Logitech Harmony Express universal remote control review: Practical, but not perfect

Logitech’s Unity department makes higher common far off controls than almost about anyone. Its newest type, the $250 Unity Specific, may well be its maximum sensible, although it’s no longer the corporate’s maximum robust.

The Unity Specific doesn’t have the entire bells and whistles of the corporate’s the most effective Unity Elite ($350 MSRP), which Logitech will proceed to promote. The Specific doesn’t have a touch-sensitive show, it doesn’t have as many programmable buttons, and it may possibly’t execute complicated macros that incorporate each house leisure tools and sensible house units. However don’t mistake its obvious simplicity for a loss of horsepower. The Specific can do a lot of what the Elite can for lots much less cash, and—because it has Amazon’s Alexa onboard—it may possibly perform a little issues the Elite can’t.

The genius of Unity’s way has all the time been its intensive library of far off regulate codes which can be saved within the cloud. You inform the Unity Specific cellular app—to be had for Android and iOS—concerning the apparatus you wish to have to regulate, and it downloads the codes to the far off. This procedure is even more straightforward with the Specific, as it may possibly stumble on a lot of what’s for your leisure heart by itself.

harmony express device map Michael Brown / IDG

You drag your leisure device parts to the HDMI inputs they’re hooked up to.

It sniffed out my Samsung Q7F QLED sensible TV, my DirecTV set-top field, and my Xbox One video-game console, all of which might be hooked up to my house community. But it surely wasn’t very best. I needed to tell the app that I additionally had a Cambridge Audio CXUHD 4K Blu-ray participant in my apparatus rack, although that still has an IP cope with.

One room, one leisure device

The Unity Specific is designed to regulate a unmarried leisure device—targeted round your TV—in a single room. The far off is aware of what inputs your TV has—4 HDMI ports in my case—and diagrams them within the app. The remainder of the apparatus for your leisure heart seems underneath the ones ports and also you merely drag their icons to the related HDMI ports.

The part of the Unity Specific is composed of 3 parts: The far off regulate, a big infrared blaster that you simply sit down in entrance of your leisure heart, and an IR mini blaster that allows you to regulate audio and video parts that you’ll have hidden within a cupboard. The five.25-inch-long by way of 1.75-inch-wide far off has simply 3 rows of 3 buttons organized underneath a directional pad encircling a spherical OK button. The purposes of the 9 buttons can alternate relying on which tool the far off is actively controlling, however maximum of them can be common: Rewind, fast-forward, play/pause, quantity up, quantity down, and mute.

The directional pad permits you to navigate onscreen menus (up, down left, and proper) and urgent the middle button selects the highlighted serve as. Urgent and maintaining that heart button, however, summons Alexa so you’ll use voice instructions to energy on the entire units had to watch TV, release a wise TV app (both in your TV or on a streaming field), to regulate the rest you’ve gotten Alexa set as much as do. You don’t want to say “Alexa,” both—simply maintaining that heart button down for a 2d or two is sufficient. Alexa’s voice responds by means of a small speaker constructed into the far off.

harmony express speaker Michael Brown / IDG

The Unity Specific far off regulate has a small speaker on its again, in order that Alexa can ascertain your voice instructions.

Ease of use is the principle enchantment

In my set-up, maintaining the button down and announcing “Activate TV” was once all I had to do to energy up TV and set-top field and turn the lively show to the set-top field. To switch the channel, I simply held the button down and stated “Move to channel 200” or no matter channel I sought after to look at (the device additionally acknowledges channel names, equivalent to NBC or HBO). If I sought after to play a TV program I’d recorded, I may just say “Move to DVR” to convey a listing of recordings. I then used the D-pad to transport up and down the record till I discovered what I sought after to look at and pressed the OK button to play it.

harmony express button map Michael Brown / IDG

The Harmony Express remote has all the basic buttons you would expect to find.

Using the Harmony Express app felt very much like using the DirecTV’s native remote—to a point. If I wanted to delete a recording using the DirecTV remote, I could just press the red button and it would be gone. Deleting every episode of a series can be done just as easily. Deleting DVR programs with the Express involves more steps, although Logitech says its working to make it easier to use voice commands to perform actions for which no physical button exists on the remote.

It’s just as easy to launch a smart TV app—Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, et al—with a voice command, although the phrasing is slightly different. Instead of holding down the button and saying “Turn on…” you say “Go to Netflix app” or “Go to Hulu app.” In the few days I’ve had access to the Harmony Express, I’ve struggled to remember when to say “Turn on” and when to say “Go to.” I imagine I’ll become accustomed to the difference with experience.

Love means never having to say “Alexa”

Once you have the Harmony Express configured to your entertainment center, you can also control all your gear with any member of the Echo family. But you’ll encounter so many other situations where the remote control is faster and/or more precise than barking orders at your TV. And the only things you can’t ask Alexa to do via the Harmony Express is to play music and make phone calls using the remote’s speaker.

harmony express ir blaster ports Michael Brown / IDG

You can plug as extension IR blaster into the Harmony Express’s primary IR blaster.

The Harmony Express strikes a good balance between power and complexity. It’s very easy to set up, and it makes the most of Alexa’s ability to control hardware using voice commands. The remote itself won’t overwhelm you with buttons and inscrutable icons, but its simplicity does limit what you can do with it. If you want a remote that lets you stitch together complex macros that can cascade through your smart home, dimming the lights, closing your shades, and dropping the video projector screen from the ceiling at the touch of a button, you’ll want the more powerful Harmony Elite. If your needs are simpler than that, and you just want to get rid of all the extra remotes cluttering your coffee table, the Harmony Express is worth a look.


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