Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home

logitech harmony

 

Introduction

 

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home is a hub-based remote that controls not only your entertainment devices, but your smart home products too! This is hands-down the best remote control I’ve ever used. Everything I’ve used it with has just worked. There’s not much to do to set up your entertainment devices. You type in the manufacturer and model number of the product you want to use and all of the functions you need are automatically programmed into the remote. The hub is also capable of scanning your network and can find networked devices- smart TVs, Rokus , gaming systems, etc. That makes for a hassle-free experience and one of the key reasons why I highly recommend this product.

You can also use the Harmony app to set up and control your devices. Controlling your TV devices from the app works, but it’s also not comfortable. There’s haptic feedback to let you know that you’re doing something, but it’s not the same as resting your finger on a physical button. I mostly use the app to get me through a charge cycle if I forget to charge the remote overnight (you’ll get a few days out of the remote on a single charge, so it’s easy to forget to check the power indicator before you go to bed). One thing I do like about the app is the ability to use the volume up/down keys on my phone to control the TV volume.

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home remote is capable of controlling up 15 entertainment devices, which is an insane amount. This should be adequate for most people. If I added up all the devices connected to my 3 TVs I still wouldn’t go over the limit. The hub can only communicate with a single touchscreen remote at a time (although you can add a non-touchscreen remote). If you try to add another touchscreen remote, it will replace the current one.

This remote is compatible with over 270,000 devices! You can double-check your devices on Logitech’s website before you buy, but chances are you won’t have any devices that won’t work with it.

 

  • Features
  • Reliability
  • Ease-of-use
  • Price
  • Support

Summary

Logitech's Harmony line of products have always been the best for controlling home entertainment devices, and now you can control home automation products too! The Harmony Ultimate Home remote uses a hub that connects to your WiFi network. This allows for communication with other hubs (including the popular SmartThings hub), and it also gives you the ability to control your TV from the Harmony app on your smartphone. The remote uses radio-frequency to communicate with the hub which means you can control devices behind closed cabinet and closet doors, with a range of up to 30 feet. It also supports infrared. The remote can control up to 15 entertainment devices and is compatible with over 270,000 devices from various manufacturers! It's a little pricey, but it's extremely reliable. You won't get direct Zigbee or Z-wave control unless you buy the extender. Integrates with SmartThings, Lutron Casèta, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Google Assistant!

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How It Works

 

The remote has two ways it can control your home entertainment devices: infrared (IR) and radio-frequency (RF). Infrared is what most people are used to when they point a remote at a TV to change the channel. It requires line-of-sight with the infrared receiver on the TV in order to work. Most other home entertainment devices, such as Blu-Ray/DVD players and audio/video receivers, also use infrared. This is the functionality you would get if you purchased a run-of-the-mill universal remote for $20 on Amazon.

However, this remote also uses a proprietary radio-frequency (RF) to communicate with the hub in order to control devices. If you have home entertainment devices that are hidden in a cabinet or are tucked away in a closet you’ll need a remote with RF capability. Whereas infrared would bounce off the doors of a cabinet, RF will pass through and it doesn’t require line-of-sight. This means you can point the remote in any direction and the signal will still make it to the hub.

Once the remote passes the RF signal to the hub, the hub will send out the infrared signal your devices need by “blasting” the signal. This signal is emitted by the hub, then bounces all over the place until it hits the infrared sensor on the device. Once the device receives the signal, it will do whatever you just told it to do, like play the Blu-Ray movie.

The hub serves as an IR blaster, but it also ships with two mini-IR blasters . If you have an entertainment center with an Xbox in one cabinet, and a Blu-Ray player in another cabinet, where does the hub go? It doesn’t matter, because you would set up your hub in one place, and then run the mini-IR blaster to the other cabinet. There are two ports where the mini-IR blasters plug in on the back of the hub.



It seems like the processing of all these signals would cause a significant, or at least noticeable, delay. If there is, I can’t tell. When I fast-forward through the commercials on my DVR and then hit the skip-back button, it’s like using the remote that came with the box. Everything responds fluidly when you press a button or touch the screen.

When you set up your remote, you’ll choose whether or not you want to use the remote’s infrared or RF signals for each device.

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You can choose what controls your devices.


