In my very early days with Residential Systems, Harmony sent me my first programmable remote control.
In those pre-smart phone days, all of the programming was done via the Harmony website (required direct-connection sync to the computer) but it couldn’t have been easier to program devices and “activities” (aka macros). I loved that remote (and how often does a consumer even really “like” their remote?) and so did my wife. What made that controller so unique at the time was its intuitive activity-based design and its “Help” button, which stepped you through the inevitable IR hiccups that occur when starting up a particular macro.
We eventually wore out our first Harmony remote and then, after Logitech the acquired brand and shifted its focus away from the CI channel, my feelings toward Harmony cooled.
It wasn’t until about two years ago when I noticed Logitech Harmony Pro remotes within the inventory area of a local rep/distributor that I decided to give the line another look for my basement home theater control system. I was looking for a pro-quality remote that could control my projector-based home theater, but one that would allow me to make programming adjustments with hassling my integrator.
The Logitech Harmony Pro hub-based remote includes all of the most popular features of the Harmony Elite remote, such as dedicated buttons for instant access to entertainment and smart home controls, a touchscreen UI that communicates the status of all home devices at a glance, and vibration (haptic) feedback. Unique to the Harmony Pro (versus other Harmony models) are its eight precision IR emitters, multi-zone support for AVRs, and double the warranty time of retail remotes.
Although Logitech still supports a web-based, desktop interface for programming, the remote’s mobile app made that procress a lot faster than in the old days. All of the AV equipment in my theater had previously been connected to an IR hub via repeater cables, but I switched them all out with the cables supplied with the remote.
Once everything was connected and powered up, I accessed the mobile app and started adding devices. My prior concerns about connecting my Epson Pro Cinema 6030UB projector to a consumer remote where quickly dispelled, as it showed up right away in the remote’s database. Set-up took less than 15 minutes as I added the projector, an NAD T 748 surround sound receiver, a Samsung Blu-ray player, and an Apple TV.
Next, I created three Activities, Watch Cable, Watch AppleTV, and Watch Blu-ray, selecting an appropriate icon image for each. Actually, I lied. I started out with different names for the activities (Watch Movie for the Blu-ray player, for instance) and later changed the names to be more intuitive. The cool thing was that those edits were quick and easy on the app, and as soon as I was back in range of the hub, the remote automatically synced and updated the words. Then, over the holiday break, my daughters asked me to move their Wii console from our family room to the basement home theater. Adding that activity also proved to be a breeze, taking less than five minutes.
The only snag in my programming occurred when I was choosing favorite channels for the Watch Cable activity. My initial selections weren’t a full representation of what I wanted to include, and the default channels for AT&T Uverse were standard-def channels. I tried correcting the Favorites on the mobile app, but found that they wouldn’t sync to remote. An email to the tech team at Harmony revealed a slight design glitch that they were working to correct. The work-around, they told me, was connecting the remote directly to my computer and syncing it directly to the desktop application via USB cable. That did the trick. Despite the stumble, the process of selecting Favorites was pretty fun, especially given the wide assortment of channel icons from to choose and the ability to include XX favorites!
The build quality of the Harmony Pro has a premium feel and look. A matte rubber finish on the underside of the remote provides excellent grip and the rechargeable battery inside creates enough heft to keep the device from flying out of your hand. And, the charging cradle is sleek, blending well into a home’s décor.
If I had one complaint about the remote, it would be the lack of numerical keypad, in favor of a LCD screen and a favorite channels listing. I often stumble, trying to figure where to find the numbers on the LCD screen, instead choosing to select a favorite channel nearby and channel surfing up or down from there. The size and location of some of the buttons may also be challenging users trying to find the “mute” and “last channel” option. Generally, too, I find myself sometimes selecting the wrong command on the LCD screen when attempting to swipe through pages. It’s a great remote. It just requires some new muscle memory to make it most effective.
Smartly, Harmony still includes the “Help” feature that sold my wife and me on brand so many years ago. When a device doesn’t turn on or off as expected, clicking the Help button on the LCD screen walks the system through the activity steps again and then asks via the LCD screen if that fixed the problem. If it didn’t, it will step you through specific devices that should be off or on, asking you for confirmation. It’s a great feature that remains a family favorite.
Although Harmony has a reputation in the CI channel as a lower profit consumer-facing brand, Logitech has been going out of its way to offer more services to appeal to professional integrators. These include ability to scan the network to quickly add products; providing a seven-days-a-week dealer services phone line; offering monthly webinars and trainings for installers, with live programming demos and answers to live questions from installers; and archiving eLearning content that can be accessed 24/7/365.
Also, the previously mentioned Harmony Pro Portal, allows installers to manage an unlimited number of Harmony customer accounts with real-time access to customize, configure, and troubleshoot their setups, without rolling a truck. And following a lot of dealer feedback, the portal can now be used to control up to 15 devices per home, up from the previous limit of six.
The Logitech Harmony Pro can control more than 275,000 different devices and platforms. Taking it a step further, installers can set up Denon HEOS speakers and HEOS-enabled AVRs from Denon and Marantz with Logitech Harmony Pro. Through this integration, you can create a “Listen to HEOS” Harmony Activity with multiple speakers in a network, setting the starting volume and favorite channel; play, pause, and control volume in an activity for a group of speakers or an individual one; switch your favorite channels in a running Activity; and extend your running HEOS activity to other rooms in the home.
Installers also can use Logitech Harmony Pro with RA2 Select by Lutron and can access Sony IP control over TVs using Harmony Pro. The remote also works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control.
When it comes to making remote control recommendations to my friends, I’m often at a loss, because they don’t have the budget for a full system design from a professional integrator. The Harmony Pro Remote is the first remote that I can recommend, which is consumer-accessible but includes features that I’ve come to expect from professional installs.
Update: Following publication of this review, Brett Bjorkquist, Logitech's head of marketing & strategy - CI/Pro channel, let Residential Systems know that programming for editing Favorites has been updated on the Harmony app. Now, integrators and end users can update their favorite channels from the Harmony mobile app, in addition to the laptop. In addition, a 0.5-second delay can be added to the remote's "touch duration" to reduce the chance of triggering an activity inadvertently.