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

Logitech’s Solidarity department makes higher common far flung controls than with reference to anyone. Its newest style, the $250 Solidarity Specific, may well be its maximum sensible, even though it’s now not the corporate’s maximum robust.

The Solidarity Specific doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the corporate’s among the best Solidarity 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 might probably’t execute complicated macros that incorporate each house leisure equipment and good 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 might probably do a little issues the Elite can’t.

The genius of Solidarity’s manner has all the time been its intensive library of far flung regulate codes which can be saved within the cloud. You inform the Solidarity Specific cellular app—to be had for Android and iOS—concerning the apparatus you need to regulate, and it downloads the codes to the far flung. This procedure is even more uncomplicated with the Specific, as it might probably hit upon 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 attached to.

It sniffed out my Samsung Q7F QLED good TV, my DirecTV set-top field, and my Xbox One video-game console, all of which can be attached to my house community. Nevertheless it wasn’t best. I needed to tell the app that I additionally had a Cambridge Audio CXUHD 4K Blu-ray participant in my apparatus rack, even supposing that still has an IP deal with.

One room, one leisure device

The Solidarity Specific is designed to regulate a unmarried leisure device—centered round your TV—in a single room. The far flung 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 Solidarity Specific is composed of 3 parts: The far flung regulate, a big infrared blaster that you just sit down in entrance of your leisure heart, and an IR mini blaster that lets you regulate audio and video parts that you may have hidden within a cupboard. The five.25-inch-long through 1.75-inch-wide far flung 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 flung is actively controlling, however maximum of them shall be common: Rewind, fast-forward, play/pause, quantity up, quantity down, and mute.

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

harmony express speaker Michael Brown / IDG

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

Ease of use is the principle appeal

In my set-up, conserving the button down and pronouncing “Activate TV” was once all I had to do to energy up TV and set-top field and turn the energetic show to the set-top field. To switch the channel, I simply held the button down and mentioned “Move to channel 200” or no matter channel I sought after to observe (the device additionally acknowledges channel names, comparable to NBC or HBO). If I sought after to play a TV program I’d recorded, I may just say “Move to DVR” to deliver a listing of recordings. I then used the D-pad to transport up and down the listing till I discovered what I sought after to observe 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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