The hub also supports WiFi and Bluetooth. This allows the hub to talk to other smart home devices, such as SmartThings and Nest, as well as communicate with the Harmony app on your smartphone. A full listing of supported smart home devices can be found here on Logitech’s website .

If you’ve never used a Logitech Harmony remote before, you’ll need to learn some terminology, like what an activity is. The way it works is first you’ll add your individual devices, i.e.,  a TV, a cable box, and an A/V receiver. Next you’ll need to set up an activity, like “Watch TV”. This activity would take care of everything you need to do to watch TV. So the TV, cable box, and receiver would all turn on. Next the TV and/or receiver would switch to the correct input(s). You would need to set the remote to control the volume, probably using the A/V receiver in this case. You would also need to tell the remote which device should switch the channels (the cable box in this scenario). So now when you operate the remote, the volume buttons control the receiver and the channel, guide, and DVR buttons control the cable box. Easy enough, right?

Installing the Hub

 

Like most hubs, you’ll need to connect the power supply, then connect the hub to your network. I performed the initial setup from the Android Harmony app. If you don’t have a Logitech Harmony account, you’ll need to create one.

If you have an older Logitech Harmony account (where you log in with a username instead of an email address), you’ll need to create a new account. You’ll be given an opportunity to migrate the data from your old Logitech remote during the initial setup. You’ll need your username and password for the old account. Unless you have some crazy setup, it would probably be just as quick and easy to set everything up from scratch, but that’ll be your call.

Once you log in, the app will begin to scan your network for the hub. You must be connected to the same wireless network as your hub. That means if you have a dual or tri-band router, your you must have the 2.4 Ghz network enabled! Follow the prompts in the app from there.

Setup Using the MyHarmony Desktop Software

 

You can set up the remote using either the Harmony app or the desktop software. I initially set everything up using the Harmony app, but have come to prefer the desktop software. The MyHarmony desktop software is a web-based Silverlight application. It looks good and has some nice animations to help show you how to set everything up, step-by-step. I highly recommend it. You can download the desktop software from Logitech’s website here .

However, there are some things that can only be set up using the mobile app. Both entertainment and home automation devices can be added using the desktop software, but integration of home automation into activities has to be done from the mobile app.

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Some actions require you to use the mobile app.



Remote Gallery and Home

 

When you sign into the software, you’ll start on the Remote Gallery page. If you have more than one remote, select the one you want to edit. You can also add another remote using this page. Once you select a remote, you’ll go to the remote’s Home page. The Home page gives you quick access to some common operations.


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On the left, you’ll see a sidebar that breaks down everything the remote can be programmed to do. On the right is a flyout that stays hidden until you click the arrows.

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Anytime you get stuck or need help, you click this flyout. Click the arrows to close it.

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Home gives you a list of common options that you might need to add or edit devices, activities, buttons, and favorite channels.



Devices

 

The Devices section is broken down into two sub-groups: one for entertainment, and the other for home automation devices. This is where you want to be to add or edit your entertainment and smart home devices.


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Click on the Entertainment tab. To add a new entertainment device, click the + icon or the link below. Alternatively, you can choose to have the software scan your network.

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To manually add a device, you’ll see this window pop up. Enter the manufacturer of the device you want to add. Notice the software will auto-search as you type.

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Enter the model number. You’ll see an animation to help you find it on common devices, like TVs and Blu-Ray players. Next, click Add.

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Sometimes the software can find a match will only partial information, like if the model number is printed on the front of the device. You would then choose your match.

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You’ll see an overlay telling you to sync the remote for the new device to show up on the remote and in the mobile app. Click the Close button.

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Your new device will show up under Entertainment. Pretty easy huh?

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If you don’t need a device anymore, click Delete This Device.

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Confirm the deletion by clicking the Delete button.

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You have 3 options to alter an existing device.

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Click Change Device Settings.

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You’ll be able to change any of the options you initially set up. Your options will depend on the device. Here we’ll go with Power settings.

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Make your choice, then click Next.

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Again, make the appropriate choice depending on the device you’re setting up.

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Click Finish to save your new settings.

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You’ll have the same options to add a Home Control device.

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Logitech has been expanding its product compatibility.

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More compatible products.

