Harmony Elite Universal Remote Review

Earlier this year I reviewed the Harmony Companion (former Harmony Home Control) universal remote. For $130 it offers an easy way to control your AV system and some smart home features that doesn’t need direct line-of-sight. The new $350 Harmony Elite builds on this using the same hub but an improved remote with an LCD touch screen and recharging base. While it offers a better experience, for most people the $130 option probably works well enough.

I explained how the Harmony remotes work, with their activities to do things like Watch a Movie or Watch TV, in the previous review. Like the Companion, the Elite includes a WiFi base unit that has an IR blaster and two attachable IR blasters to place in front of gear. This lets you keep the remote hub, which serves as the brain of the system, closed away in a cabinet with your gear.

Manufacturer: Logitech
Model: Harmony Elite
Review Date: November 5, 2015
Price: $256.25
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The two included IR blasters are then placed in front of your gear and attached back to the hub. In my system a single IR blaster controls the sound bar and TV. The hub then controls the Blu-ray player from inside the cabinet. Both remotes can also control items over WiFi and Bluetooth that support it. This lets you control a Roku, AppleTV, Dish Hopper, and Sonos among others without any IR blaster at all.

Where the Elite can offer an advantage over the Companion is if you have a component that sits far away from the Hub. Installing the Elite for my Dad, his TV is above the fireplace while the gear sits in a cabinet a few feet away. Running an IR blaster would take more custom install skills than I have. The Elite also has a pair of IR emitters built in to the remote: One at the end and one on the bottom. If the Hub and the IR emitters won’t reach a device, these remote control can. With this the Elite works in situations where the Companion cannot.

Harmony Elite and Harmony Companion Remotes

Harmony Elite and Harmony Smart Home Remotes

One thing the Elite does it make it easier to run multiple activities than the Companion. With the Companion you only have 3 buttons to start activities, and those have icons on them. If you can’t remember that you had to program the Music icon to start Netflix, then you won’t know how to do it. Since the Elite uses the LCD touchscreen to do this, no memorization of these icons is required. The screen shows all the activities you have setup, such as “Watch Netflix” or “Listen to Sonos”, so anyone can pick it up and use it. This also lets you setup more activities that can be more specific. Both remotes let you start activities with your smartphone and an app, but the Elite makes it easier for guests and family members to start them without any instruction.

The LCD screen also gives you access to Favorites. When watching TV, it lists my favorite channels with icons for fast access. With the Roku it shows my installed apps so I can switch. For Sonos it shows icons for my favorites, including playlists and radio stations. This is convenient, but not $220 worth of convenience for me. Again its more useful for people that rarely use the remote than power users.

The main problem with the Harmony Elite is that the Companion does almost as much for around 1/3rd of the price. The Elite offers a nicer experience and the LCD makes it easy to setup lots of activities. For some people the integrated IR emitter on the remote will make it work in situations that the Companion cannot. As your system grows and becomes more complex, the LCD may offer more benefits like the Favorites.

If you use the Harmony app on your smartphone, there is even less reason to get the Elite. Most of the benefits are already in the app, aside from the extra IR emitters. For most systems, the Companion is going to work well. The Companion with a few devices (Cable or Satellite, Blu-ray, a streaming box and game system, a sound bar) works great. If your system is more complex than this then the Elite maked sense. If you often have guests then the Elite is easier for them to use. The Elite is a joy to use and controls everything perfectly, and I’d love to keep it in my system. If the price is fine to you or you need the extra features, then you won’t regret it, but most people will be fine with the Compaion.

Review Summary
Product: Logitech Harmony Elite
Pros: Controls an AV system almost flawlessly, LCD screen makes it easy to add multiple activities, includes recharging base
Cons: Expensive, most people are fine with the $130 Smart Home remote
Summary: The Logitech Harmony Elite is a remote that is a pleasure to use. It can control very complex systems and anyone can pick it up and use it without help. At $350 it is very expensive and most people can probably get by with the $130 Harmony Companion.
Value: 3/5
Performance: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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