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Logitech Harmony paired with Android is the ultimate universal remote

I once owned a universal remote that I'm pretty sure was the size of a shoebox. That's how I remember it, anyway — a definite two-hander with a large screen (for the time) and very few physical buttons. Something like this (opens in new tab).

It was awful. Awful setup and not much better to use. But it still was better than needing to have three remotes by my side at any given time.

Fast forward some 15 years (I can't believe it's been that long) and we get to what I have today. Last fall I splurged on new Harmony remotes from Logitech, and they're probably one of the more important purchases I've made. They work, they work well, and they were pretty simply to set up.

Let's rap.

The basics

Here's the gist of the whole Harmony thing: It's first and foremost a universal remote. But gone are the days of looking up codes and hoping the remote would support your device. Also gone are the days of connecting the remote to a computer to sync things up.

These work with (require, actually) the Harmony app on Android (opens in new tab) or on iOS (opens in new tab). You set up the remotes through the apps, they sync over Wi-Fi, then you go about your business.

First you add your devices (either manually or auto-detected over Wi-Fi), and then you use those devices to fill out "activities", like "Watch TV", or "Play Xbox". Harmony does a good job recommending activities, or you can start from scratch. It's highly flexible, highly customizable, and pretty much just works. My only real complaint is that it can be a little slow to sync, but it's not like you have to do that too often.

As with everything else these days, Harmony works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, as well as with Philips Hue and other connected devices.

And with that, on to the goodies.

In the bedroom: Logitech Harmony Companion

I'm dead serious when I think the best-designed device in my home is this remote. We talk about curvy phones, but my wife catches me fondling this remote all the time and gives me a good dirty look for it. It's that good.

Harmony Companion

Beyond that, it's a fairly standard remote. It's got buttons — lots of them — a non-rechargeable CR2032 battery, and that's it. No newfangled touchscreens. It's easy to learn where things are by feel, which is another must-have in any remote. (And why I refuse to use phone-based remotes except for in a pinch — or when I want to lower the volume on whatever my kids are watching without getting yelled at.)

The real bonus in the bedroom with the Companion is the addition of the home control buttons. They look like lightbulbs and outlets and do exactly what you think they do — they control connected lights and outlets. That's a great feature in the bedroom, where I'll do anything I can to stay in bed just a little bit longer. (Yes, in this case that includes spending more money.) You connect Philips Hue to Harmony, set the button, and you're turning things on and off (or dimming) right from the remote. No voice control necessary (not something you want to deal with when someone's sleeping next to you), and no having to get up.

The Companion isn't what I'd call a "cheap" remote. But for me it's been worth every penny in look, feel, and function. (If you want something a little less expensive, you can get the Harmony Smart remote, which basically is the same thing minus the home control buttons.)

Harmony Companion at Amazon

In the living room

I splurged (quite) a bit in the living room. But this is where I'm watching TV most of the time, right? It's also where I have the most devices. TV. A streaming box. (Or two or three, depending on the month.) Game console. A lot goes on out there, and more important, a lot of people tend to use remotes in common areas. So I wanted something really good.

Harmony elite

As an added bonus, it gives access to "favorites" for some devices and activities, making things even quicker and easier. If I know what channel I want to go to on Roku or a specific station on Sonos, I just hit the favorite on the touchscreen.

Unlike the Harmony Companion, the Elite is rechargeable and comes with a Micro-USB-powered stand. It keeps the remote vertical while it's juicing up. That keeps it conspicuous, which is a good thing because it means folks generally won't be hunting for the remote. It's also just a very nicely designed charging stand and a definite improvement over the old Harmony One I used to use.

This is a serious remote that pretty much has all the bells and whistles: IR, RF, backlit keys, haptics, 15 devices controlled at once — the works. And the price reflects as much. But it also should be pretty well future-proof. If you want mostly the same features minus RF capability and some of those other bells and whistles, check out the Harmony 950. Otherwise, the Elite is the way to go.

