Are you ready for a universal remote that calls itself “Ultimate”? Logitech has been making universal remotes for years now and has nicely covered the mid and higher end market with a range of options. But they’ve now released a unit called Ultimate, so of course if you want the best they have to offer, this is the one to get. But how does the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Control stand up to the competition, does it truly do it all?
Last year I got sick of having a basket full of remotes. Like most people I had done some consolidation, mainly mapping devices to my Time Warner Cable Universal Remote. It was not bad, but still a bit cumbersome switching buttons and modes. I have several devices such as a Denon AVR-791 7.1 receiver, Sony BRAVIA XBR65HX929 TV, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Apple TV and on occasion a Roku 3 is also in the mix. I decided to purchase the Logitech Harmony 900 and was very happy with it. It quite literally consolidated all my remotes into one. In fact it turned on just what I wanted, when I wanted, and worked great.
The main drawback was it was a very slippery remote, made of glossy plastic, that always seemed to slip out of my hands as well as attract fingerprints. Also the unit did not support my Playstation 3 out of the box, I had to buy a separate hub just for controlling that with the Logitech Harmony 900. But it did have a nice touch screen interface and worked well, so I stuck with it for months. But when I saw the Logitech Harmony Ultimate, I knew they had worked hard to refine an already excellent universal remote. I decided to get one and have been very impressed. It rights some of the wrongs of the previous model and contains many improvements.
The Ultimate remote is shorter and much grippier to hold than the 900. While the front is semi-glossy plastic, the back is a matte hard plastic with texture and ridges, and is very comfy to hold. The unit controls thousands of devices and does IR and Bluetooth, so there is PS3 support without a separate hub. Setup is via USB and the Logitech website, which has improved since last year. You input your device model numbers and go step by step and the programming is very easy. The interface has tons of options, so you can really craft how you want devices to work with the remote. But at the same time it is very user friendly, making setup a breeze.
The biggest advance is the new touch screen. Clearly inspired by Apple’s iPhone, the new touch screen works just like a phone, you can access menus and swipe to switch screens. You can set up all your buttons such as Watch TV, Play Xbox, Watch Apple TV, and have them all accessible with a tap. There is also a screen for gestures, if you want to control your devices with swipes instead of the actual remote buttons, and the screen is motion activated, it turns on when you lift the remote and goes to sleep once you set it down. There are new channel presets on one screen, so you can set up a button for say HBO and hitting that will turn on everything needed and go straight to the channel. The previous remote beeped but this one actually vibrates. The subtle vibrations provide excellent tactile feedback to let you know when a touch screen button has been clicked.
As for actual buttons, each has a short press and a long press option, so now you can assign two commands to each, such as short press to pause and long press to fast forward. The remote has a free app called “Harmony” in Apple’s iTunes app store or on Google Play. It’s pretty cool and works great through your wi-fi system to send commands. The app pretty much recreates everything on the physical remote, so you could get by with just using your iPhone for a remote. The Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote has a nice dock with it for easy charging and the screen updates to let you know when it is fully charged.
The Harmony Ultimate does not really have any downsides, only one that I could find. For some reason the DVR remote buttons are on the very top of the unit. It’s odd that the touch screen was not on top since that would be the logical place I would assume it would go. As such, when you use the top buttons you need to reorient and slide your hand slightly up the remote. They have even included a second smaller ridge to make holding this way easier. Again it’s odd that some buttons were moved separate, and it slightly reduces the great ergonomics of how the remote feels in your hand.
Plus with using the top buttons, your hand is now over the touch screen, so you need to slightly raise your palm so as to not active any screen commands. Not a deal breaker by any stretch but just some odd design choices in what is obviously a very well thought out, solidly built and slickly designed product. The only other detail for some may be the price, it’s a little on the high side. However I have to say, it is so worth it. But Harmony remotes traditionally go on sale and the prices dip over time on sites like Amazon, so keep an eye out.
The most compelling part of the Harmony Ultimate Remote is how it simplifies your life. It’s important to note that this isn’t just a universal remote, it’s a universal remote taken to the next level. Where you hit one button, say to watch Apple TV, and your TV turns on, your Apple TV goes on and your audio receiver activates. The remote already knows that the volume buttons control your receiver (not your TV) and the button pad on the bottom of the remote is already mapped to mimic your Apple TV remote. Literally one button to start everything, no modes, no tricky hacks, just pure remote control bliss.
It’s not a stretch to say that this is the best investment that anyone who is even remotely (see what I did there?) interested in having a smooth running entertainment center. Plus there is zero learning curve for other family members, they can just pick it up and start using it.
The Logitech Harmony series has produced some great all in one remotes, and their new one is the best one ever, I highly recommend you check it out. It truly earns its title of “Ultimate”.
Read more on FranklinMcMahon.com: