Mid way through 2013 Logitech introduced a new line of smart remotes. Harmony Touch, Harmony Smart Control, and Harmony Ultimate.
The harmony ultimate is a mixture of the Touch and Smart Control system. The Harmony Touch is an Infrared(IR) remote, with a 2.4″ LCD screen that can use gestures to change channels and control your devices. Then you have the Smart Control system, which includes a hard button remote that interacts with a hub via Radio Frequency(RF). The hub then blasts IR, and Bluetooth signals to devices. RF is only used for the remotes communication between them and the hub. Bluetooth is used for gaming systems such as the Wii U, PS3, and PS4. The hub also uses WiFi to connect to your home network and can be controlled with a smartphone by downloading the Harmony app from Google Play or iTunes. The hub is common between the Smart Control and Ultimate system. Also note worthy is that the Smart Control system can be upgraded with the Touch remote, giving you similar features to that of the Ultimate system. There are however subtle differences between the Touch remote and the one that comes with the Ultimate system. For instance, the touch remote is lacking haptic feedback, a tilt sensor, and it’s ergonomics and materials are slightly different. What does this mean, well the tilt sensor is used to wake the LCD up when you pick the remote up, and the lack of haptic feedback on the touch remote means that you will not get confirmation on your presses. Other than that the ergonomics and materlial on the back of the remote might just be preference.
If you decide to upgrade you Harmony Smart Control with the Harmony Touch it all has to be done online via http://www.myharmony.com. Harmony no longer includes a software application. Programming your activities is done via the website or the Harmony smartphone app. Activities is how you control your devices, for instance an Xbox activity might turn your TV to aspecific input, your receiver to a specific input, and finally turn on your Xbox. Also in the Xbox activity the directional button might be used to navigate the Xbox menus. Where as a Blu Ray activity, might turn on your TV to the same input as the Xbox activity, turn your receiver to a different input, and finally turn on your Blue Ray player. And in your Blu Ray activity the directional pad on the Harmony remote will control your player navigation instead. It’s all customizable, and after the automatic setup can be changed to your preferences.
To use the website you need either a Windows or OSx computer, as the site uses Microsoft Silverlight to get the interface going. Also when you decide to update the Smart Control system with the Touch remote, you will increase the device count form 8 to 15. By updating to the touch remote you will also gain the ability to control the devices via RF from the remote directly, that and you will also be able to access your AV device menus and low level features. Otherwise with Smart Control you will need to leverage the Harmony app and its touch interface to have the level of control you gain with the Touch or Ultimate systems.
I found using the app to setup the hub very frustrating, everything I did I had to do twice, seems that the app had some connection issues. Eventually I did manage to connect the hub to the WiFi, update the firmware, and setup all the devices and activities through the app. The connection problems were only apparent when setting it up, creating the activities went rather smoothly. I would recommend connecting the hub to your PC and setting everything up via the myharmony.com website. You will save yourself a lot of trouble and aggravation. To do so you will need to create an account on the website.
The website provides you with a nice level of control, creating and editing activities, changing button assignments, adding granular setting to the activities, etc. A nice level of control which you might want to avoid on the touch interfaces.
Also to note that if you have a previous version of a Harmony remote, the activities from that remote can be transferred to your Smart Control, Touch or Ultimate devices. However if you have never had a harmony remote previously, with a library of 225,000+ devices it’s a breeze setting up your activities. I was able to add things such as a Samsung HD DVD player, and a Zune HD AV dock. This surprised me, but I guess the database of devices is growing bigger and bigger by the day. No codes for your device, no problem you can teach these systems your devices codes and button assignments. As previously stated the Smart Control remote uses RF to communicate with the hub, and the hub is doing all the IR blasting and communicating with the devices. That is for the Smart Control system only though as the Touch remote relies solely on IR when communicating with your devices, unless paired with a hub. Smart Control comes with one extra IR blaster where the Ultimate is equipped with two extras. IR is line of sight and sometimes can bounce off walls. For the Xbox One I found that it really does need to be line of sight otherwise it does not work. It all depends on your room and your surfaces.
The remote that comes with Smart Control can only control six Activities. The 3 buttons on the top have two functions, short and long press. Upgrading to the Touch or Ultimate allows you an unlimited number of activities. This is where the touch screen really shines. Switching from one activity to the next switches off your active devices and turns on the devices you just selected. The remote buttons can also be customized to perform different tasks for specific activities, that is if you wish to get into the a more detailed setup. Again this is where the touch screen remote is far superior because you can access individual functions on each device with it.That’s not to say that you can not do this with the Smart Control system, but you will need a smartphone or tablet and the Harmony app to accomplish the same level of control as you would with Touch and Ultimate. With the app or touch screen remotes you also have gesture based browsing. Swiping, tapping, pressing, and a combination of the three gestures, all yield different results based on your activity and your activity device settings. For example you could swipe up and tap to change the channel, swipe to the right to fast forward, or swipe to the right and hold to skip forward… I think you get my drift.
As far as hub and IR blaster placement, you will have to play around with that. Some locations might work for you, others may not. Since IR is mostly line of sight, but can be bounced off walls with in reasonable distance, you might want to place it somewhere where it can see all the devices. Having said that the hub has 4 blasters inside it pointing in all 4 directions, and in addition to this you can plug in two extra blasters into the hub. Also this device is designed to work in cabinets with closed doors. Nice thing too is you can assign where the IR signal is coming from for each device via the Harmony website.
Bluetooth can penetrate cabinets and walls to it really doesn’t matter where you place the hub for Bluetooth devices. Each time you make changes to the site/settings you need to sync your hub with the pc/site.
Logitech has created a very nice universal remote system. Fully featured and very comprehensive. Controlling everything is quite nice and convenient. If you’re somewhat technically inclined you should have no difficulty setting this up, if not you can always head over to their forums and ask a few questions or give their harmony support a call. Logitech has a dedicated line just for Harmony support I would suggest you leverage it to your benefit.
Happy couch surfing.