I tried Logitech’s $270 universal remote that works with smart devices to see if it’s worth it — here’s what it’s like to use

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It can be hard juggling remotes. These days, it’s not uncommon to have as many as four or five remotes for your home theater at once: one for your TV, for your sound system, for your streaming box, for your cable box, and so on. Logitech, however, has been working on ways to cut down on the remotes with universal remotes in the Logitech Harmony series — like, for example, the Logitech Harmony Elite.

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the flagship device in a series of Logitech Harmony devices. Not only does it make it easy to control all your home theater devices from one remote, but it can also control a number of smart home devices, essentially meaning that when you turn on your system to watch a movie, you can also dim the lights and lock the door.

But at $270, the Logitech Harmony Elite isn’t necessarily cheap. Is it worth buying anyway? I put it to the test to find out.

Logitech

The Logitech Harmony Elite comprises two main parts: a hub, which you’ll need to place somewhere on your TV stand, and the remote.

The hub is relatively sleek and unassuming, which is good news for those who are buying this to simplify their home theater setup in the first place. The hub sits in at around 4 x 5 x 1 inches, and it’s a little under 4 pounds — so it’s not too large, and should be easy to find a space for among your other devices. You may also want to connect the two infrared mini blasters. These are helpful if you have infrared devices you want to control that might not be in the line of sight of your remote or hub. I didn’t end up needing them during my testing, but they’re helpful to have if you have devices behind closed doors or hidden by other devices.

Perhaps more important than the hub, however, is the remote. The remote isn’t necessarily small compared to other remotes, but the fact is that it should replace all of those other remotes that you have — so it likely won’t be a big deal that it has some heft to it. The remote is 7.5 inches long, 2 inches wide, and a bit over 1 inch thick at its thickest.

On the remote, you’ll get a range of controls, many of which you’re likely acquainted with. At the top of it, there’s a touch display, which allows you to turn on and off “activities,” or scenes with your devices. For example, you might set up a basic “watch TV” activity, which would turn on your TV and sound setup and any streaming box you use. Or, you might setup a “watch movie” activity, which would include dimming the smart lights. You can then tap the “Devices” button under the display and control devices individually, if you so choose.

Under the display, there are a range of buttons that you would expect from a remote. These buttons are all programmable from within the app, meaning you can map the volume buttons to your sound system, the play/pause button to your streaming box, and the menu button to your TV. The buttons are programmable depending on activity too, which means that you can program different controls for different activities. It’s because of this programmability that you can truly unlock the power of the Harmony Elite.

The only real issue with the design is that because of the fact that the system is so versatile, it is a little complex. You will ultimately get used to it, but it may take a few days to do so. Still, once you do get used to it, you’ll find it much simpler than your old system of using four different remotes.

Last but not least is the charging stand, which is where you’ll keep your remote when you’re not using it. Putting it there every night ensures that it stays nice and charged up, though if you forget every now and then it won’t be a big deal. I was able to use the remote for a few days before it ever came close to running out of batteries.

Read more: The best smart speaker you can buy: Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Sonos One

The remote’s specs and dimensions

Logitech

The hub:

  • 4.07 x 4.91 x 1.05 inches
  • MicroUSB port

The remote:

  • 2.13 x 1.14 x 7.56 inches
  • 1.5-inch LCD display
  • Backlit buttons
  • Rechargeable battery

While it’s well worth it in the end, setting up the Logitech Harmony Elite is a little complicated.

Thankfully, once you get the hang of the set-up process, you’ll be able to replicate that for more Activities. To set the device up, you’ll start by finding a good spot for the hub on your TV stand, after which you’ll plug it in. Then, you’ll need to download the Harmony app on your Android or iOS device, which is where you’ll set up Activities and connect different devices. The app then gives you step-by-step instructions to connect your devices, including your TV, sound system, smart home devices, and even your gaming consoles. To do this, you’ll need to know the brand and model numbers of your devices.

Actually setting up your devices is relatively easy, but then you’ll need to set up Activities, which is a little more complicated. Logitech does suggest some Activities based on the devices you connected to the service, though I preferred to simply make my own since it allows for a little more control over how the Activity plays out. When setting up an Activity, you’ll set up the devices you want involved, and what state you want them to be in. For example, you might want the TV to turn on and set itself to HDMI 1 — which you can make sure happens in the app. The device does this by sending a few signals to your TV — the first to turn it on, and the second to switch inputs.

After setting the devices and states for the Activity, you’ll probably want to program the remote. Logitech does set some buttons to have certain functions by default, but you should double check the functions that you want. I had to edit many of the buttons to work properly. For example, by default, the volume controls were set to the TV volume, not the soundbar’s volume.

You’ll need to repeat this process for each Activity that you want to set up. Once you’ve done it the first time, however, it shouldn’t be too hard to do it again for more Activities.

Read more: The 12 best smart home devices you need to live like the Jetsons

Special features of note

Amazon

While a little complicated to set up, once the Logitech Harmony Elite is ready to go, it will seriously simplify your home theater system.

Imagine if every button on the remote simply did what you wanted it to do — hit the volume buttons, and they’ll turn up or down the volume on your sound system, not your TV. Use the channel buttons, however, and they will control your cable box. This is the true power of the Logitech Harmony Elite — it makes everything work together beautifully.

One of the coolest things about the Harmony Elite is that it goes beyond home theater devices, also allowing you to control your smart home. This is particularly helpful for devices related to home theater. For example, you might want lights to dim when you’re watching a movie. Or, you might want the thermostat to set itself to a nice, warm temperature when you’re about to head into a gaming system. The Harmony Elite works with Sonos, your Apple TV, Nest, Lutron, LIFX, Philips Hue, and more.

The Harmony Elite can also be controlled with some digital assistants. For example, you can set it to connect to Google, after which you can turn on and off Activities with Google. It also works with Alexa.

A few downsides

There are a few downsides to the Logitech Harmony Elite, though in our view the pros far outweigh the cons. As mentioned, the main downside is that the system is a little complicated to set up, though if you follow the on-screen instructions and feel comfortable tinkering, then you shouldn’t run into too many issues.

The Harmony app could also use a little work. The app takes a few seconds to connect to your setup, and there are a number of menus and screens to get used to. It makes sense that the app would have a ton of features, but it’s still something you’ll need to get used to.

The bottom line

The Logitech Harmony Elit e is an extremely powerful device. Sure, it’s a little complicated to set up, but once it is set up, you’ll find it an absolute breeze to use.

I love the fact that it can control home theater and smart home devices, and the fact that it, too, can be controlled by Google Assistant and Alexa. Not only that, but the remote is well-designed, and we found it to be generally easy to use after getting used to it.

Pros: Very powerful, works with a ton of devices, smart home integration

Cons: Pricey, a little complicated to set up

Buy the Logitech Harmony Elite on Amazon for $269.57 (originally $349.99)

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