After getting to grips with Alexa (well kind of) I thought I’d ramp up the home automation and get a Harmony remote to consolidate all my other remotes and allow for some further voice activation.

Harmony Ultimate and EliteAfter reading lots of reviews, I was really torn between the Elite and Ultimate, specifically whether the newer Elite (on the right) is worth the extra money.  In the end, I decided it probably was, but more from an aesthetics than functionality point of view, as I think with a firmware upgrade the Ultimate will do pretty much everything the Elite can.  Amazon had the Elite with a decent amount off, making the gap less than ┬ú40, which also helped the decision.

My initial thoughts after playing with it for a few hours aren’t great, and it may well be going back.  So far the setup process is a nightmare, as very little can be configured on the remote, with setup being done on the iOS or Mac app, which then sync’s with the remote and hub.  I’ve had lots of failure messages and progress bars stopping at random percentages.

Why am I even bothering?  I currently use a Philips remote from my earlier TV, as it’s a pretty good multi-functional remote and does some of what the Harmony will, although you need to know how (the buttons are labelled for the TV and whilst they are configured for other devices, you need to know what does what and which input to select) and some people in the household struggle, as do any guests even with a simple guide I produced.  It controls my Philips TV & Soundbar, Virgin Media TiVo box, and an Apple TV4, although the Virgin remote is usually in play somewhere, and the Apple one is needed for certain things.  I’ve got other stuff too (like a Blu-ray player, Nintendo Wii and projector) which whilst it’s used infrequently, needs the remote as you can only configure 4-5 devices on the Philips remote.  

Well, I wrote this yesterday after the remote had arrived and was intending to post today but found a little time to play some more.  I think part of the setup issues yesterday were down to adding so many devices and activities in one go, as it’s been much better today and after a few little tweaks it’s working pretty much as I’d expected.  I now have the following devices configured and pretty much working:

  • Philips TV
  • Philips Soundbar
  • Virgin Media TiVo
  • Apple TV4
  • Amazon Fire Stick
  • Philips Blu-ray Player
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Optoma Projector
  • MacBook
  • Silicondust HDHomeRun
  • Philips Hue Lights

and just a few key activities:

  • Watch TV (TV, Soundbar and TiVo)
  • Watch Apple TV (TV, Soundbar and aTV)
  • Watch Fire TV (TV, Soundbar and Fire Stick)
  • Listen to Music (Soundbar and aTV)
  • Switch Lights On

The remote switches the devices on/off and configures the right inputs on the TV and Soundbar.  The remote buttons then control the appropriate device, so for watching TV the sound on the Soundbar, the channels on the TiVo, etc.  It also shows my favourite channels as icons on the touchscreen.

And the main reason I bought it?  Yes, I can say “Alexa, ask Harmony to switch on the TV” and it does!  Or change the channel, or switch the another activity!  Ok, a little like the Echo, it’s not perfect and generally quicker to use the remote, but it works and can only get better!  

So, at this point, it will be staying to keep Alexa company.  The acid test is how well others get on with it, but as I’ve hidden all the other remotes they’ll have to try ­čÖé