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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Compatible with Amazon Alexa
Harmony App functions as another remote
Remote is slim and lightweight
Smarthome support integrated
Support for up to 8 devices
Initial setup can be lengthy
Performance is inconsistent
Requires a lot of trial and error
The Logitech Harmony Smart control works with the Harmony Hub, Harmony App, and a physical remote to power up to 8 devices, but it requires some dedication to program to your liking.
If you’re interested in upping your home entertainment and device game, you may be interested in a centralized hub to manage it all. The Logitech Harmony Smart Control could be your solution. It’s a universal remote that extends beyond a physical device to control a host of smart devices through a number of means. Thanks to an app, a hub, and Alexa compatibility you can forego the remote altogether and use your smartphone or voice to control all your devices with ease.
We used the Logitech Harmony Smart Control to test its ease of setup and use, voice-assistant support, and general performance.
While some remote controls can feel heavy or a little too big, the Harmony Smart Control is actually quite compact and comfortable to hold. At only 3.92 ounces and 2.2 x 6.7 x .7 inches, it’s not at all overwhelming in the hand. The back of the remote is made of a smooth and sturdy rubberized material and features a subtle groove in the middle. The front of the remote is made from a glossy reflective material which is prone to smudging, but the buttons are easy to press and don’t collapse with pressure.
The other complement to the remote is the Harmony Hub, a semi-square-shaped block powered by an AC adapter and supplemented with two infrared mini blasters. The Hub uses RF, or radio frequency signals, from the remote to communicate with your devices and equipment through IR, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, which means you can easily reach items behind cabinet doors or in media consoles. The Hub also connects to the Harmony App via Wi-Fi for complete smartphone control as well.
Setting up the Smart Control is not overly complex at first glance, but we ran into hurdles the entire way. Once we plugged in the hub and waited for 30 seconds as directed, we downloaded the Harmony App for iOS, which is where the setup process is managed. While we expected to see the hub detected in the app, the search icon just keep spinning. Only after we reset the hub a couple of times were we finally able to connect, after 15 annoying minutes.
Given the lengthy initial connection process, we opted to copy over activities we’d already established in another Harmony remote. This is a very helpful feature to have if you’re upgrading Harmony remotes or you’re adding another remote to other entertainment centers in your home. Even though we carried over activities (Logitech’s name for macros or the controls manually assigned to buttons) associated with another remote, we were still guided through setting up and testing all the activities and devices. And this is not a seamless or speedy process. We encountered some errors with devices not powering on even though the activity was launched, which required significant troubleshooting and reconfiguring.
It’s worth noting that while the quick activity shortcuts located at the top of the remote are customizable through the Harmony app, these are the only buttons you can set via the app. To gain full access to all button controls including activities with multi-step sequences, you have to use the MyHarmony software, which you can download for PC or Mac. Luckily, even though these steps need to be completed in the software, a simple sync in the Harmony App ensures that the remote and hub and app are on the same page. There is also a USB cord available to connect the Hub directly to your computer to enable syncing, if necessary.
We were able to set up a smart TV, Roku, Fire Cube TV, and NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition with the Harmony Smart Control with relative ease, but almost every device connection involved a bit of editing and finagling.
When we launched Roku with the Smart Control, we sometimes noticed a delay of a few seconds. This was especially true when we returned to regular TV from the Roku device. The NVIDIA SHIELD was more difficult to set up because it requires a Bluetooth connection to the Harmony Keyboard in order for the Harmony App and the remote to be able to interact with it. The Harmony App let us know what we needed to do in the NVIDIA gaming console to pair to the Harmony Keyboard, but locking in a connection took several minutes. That said, once we successfully paired the two, the remote and the app were very responsive.
When we successfully configured an activity, the remote was quick to respond and straightforward to use. We appreciated how handy it was to assign activities to devices straight from the app and quickly launch them.
On the other hand, having to rely on the MyHarmony software to control the rest of the remote is cumbersome. There’s also the poorly implemented short vs. long press commands—you often don’t have a choice over whether a long press or short press would launch a function, meaning you don’t know which is necessary. And even though RF signals were at work, the remote would sometimes lag, not respond at all, or seemed to work best when pointed directly at the device we wanted to control.
The Smart Control is also compatible with Amazon Alexa through an Alexa-enabled speaker like the Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot. Setting up Alexa with the Smart Control was a semi-involved process that involved downloading the Alexa App and enabling the My Harmony skill. We had to establish a connection with our MyHarmony account through the Alexa App for this skill and couldn’t get it to work. The Harmony Secondary Hub skill, on the other hand, worked relatively well. We were able to summon Alexa to ask Harmony to execute activities we’d set up in the Harmony app. When Alexa understood the command, the Harmony was very responsive, but this didn’t happen every time or with all activities.
The Harmony Smart Control performs well for the most part, but definitely requires experimentation and patience.
Logitech offers a number of smart remotes, and even the Harmony Hub itself can function as a universal remote solution on it’s own via the Harmony App. But while the Harmony Hub retails for about $100 on its own, the Harmony Smart Control can often be found for considerably less, despite its $130 MSRP. The Harmony Smart Control is an older hub-based model in the lineup, but it’s cheaper than the newer Harmony Companion, which retails for $150, and actually possesses much of the same functionality.
The Logitech Harmony Companion is probably the most direct competitor to the Smart Control. Even though the Harmony Companion is more expensive, there’s not much separating the two products. Both offer entertainment smart home device support for 8 devices and operate with the Harmony Hub. The Companion is newer and features some dedicated smart-home buttons that the Smart Control remote lacks, but the remote isn’t as small and lightweight as the Smart Control. If you find yourself choosing between the two, the age of the technology and the physical remote may be the most significant differences to consider.
Explore some of our other home-entertainment guides on the best universal remotes, best home theater starter kits, and gift ideas for cord-cutters.
A wallet-friendly option for automating entertainment and smart devices.
The Logitech Harmony Smart Control offers a modestly priced foray into the world of entertainment and smart-home automation through one remote—or your smartphone. If you’re okay with not having a touchscreen and spending some dedicated time to programming this device, it could be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
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