Logitech Harmony Elite review

After becoming hooked on Logitech’s Harmony Companion remote, I wondered, what could the Elite version offer? For over double the price, surely it must offer something significantly better. What I found was, in some cases yes, but not always.

Design

The Harmony Elite comes with one remote, one hub, two IR blasters, and is limited to 15 total devices. I much preferred the thinner design of the Harmony Elite remote. The bottom has a soft touch grip and despite it being slightly heavier than the Companion remote, I found the added weight felt good in the hand.

It was much easier to reach all of the physical buttons on the remote than it was on the Harmony Companion. It also uses a slick plastic material on the top which did not absorb oils and appear dirty after using it for several weeks.

The Harmony Elite suffered from a similar problem as the Harmony Companion when it came to buttons. They didn’t offer much in the way to distinguish themselves by feel alone. However, the way the Elite made itself easier to use was by having less buttons overall and using a backlight. This made it much easier to learn the remote or find the buttons I was searching for at night.

There is also an LCD screen at the top of the Harmony Elite. This is where you’ll find many of the missing buttons that are on the Companion remote. Each time you choose a device you’ll find every button on the original remote and sometimes more. If you happen to be missing a physical button or can’t find which button an action is assigned to this little LCD screen is a lifesaver.

Now, the downside of this LCD screen and the backlit buttons is battery life. Unlike the Companion, the built-in battery on the Harmony Elite is not replaceable but it is rechargeable. What this means is, you won’t be getting a year of battery life like you would with the Companion remote.

Instead, you’re going to have to charge it up much like you do your phone and other devices with built-in batteries. In my experience, with minimal usage it lasted around four days in between charges. However, it was quite frustrating when I forgot to charge it and I’d pick it up only to find it was dead.

The good news is, you have your phone to act as a backup remote and smart speaker if you happen to have one.

Set up and Usage

Setting up your remote is simple through the Harmony app. It will scan your Wi-Fi network and automatically add devices if they are turned on and connected. If your device isn’t connected via Wi-Fi or it simply fails to detect it, then no worries. It is as easy as doing a search in the app and adding the device from Logitech’s vast database.

During the set up, Logitech strongly encourages you to create activities where you can assign one button on the remote to accomplish several actions and control multiple devices. These activities can be as basic as having a button which turns on your TV and automatically launches Hulu or Netflix.

They can also be more complicated such as turning on your TV, cable box, and soundbar with one remote layout to control all three at once. Sometimes this works out perfectly, while other times you lose functionality of say the menu button since it can only open the menu for one of these devices.

Luckily, the Harmony Elite has an LCD screen at the top and most likely you’ll be able to track down the button for the device that you’re looking for using that. You can also dig through the Harmony app and reassign buttons, although that can be a daunting task in itself.

Connection Issues

While the Harmony Elite remote generally worked well, I did run into some connection issues. Despite only being 15 feet. away and having line of sight with the hub, even though it is not required, I still often ran into connection issues.

Most times it was from pressing the volume button too quickly or holding it down. Then an error screen would pop up on the LCD and the remote would refuse to function again until I pressed an OK button acknowledging the connection issue. Being forced to dismiss this error message made the interruption even more frustrating.

Other times the connection seemed to flake out with no apparent cause, and I would be forced to push the button a second time. Either way, it happened a few times every week and it was a mild annoyance. In comparison, the Harmony Companion only had this kind of issue twice in around a month and required no special button press to continue working.

The Hub

The Harmony Elite includes a hub which it communicates with by using RF signals. The hub, in turn, relays what the remote says sending out infrared or Bluetooth commands to your devices.

What this means is you don’t have to aim the remote at the devices you’re trying to control. You don’t even have to aim it at the hub because it is using radio signals to communicate with it. This feels so freeing to not have to worry about where you point your remote.

However, you must place the hub in an area where it can send signals to all of your devices. If you choose it is even possible to hide all of your devices in a cabinet along with the hub giving your living space an uncluttered clean appearance.

The Harmony Elite comes with two IR blasters in the box. The IR blasters are used when the hub is unable to send signals to one of your devices due to its location. With both setups that I used, I was able to position the hub in an area to reach all devices. Regardless it is excellent to have the IR blaster for those times when the signal could be blocked by a piece of furniture.

Smart Speaker Support

One of my favorite features of these remotes is the ability to use voice commands to control my devices. I use both Alexa and Google Assistant smart speakers so I was able to try both out. In my experience, the Google Assistant speaker was able to handle more commands than Alexa and that won me over.

Using your smart speaker you’ll be able to power the TV on or off, change the channel, control volume, pause/play, open Roku apps, and more. I found myself using the voice commands more than I did the remote on most days. It just became too convenient to say what I wanted without having to know where the remote was.

Harmony App

The Harmony App allows you to control your home theater devices using your phone or tablet. This is a great option for when you don’t have the remote nearby or you’re in another room. Besides controlling all of your devices, it also allows you to customize your remote. I found this very useful when buttons were either not assigned to the remote after adding it or were assigned to a button I didn’t find convenient to reach.

However, as convenient as it is to have the option to remap your remote. I found the process of remapping the buttons tedious and overly complex. It requires digging through menus and several clicks each time. Surely, there must be a better way of doing this. All I know is, once I set it up I never wanted to have to dig through those menus again.

Final Thoughts

After using both the Logitech Harmony Companion and Harmony Elite here are the key differences I noticed. Mainly the more expensive Harmony Elite provides the ability to add more devices, includes an additional IR blaster, has an LCD screen, backlit keys, and costs significantly more.

Beyond these differences, the functionality between the two remotes is essentially the same. Both have a database of 275,000 devices, both can be controlled by Alexa or Google Assistant speakers, both use IR hubs which can be hidden, both provide smartphone controls, and both have customizable activities.

The Harmony Elite has a better remote design, but between the glitches and charging, it didn’t offer a better overall experience. Unless you absolutely must have more than eight devices connected the Harmony Companion provides the best bang for your buck.

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