The Logitech Harmony Elite Experience: Ultimate Controlby Brett Howse on February 14, 2017 8:00 AM EST
The other piece that comes in the box is the Harmony Hub. Measuring 103.3 mm wide by 124.7 mm deep, and 26.5 mm high (4.07 x 4.91 x 1.05 inches), the hub is meant to be placed with the A/V equipment, whether out in the open or hidden away. The Hub communicates with the remote over RF, so it doesn’t need any line of sight in order to operate. It features built-in IR blasters, so the hub will output the IR signal from itself, allowing it to control most devices in line of sight. If you tuck the Hub away, or leave it out but tuck other equipment away, it also comes with two IR blasters on 2.54 m (8.3 ft) cables, so you can control devices outside of line of site as well.
The Hub is really the piece of the puzzle that transforms the Harmony Elite from just a good remote control, to a whole home automation device. The ability to control devices over Wi-FI and Bluetooth opens up far more control that just IR would ever have given you, and removes the need for line of sight as well. Logitech experimented with this on older Harmony remotes which featured Z-Wave RF support, but the Harmony Hub surpasses these in pretty much every way.
Thanks to the inclusion of IP control, Harmony can now support devices in the IoT world. It doesn’t offer fully customizable IP control, like it does for IR, so it likely won’t replace the fully custom solutions for professionals, but it will control lighting, heating, and more. For instance, you can have a Good Night activity that automatically dims the lights and sets a Nest/Honeywell/Ecobee thermostat to a lower setting. You can adjust the temperature of hot water on a Wi-Fi enabled water heater from Rheem. You can adjust lighting colors on Hue lights based on activities. You can even lower the shades, or drop a projection screen if needed. Harmony can even mute your entertainment if your Nest Protect senses smoke or carbon monoxide.
If you are thinking of getting into home automation, be aware that the Harmony Hub won’t control everything out there, but it does support most of the major brands. To check if your own devices, or those you are looking at purchasing, are supported, it would be best to check out the Harmony Compatibility listing on their site.
Even if you aren’t into home automation, the addition of the Hub gives you additional benefits like no longer needing to point the remote at anything, as well as controlling devices like a Roku over IP for additional ease of use, and more reliable control. It also fixes something that has been the one thorn in the side of Harmony since the beginning, which is updating the remote itself.
The Hub allows you to use the Harmony app on your smartphone. Although this will give the same functionality of the remote through your phone, I’ve already mentioned why touchscreens aren’t ideal for this. A smartphone adds to the disappointment by not always being powered on, unlocked, or having the remote open, meaning if you hear the phone ring and need to mute your entertainment, it’s a challenge to deal with. But the Harmony App adds more than just remote control capabilities with the hub. It also allows you to completely configure the remote as well.
The old Harmony software required you to hook the remote up to a PC with a USB cable in order to program it. The software was clunky, awkward, and slow, and sometimes there would be little things you wanted to change on your Harmony, such as what a certain button does, and you’d end up putting it off because it was too much work.
The Harmony App changes all of this. You can now completely configure the system with a smartphone, or PC, or both. The app works well for adding and adjusting activities, although I do prefer to do that on a PC still, but the app makes it almost trivial to update the remote. If you need to switch Fast Forward and Skip, you can just fire up the app on your phone and quickly make the change. The phone talks to the Hub, and the remote then syncs with the Hub to take any changes. This one change makes it infinitely easier to update the remote.
This does not preclude you from using the PC software, and in fact the PC update mechanism is also now improved, because you can make any changes you want, and then just sync your remote to the hub, rather than have to do it over USB.