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Even more compatible products!

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To add a new device, click the Add button next to your home automation device. You’ll need to be on the same network as your hub. You’ll also need your login credentials for your home automation device. Follow the on-screen prompts.



Groups

 

Groups are a way to organize your home automation devices in the software. This makes it easier to make sure everything gets added and allows you to customize what you can do with your devices around the house. Besides this, there’s no actual functionality with groups.


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Groups sorts your home automation devices to make it easier to control them from the remote.

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Click on the View link below a group to see the devices.

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You can check to make sure Logitech found all your home automation devices for that group.



Activities

 

Activities involve a series of actions you want the remote to perform when you want to do something. You can set up activities for watching TV, watching a Blu-Ray movie, or switching on the smart TV functionality so you can watch Netflix. With activities, you’re limited by what you can think of to do with your equipment.


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First select the “Watch TV” activity icon. Then click View your settings.

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A popup will show all entertainment devices that are currently being used for this activity. Click the Change button.

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You can give your activity a custom name and icon or just use the defaults. Click Next.

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Choose all of the devices you want to participate in the activity. For me, it’s a TV, cable box, and A/V receiver. Click Next.

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Choose which device should change the channels. The software is smart enough to know the Denon A/V receiver won’t be able to change the channels. Click Next.

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Choose the device that you want to use to control the volume. Click Next.

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You’ll see an animation showing where to look to locate your TV’s inputs. Click Next.

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You’ll see all the inputs that the MyHarmony software recognizes for your TV. Choose the correct input then click Next.

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Since I use an A/V receiver, I also need to choose the correct input for it too. Click Next.

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Finally you’ll see a confirmation page showing all of your selections. If everything looks good, click Done to save your settings for this activity.



Buttons

 

Most of the time, the Harmony software will correctly map commands to the right buttons on your remote. Still, you may have different needs or special situations where you would want to remap the buttons for your specific setup.


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Here we’ll select the “Watch TV” activity then click the Go button.

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Again you’ll see an overlay describing this process. Notice that you have options for a long press and a short press for each button. This gives you a lot of flexibility in customizing your controls. Click Close to continue.

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Click on a button on the remote on the left. You’ll see it selected on the right side of the screen now. Click the arrow below the remote to view the bottom section buttons.

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Choose your device in the dropdown menu. Then choose an available command. Commands that are greyed are being used by another button. You will have to unassign those commands to reuse them somewhere else. I’m fine with this button being Rewind on a short press and SkipBack on a long press, so I’ll just click OK.

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You can also customize your touchscreen buttons. Again, select an activity or device and then click Go.

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The overlay provides instructions on how to assign the commands to the touchscreen. Click Close.

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Some commands will already be preassigned to the touchscreen, and they will be greyed out in the list of commands. You can rename commands using the Label textbox.

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Available commands will be shown in black font in the command list. Already used commands are unavailable (greyed out) and can’t be assigned again.

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To add a new command to the remote, just drag and drop it from the command list to the touchscreen. You should see it pop up on the remote.

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To reorder the commands on the remote screen, grab the dots on the right side of the command and drag them up or down. To remove the command from the remote screen, click the X icon to delete it.

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If a particular command isn’t listed for your device or doesn’t work right, you can click the Add or Fix a Command button then follow the screen prompts.



Favorites

 

You can set up your remote to add all of your favorite channels, so you can quickly find the shows and channels you want to watch. You’ll need to provide your location’s zip code and select your service provider for your area.


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You’ll need to enter your zip code for a list of service providers in your area. Select the provider then click Next.

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You have options to filter the channel list and a search box as well. Click the star to add a channel as a favorite.

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You can also filter by HD channels only. When a favorite is selected, the star icon fills in with color. You can add up to 50 channels. Click Next.

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Finally, determine how your cable box or TV works when you punch in the channel number. Some devices require an Enter or Select command too. When you’re done, click Save.



Settings

 

Settings allows you to configure a few more options that aren’t covered by device setup and operation, like upgrading your Harmony remote’s firmware/software and renaming your hub.

One very useful utility is the “Set up/Change WiFi” setting. In fact, it’s the only way I could reconnect my Harmony Ultimate Home remote after I upgraded my router. If you’re having trouble reconnecting your Harmony hub to your network after you replace your wireless router, check out this post here.


