Roku, PS3, Xbox, cable box, DVD player, Smart TV… the list of remotes cluttering the modern coffee table is getting out of hand, which is why a good universal remote is becoming a necessity. Not too long ago we tested out Logitech’s Harmony Touch universal remote, a sleek touch-screen based remote that allows you to control all your home entertainment devices at once, while offering the best of both worlds – a traditional remote control form-factor – along with a color touchscreen for easy navigation. Logitech’s new Harmony Ultimate takes all the great features of the Harmony Touch and ups the ante by adding support for just about every home entertainment device – including bluetooth game consoles like the PS3 and Wii U. To top it all off, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate also lets you control home theater devices from behind closed cabinets. Last but not least, it’s also able to transform your Smartphone into a remote with the Harmony app.
When we previously tested the Logitech Touch remote, we experienced some problems setting up our Samsung TV and Time Warner Samsung DVR combination to work with the Watch TV activity. Fortunately, since then, Logitech has updated their Harmony web app and it’s a lot less buggy. The Watch TV activity now works for us on the Harmony Ultimate remote and in general the process of setting up the Harmony Ultimate is very straightforward. We were able to get the Harmony Ultimate to control our Roku 3, Samsung Smart TV, Time Warner Cable DVR, and WD TV box. And after you’ve preformed the initial set up, firmware updates are forever pushed directly to the remote over wi-fi. However, when it came to setting up our PS3, it took a lot of troubleshooting for us to get the PS3 to play nicely with the Harmony Ultimate. However, we suspect the hassle stemmed from the fact that we previously had another bluetooth remote control paired with the PS3. In any case, the fact that you can even use the Harmony Ultimate with the PS3 is one of the premium features of this remote.
If you ask us, home entertainment boxes should be hidden and out of sight. Unfortunately, the typical remote needs a line of sight with its master device in order to work. Fortunately, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate changes the game by allowing you to keep all your entertainment boxes tucked away – that includes any type of cabinet door, wood, metal, you name it. You will however have to keep the small included mini blaster outside of the cabinet so that the Harmony Ultimate remote can communicate with all your devices. Luckily, the IR blaster is quite minuscule in size and can blend in easily near your TV.
The Harmony Ultimate comes with a remote control (with rechargeable battery) Harmony Hub, 2 IR mini blasters, a charging station for the remote, a USB cable, and 2 AC adapters. All in all, there are a lot of cables involved with the setup of the Harmony Ultimate, and most of these cables can be hidden away behind cabinet doors.
Another neat feature of the Logitech Harmony Ultimate is that it allows you to use your Smartphone as a remote control with the Harmony app for iOS and Android. That means that anyone in your home can use their phone as a personal universal remote for controlling your home entertainment devices. All they have to do is download the app to their Smartphone and connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network. The Harmony app offers a similar interface to the Harmony Ultimate remote too, complete with personalized favorite channel icons. So in essence, it’s like you’re getting multiple universal remotes for the price of one. And for those of you interested in transforming your smartphone into a universal remote with the Hub, but you don’t want to purchase the Harmony Ultimate remote too, you’re in luck. Logitech just announced that the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Hub will be available for purchase as a standalone product this August.
Also, while the Harmony Touch and Harmony Ultimate remotes might look identical, the Ultimate has some extra features that make it extra-specially unique. To that effect, in dark rooms its tilt sensors automatically light up its touchscreen. It also features vibrations to let you know when a button on the screen has been pressed, so that this way you can keep your eyes peeled to the TV.
Logitech’s Harmony Ultimate brings all the features of the powerful Harmony Touch remote to the table, and then some. Its backlit buttons, and its 2.4″ customizable touch screen that can be personalized with your favorite channels are just some of its alluring features. Plus, Harmony’s web app software keeps getting better and better – and you can control up to 15 devices and itis compatible with over 225,000 home theater devices. As a matter of fact, the remote can even control Philips Hue lightbulbs. The smartphone app also works really well. And because you can easily transform a smartphone into a remote, in some ways, it’s almost like you’re getting several remotes for the price of one. We also really appreciate that the Ultimate lets you keep all your devices tucked away behind closed doors. All in all, for $349.99. the Logitech Harmony Ultimate is pretty pricey, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more robust universal remote solution else where.
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The Good: Helps simplify a complicated home theater setup with activities, finally a remote that works behind closed cabinets, lets you use your smartphone as a remote, compatible with just about every home entertainment device and even game consoles, offers a sleek form factor with backlit buttons, customizable touchscreen interface, convenient included charging station and easy online setup.
The Bad: PS3 setup was tricky and required a lot of troubleshooting, the remote’s battery life could be better, lots of wires and cables are involved – but most of them can be hidden behind cabinet doors.
Update 3/12/2014: The Logitech Harmony Touch has being replaced by the Logitech Harmony Ultimate One. It is essentially the Logitech Harmony Ultimate, without the Harmony Hub. Simply put, Logitech Harmony Ultimate One is the IR version of Logitech Harmony Ultimate.