Logitech’s new universal remote commands your whole home

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Logitech's Harmony Elite remote controls almost anything you point it at.
Logitech's Harmony Elite remote controls almost anything you point it at.
Photo: Logitech

The last universal remote we bought cost $20 from Walgreens. It was a big, ugly hunk of plastic, but it controlled the TV and VCR just fine.

These days, things have gotten a little more complicated. Now we have an HDTV, three set-top boxes, two game consoles and Sonos, as well a Nest thermostat and a bunch of Bluetooth-connected lightbulbs.

Logitech’s new Harmony Elite is a universal remote that controls all these devices and more. It’s price is listed at an eye-popping $350, but this is much more than a TV remote. It’s a smarthome hub for just about every connected device in your house, designed to give HomeKit and Siri a run for their money.

Logitech has long been making well-regarded TV remotes. The Elite sits at the top of the Harmony line, replacing the Harmony Ultimate Home. But unlike previous Harmony remotes, the Elite was designed with the smart home in mind. It controls thousands of new smart devices, as well as entertainment components.

The Elite is billed as a “whole-home controller.” It is compatible with more than 270,000 devices (there’s a list here, which is constantly updated), including the Apple TV, August smart lock, Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat, Philips hue and SONOS, among many others. Logitech said the controller is not presently compatible with HomeKit, but the company may add it to a forthcoming software update if there’s enough demand.

At a recent press event, the remote worked flawlessly and easily controlled a range of devices. For example, it can command up to 15 devices at once, which are grouped into “Activities.” Hit the “Watch a Movie” button, and it turns on the TV, cranks the sound, draws the curtains and dims the lights — if you have all this stuff in your house, of course.

The Elite features a color touchscreen with gesture controls, a motion sensing backlighting and vibration feedback. Logitech says it has improved the button layout, with dedicated buttons for things like lighting and temperature controls. Even the battery is better — it last 20 percent longer than previous Harmony remotes, Logitech says.

The included Harmony Hub works with the Harmony mobile app (iOS and Android) and can control devices through walls, inside closed cabinets and away from home.

The Harmony Elite is available this month online or at retail stores for a suggested price of $349.99.