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You can also set these other options if you wish. There’s also a link to download the Harmony App for your smartphone.

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Click More for the final few options.

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Remote and Hub Assignments is where you can set up whether your remote or hub will be used to send out the infrared signal to command your devices.

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Click on Advanced Settings for more options.

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By default clicking on Hub sends commands out through the hub and the mini blasters. With Advanced Settings checked, you can choose to use both, the hub, or a specific mini blaster port.

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Your final two options.



Syncing the Remote

 

Once you make all of your changes in the MyHarmony desktop software, you’ll still need to transfer your settings from the software to the remote. The easiest way to do this is by using either the mobile app or the remote itself. The desktop software won’t allow you to send the information to your remote over your wireless network, but you can connect a USB cable to your computer to sync it.


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You’ll see this button does absolutely nothing other than just giving you instructions on how to sync your remote. You cannot wirelessly sync from the desktop software. You have to use either the mobile app or the remote itself.

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If you can’t sync your remote using WiFi, you can still sync from the desktop software, but you’ll have to plug the remote in using a USB cable. Follow the instructions on the screen.



Home Automation

 

Now that we’ve seen how we can set up and control home entertainment devices, what about home automation devices? Before that question can be answered, you need to understand what the hub does and what it doesn’t do.

First of all, the Logitech hub that ships with the remote cannot directly control any of your Zigbee or Z-wave smart home devices. If you want this functionality, you would need to purchase the Logitech Harmony Home Hub Extender at an additional cost. The extender connects to the Logitech hub via USB. I don’t own the extender, so you’ll have to do your own research.

Out of the box, the hub can be integrated with other supported smart home devices- mostly things that communicate over WiFi, such as hubs, Philips Hue, Nest Thermostat, etc. It works great with my Lutron Casèta and Samsung SmartThings hubs.

If you add your other home automation hubs or devices through the Harmony app or MyHarmony desktop software, you’ll be able to control them from the Harmony app and remote. This is extremely handy for lighting. For a Lutron Casèta setup, you’ll need the Smart Bridge to control your lights using the Harmony hub. The Harmony hub cannot directly communicate with Lutron dimmers or switches.

You can also add your Harmony to other hubs, like SmartThings. This gives you access to your entertainment devices through SmartThings. If you happen to have your SmartThings tied to Google Assistant, then you can voice-activate your devices and activities too.

Once you start integrating all of your smart home devices with one another, the only real limit is what you can think of to do with it!





Problems and Solutions

 

I initially set up my smart TV with the infrared, and everything else with RF. This worked OK, but I still had to point the remote at the TV to function it. I was fine with it because I was the one that set it up, but it was confusing for my wife and kids because the TV was the only device that needed the remote pointed directly at it. You get spoiled by this remote quickly.

The solution? Use the mini-IR blaster, that way all signals go through the hub. That caused another problem, how do I run the mini-IR blaster 40 feet through the attic to get it to my TV? I ran an Ethernet cable, then cut the cable for the mini-IR blaster in half. I stripped back the wire, then soldered the end with the IR sensor on the TV side, and the end with the plug on the hub side. I then mounted the mini-IR blaster beneath the TV with a Command Strip so the signal would bounce off a wall and actually be able to function the television.

Conclusion

 

I previously owned the Logitech Harmony 1100. First of all, that was such an awkward remote because it was designed to be held with two hands. It had a resistive touchscreen, which was a chore to use. Unfortunately there weren’t very many options for RF remotes in 2012, and the Harmony 1100 was still good enough to operate our entertainment devices.

Fast-forward to 2017. The Harmony Ultimate Home blows it away. The Ultimate’s touchscreen is so much better, very near the quality you would expect from a smartphone. It uses a capacitive touchscreen instead of the resistive screen on the Harmony 1100. The fact that it integrates with such a wide variety of voice assistants and home automation devices are a big plus. And of course, it works with just about every entertainment device imaginable.

Although the Harmony Ultimate Home has been discontinued, it’s still available on Amazon. The replacement model is the Harmony Elite. If the Elite is anything like the Ultimate Home version, you can’t go wrong if you need a high-end RF remote with home automation capability!

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