked mode, where upon the volume can be accessed again. Is there a setting to fix this? Perhaps.
Good to know: And yes, the remote’s touchscreen locks automatically after about 10 seconds of inactivity. To lock, you just slide your finger to the left or right.
What is a nice touch, is the ability to program up to 50 favorite channels into the remote’s touchscreen. Each channel can be represented by an icon or station name. It’s a handy feature if you tend to watch the same channels, which many of us do.
In terms of smart devices, or smart home devices in this case, I’ve connected the Harmony Utlimate to my Sonos system. And while it’s nice to have it integrated into the remote, and the Harmony app on my iPhone for pausing or lowering the volume, I continue to use Sonos’ app because it allows me to search for music and change the systems settings. And it would seem that the Harmony Hub has to be connected to each individual speaker on the network, thus defeating some of its usability. Where as the Sonos app can control all the speakers on the network at the same time and perform a variety of other functions that aren’t available otherwise. That all being said, the Harmony Ultimate Remote has allowed me to reduce my coffee table’s clutter, negating 4 remotes – 5 if I included DISH.
Included is a charging station. In my experience I can get 4-6 days of battery life without charging it. And while I’m not using it for every task, and with every smart device in my home, the remote’s screen and backlit keys do automatically illuminate every time it’s moved in the slightest. Plus the it provides haptic feedback any time a key is pressed, which is a nice touch, but does surely eat slightly into some battery life. Nevertheless, battery life is a none concern as you’ll likely place it back in the included cradle when not in use. And charging time doesn’t seem take long, though I couldn’t tell you how long it takes to get to full charger. This is a battery indicator level on the screen, though.
Perhaps the best thing about the Harmony Utlimate remote is that it ships with every major wireless protocol (Bluetooth, WiFi, RF and IR) built in, save for Zigbee and Zwave. And to that end it’s compatible with a massive amount of devices; 270,000 to be exact. Unfortunately, those (the wireless protocols) are slightly in vein because you’ll occasionally be required to plug the remote into a computer to provide software updates or reflects changes made in the Harmony iOS or Android app. Odd, right?
And while the Harmony Ultimate remote falls short of smartphone intuitiveness, it does include an accompanying app that makes up a massive amount of ground, providing easy customization and setup. And to Logitech’s credit, no one else to date, at least in my experience, has come up with a smartphone app that can actually supplant a physical remote.
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