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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Can control up to eight devices
Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
Controllable via the remote or through the app
Setup process is lengthy
Harmony app can be buggy
No screen on the remote itself
No backlighting on the remote
Alexa/Harmony learning curve
The Logitech Harmony Companion can simplify your home entertainment/smart-home arrangement with the click of a button or a tap of your smartphone, but getting there involves some serious effort.
If you’re ready to take the next step toward a more integrated smart home or home entertainment setup, you may want to consider a capable universal remote like the Logitech Harmony Companion. The Logitech brand is no stranger to universal smart remotes, but the Harmony Companion brings the best of what the Harmony app, Harmony Hub, and simple remote have to offer at a reasonable price.
We spent some time with the Logitech Harmony Companion to see just how easy it is to set up and use with Alexa and navigate the app.
While it lacks a touchscreen or flashy design elements, the Harmony Companion is still pretty sleek. First, there’s the remote itself, which is lightweight at 4.2 ounces and quite slim at just .81 inches deep and 2.13 inches wide. It measures 7.25 inches in length, and has a nice ergonomic arch, which makes it easy to cradle in your hand. The buttons are responsive and don’t require a lot of fussing over, although the short- versus long-push actions are sometimes difficult to discern.
There’s also the Harmony Hub, a black and glossy square that measures 4.16 x 4.88 x 1 inches. There are several ports in the back: one for the USB cable for set up via a Mac or PC or the power adapter, and two IR mini blaster ports for extended coverage to devices behind cabinets. In the bottom center of the front of the hub, there’s an LED light that indicates whether it’s connected, powered on, pairing, or syncing with the remote or mobile app. The hub is the primary liaison between all devices and the remote. It connects with the remote through RF signals and communicates with specific equipment through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or infrared signals, depending on the type of device.
While it lacks a touchscreen or flashy design elements, the Harmony Companion is still pretty sleek.
While those are the two major hardware components, they’re also really designed to work around the mobile app and the MyHarmony software on a Mac or PC.
At first blush, it seems that setting up the Harmony Companion will be a breeze. Simply plug the hub in near your entertainment setup and download the Harmony app. We plugged in our hub and visited the App Store to download the app, but when we tried to connect to the Hub it hung for about five minutes.
At this point, we decided to try the desktop software for Mac and that did the trick. We connected the hub to our computer via the provided Micro-USB cord and were able to connect to our Wi-Fi network, enter our Harmony account info, and move forward with the steps to start adding devices and what Harmony calls activities. These are basically the actions you designate to certain one-touch buttons on the remote.
The Harmony app also recognized the hub at this point and the MyHarmony software directed us to complete setup in the app. This is a key example of the confusing and somewhat clunky relationship between the Harmony app and the MyHarmony desktop software. While you do have the power to add devices and assign actions through the Harmony app, the MyHarmony software holds the key to changing any physical remote control button assignments beyond the three quick-activity buttons at the top of the device. This makes for a sort of fractured setup and customization experience.
But once you understand where the controls and functions can be accessed, it’s as easy as hitting the Sync button in the Harmony app to update the Harmony hub with any changes you’ve made to remote functions. The Sync button is located in a slightly weird spot, however, under Harmony Setup in the app.
We already touched on the strange relationship between the Harmony mobile app and the MyHarmony desktop software, but there are definitely strengths to acknowledge as well. Even though the desktop software looks quite dated, it’s really easy to navigate, and easier to manage than a massive list of devices in the app.
It’s also the place to control the activity buttons, the three main buttons at the top of the remote, and to customize any of the other regular remote buttons. This process is very manual and can be tedious, but it’s helpful for seeing what activity you’ve assigned to a particular button or for undoing changes and reassigning functions. Basic button assignments are very straightforward.
Though there’s sometimes a slight lag, the remote is generally responsive. The short press versus long press inputs are a bit odd—pinning down the difference between them was awkward due to the extremely slight delay between the two.
The Harmony app can replace the physical remote, which offers another layer of flexibility in terms of how you interact with devices. You can also use the handy gesture control feature through the app, which allows you to touch your smartphone screen and tap up or down for volume controls or whatever you like (it also allows you to customize the gestures).
The Logitech Harmony Companion retails for $150, not a rock-bottom price, but reasonable for what’s on offer.
Harmony Companion is also a smart-home oriented device and features support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. We experimented with Alexa controls through an Amazon Fire TV Cube. Perhaps it’s because we were dealing with a device that’s essentially another remote and speaker in one, but we did find configuring the connection between Alexa and Harmony to be a little labored. Logitech offers Fire OS support for Harmony products and explains how to make the initial pairing, but the real hiccup we encountered came from their advice about how to set up Harmony with Alexa.
If you plan to introduce Alexa to the fold, you’ll need the Alexa app where you can enable the Harmony skill. That didn’t do the trick, though, and we had better luck adding another skill: Harmony - Secondary Hub. This allowed us to make requests we’d set up for our Harmony Companion by asking Alexa to act as a go-between. Posing questions such as “Alexa, ask Harmony to go to Roku” did exactly what the activity button assignment on the remote or the mobile app does. It was satisfying to experience this communication when it went off without a hitch. There were several times, however, when Alexa didn’t understand the prompt. Still, it was enjoyable and convenient to have hands-free access to switch on/off a TV or turn on a game console from another room.
The Logitech Harmony Companion retails for $150, not a rock-bottom price, but reasonable for what’s on offer. You can enjoy many of the same features the flagship Harmony Elite offers, minus the touchscreen and charging dock (and the Harmony app’s gesture controls can serve as a worthy stand-in for the touchscreen for $200 less).
Logitech’s newest smart remote offering, the Harmony Express, retails for $250 and may be tempting if you’re an Alexa household since this voice assistant is built right in. If you have an Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot, however, you already have the same control, and it’s completely hands-free.
Aside from the considerable price difference (the Elite is $350, the Companion $150) and the touchscreen, the Harmony Elite stands apart from the Companion in a few other ways. The Elite can control 15 various devices, including smart home devices like smart light bulbs and more traditional entertainment equipment like bookshelf speakers. The remote has backlighting, which can be helpful in lower-light conditions. And every single button can be customized, which is not the case for the Harmony Companion remote. While they both support Amazon Alexa integration for smart home and device controls, you may find the Harmony Elite skews more toward the avid home entertainment and smart home enthusiast.
If you’re looking for other options, browse our guide to the best universal remotes.
A high-end smart remote for less.
The Logitech Harmony Companion offers the versatility of a handheld and mobile app remote and smart home/media controls via a voice assistant at a price that won’t break the bank. If you’re ready for a more connected home, this remote offers a great balance of features.
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