Logitech announced a new remote control to add up the company’s Harmony lineup. The $249.99 Harmony Express starts shipping today. To supercharge its new voice remote the company has teamed up with Amazon and integrate the device with Alexa voice assistant. Logitech has been making universal remote controls under harmony brand for over two decades.
For the launch of Harmony express, Logitech is starting fresh and created a whole new companion app which will offer an extremely simple setup process and streamlined interactions afterward. For the time being the app only works with the Express, this remote is not compatible with Logitech’s older Harmony app or with hub cross-compatible with older remotes.
A few of the company’s devices were traditional universal remote controls with lots of buttons to control a multitude of devices, while others have incorporated touch screens. For this new Harmony express, the company has ditched the screen, reduced the number of buttons down to the essentials. It is replaced by an internal microphone which can start with mere a press of a button and a small speaker.
Although the idea of adding Alexa to the remote is not to add echo to your house because it will sound bad more than your average phone speaker so surely you don’t want to listen to music on it, but to get feedback. The remote uses a combination of infrared, Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE and Wifi to control devices, and comes with an IR blaster puck as well as an IR extender to reach TVs and other living room devices. The remote is itself rechargeable through a micro USB and is expected to last for a month or longer between charges.
Harmony express is available for $250 as mentioned above and could also be purchased online at Best Buy stores soon. The harmony setup is done with the help of a mobile companion app that looks for streaming devices on the same Wifi network and makes it easy to allocate them to HDMI ports on your TV. Alongside Cable boxes, A/V receivers and other accessories can be added manually.
Users are provided with a choice that which device they want to use for which streaming app and then simply give commands like “Go to Netflix,” “turn on Fire TV” or “go to NBC” to switch devices, apps, and channels. Moreover, the harmony express does not know which show runs on which app so you would not be able to search for content across your device. The company thought of adding this functionality later, Fire TV users can actually get a quick look of such universal search, thanks to the remote’s deep integration with Alexa which powers voice search on Amazon’s streaming devices.
During a demo shown by the staff of Logitech, the remote performed flawlessly, switching back and forth between a smart TV interface, a game console, streaming devices, and an old-school Comcast Xfinity cable box. But tested under real-life circumstances the harmony express not always works great and smooth. Previously, it was not able to find the right HDMI inputs on an older TV, frequently ending up on the wrong device.
If you test it on a different TV set, the device performed reliably but reveal a few numbers of quirks. When we asked about launching the Ruko channel Alexa responds that ‘i could not find the channel’ then asked to switch to the ABC news app the remote instead suggested to add ABC News to Alexa’s audio-only news briefing.
Even when we said the exact names for the apps assigned through the express companion mobile app like iTunes TV Shows the remote would sometimes respond: “Here is what I found: Harmony Express doesn’t support that.” In a nutshell, creating a universal remote for streaming time is not very easy.
Amazon has also built its own device control into the Fire TV cube that is not meant to launch apps on other streamers. Anyhow Logitech is making an effort in this thing but they had to cover the flaws and loopholes of the device if they want to take universal remote further.