Harmony Elite at Amazon

  • I bought a Harmony Home hub when they first came out in...I think it was 2013? At the time, it was the only remote that could be programmed to control a sound bar without having to go through a tedious IR teaching process. It's been one of the best tech purchases I've made. The hub sits there unobtrusively next to my TV, and the remote is great in the hand. I haven't done anything complicated with the programmable buttons, because I haven't needed to. When I need to do something complex and specific on my TV, I just fish the original remote out of the drawer. My remote doesn't have a touchscreen; the basic Harmony Hub remote is just fine for me. And in four years I've changed the CR2032 battery once. That's not too shabby. Oh yeah, and you can attach it to IFTTT! I programmed my Moto 360 watch so that I can turn the TV on and off...just because I could. You can't use the remote to trigger IFTTT actions (which would be fantastic), but it's still pretty great.
  • Good to know it's just a CR2032 cell. I'm sure mine has got to be getting low soon since I've had it for a couple years. Can't live without my Harmony!
  • I have a similar setup. I noticed Google Home can only recognize one Harmony hub though...I hope this changes in the future.
  • Alexa has that problem, too.
  • But they still can't control the Roku or Amazon Fire sticks. That stinks.
  • The Harmony Hub can control Roku and Amazon Fire sticks. It's just the Harmony infra-red remotes that can't, since those devices don't have IR sensors.
  • Will the Elite control a Shield TV?
  • It will and it does.
  • Newegg had a clearance deal on the Harmony Smart Keyboard a while back (comes bundled with Harmony Hub). I bought one mainly for my Kodi PC but then started connecting other stuff to it. Eventually got a Companion remote, which works for 95% of what I want to do even in Kodi, and I only need the actual keyboard occasionally (I wonder if that might also work for the Shield TV?). it's a hell of a gateway drug into the whole smart-home foolishness. There are a few glitchy annoyances to the control software (like the fact that you can't get the remote to send a single keystroke) but on the plus side it works with a lot of other systems.
  • My phone a Galaxy S6 with an IR blaster I've never had the need to try Harmony until recently. I'm purchasing the S8 and you guessed it, Samsung left out the IR blaster. I bought the Harmony hub and giving it a trial run for 30 days but after a week, it's a keeper. Can't say enough about it, the Harmony Hub is very good. After reading this article, I'm now aware it works with Alexa something else to play with.
    Overall, I'm very pleased with Harmony.
  • I find the Companion remotes buttons to be on the small side, especially the numeric keys. Other than that I love it, and with the smartthings hub it's perfect.
  • Mine controls our Firestick. Just can't use Alexa without the OG remote.
  • I've got a relatively old and simple harmony remote that cost about £25-30 and needs to be connected to a computer to set up... even that, without exaggeration, is 100,000 times better than any other universal remote I've ever used.
  • Using a Harmony myself, sorg touch and the works.. always have, and its great.. but! They all seem to have serious input lag on IR..
    Tried to preorder the upcoming Neeo remote instead.. don't know yet how well it works, but damn it will be pretty in the living room :-)
  • I have the Harmony Elite and mostly love it. The only drawbacks are the elimination of dedicated REPLAY and SKIP transport keys. I don't like to have to press and hold to toggle the REW and FFW keys to replicate those functions, so I had to assign them to other keys, making the remote just a tad less intuitive. The other problem is the Android app needs a big overhaul to make it easier to find where to change features. Because it's not something you use all the time it's easy to forget where you made a change the last time, and I find myself mashing through every option to finally get to where I want to be. It's frustrating. Otherwise the remote is great at consolidating various other remotes and customization.
  • A true 'ultimate' remote would have a bluetooth QWERTY thumboard and track pad. I have the old Logitech DiNovo mini which, while discontinued, is still hands down the best of its kind. And to this day, I still wonder why Logitech never had the idea to make a DiNovo that also doubled as a universal TV remote.
  • I mean, how much is this ultimate remote where you still have to scroll through an on screen alphabet for searching or web browsing? Yeah, its 2017 people!
  • hi
  • Can't believe how expensive these remotes are from Logitech. The $150 remote should be about $20-30. The $350 should be no more than $120. Great review, but what a rip off!
  • I bought the low end Harmony with the tiny screen... I got a FLIRC and attached it to my Nexus Player. All is amazing now! The only thing I give up is the voice that never worked properly.
  • absolutely love my Harmony Elite! i use it for everything - TV, Xbox, Sonos Connect, electronic candles, bias lighting, cat toys, air conditioner, etc. It unfortunately can't control all my WeMo switches yet, but i'm hoping they add that support in the near future!?