Our Top Pick for 2016: Logitech Harmony Elite Universal Remote Control
Read our full review.
Let’s admit it; it really isn’t fun passing the clicker, especially if it’s a high-tech model that sports a bevy of universal features that power your entertainment experience. The universal remote has grown significantly since its meager beginnings, and today, you can find remotes that sport LED or LCD screens, will help you control your Smarthome, or even models that control online services like Netflix and Hulu. There are a lot of great universal remotes to wade through, so we’ve taken the time to round up a few exceptional models to make your search a bit easier. Three of these are great overall models and the final of the four is a budget conscious device that’ll save you a bit of cash. We’ve also compiled a list of pre-purchase considerations that will make your search all the more easy.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Swipe And Tap Color Touch Screen
Most Powerful And Intuitive Harmony Remote
Support For 8 Devices
50 Favorite-channel Icons
Control Of Up To 15 Devices
Replaces Up To 8 Remotes
Full Color Touch Screen
Bright Color Screen
Control Up To 15 IR Devices
One-touch Activity Buttons
Upgradable With Harmony Hub
Works With Over 270,000 Devices
Simple Online Setup
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Logitech Harmony Elite Universal Remote Control
View it on Amazon for Too low to display*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Logitech has been producing handheld devices since the 1980s. With a history that has seen them produce over a billion computer mice since the company’s inception, Logitech has an unparalleled reputation for creating reliable electronics that push the state of the art. Our Gold Pick, the Harmony Elite universal remote, takes Logitech’s handheld expertise and adds functionality that allows you to control a bevy of electronic devices, including smart thermostats, gaming consoles, and of course, your smart TV.
The Harmony series of universal remotes has been Logitech’s attempt at improving the functionality of these types of devices, and for the most part, they’ve been successful. The Elite takes all of the lessons learned in the Harmony series and presents them in an easy to use form factor. The remote measures six inches in height, two inches in width, and 0.6 inches in depth. As evidenced by their great-looking line of products, Logitech has some great designers and this is evident in this universal remote.
The first thing that you might notice when picking up this device is how great it feels in the hand. It’s a relatively light remote at only 12 ounces, and it has a good balancing that’ll make holding it for hours on end effortless. In addition to this light handling, the rear of the remote is coated in a soft material that makes it feel comfy in the palms. This rubberized surface is also fairly easy to grip and will help significantly reduce the chances of you accidentally dropping this relatively expensive gadget. At the top rear of the device is a ridged surface that also adds to the gripping profile of the remote.
The front of the remote is comprised of a very reflective plastic, and while this does pick up fingerprints really easily, it still looks very futuristic and sleek. Each of the buttons on this remote are LED backlit, so operating your TV or devices under low lighting shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Each of the physical buttons is also rubberized and sleek. There are a wide variety of buttons, in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Fortunately, the placement of each button is intuitive, so you’ll not have to maneuver your hand into an awkward position when you need to rewind a Netflix movie.
Visually, the first thing that will strike your eye about this remote will undoubtedly be the 2.4-inch LCD touchscreen positioned at the top front of the unit. This screen is large and has a very low resolution that will make the larger icons easy to see and interact with. Also, with the lower resolution, the remote won’t drain as much over time. With battery power in mind, the screen also will turn off when not in use and turn on when its accelerometer senses that you picked the device up.
Interestingly, Logitech baked haptic feedback into the functionality of this LCD screen. When you make a selection, the screen will vibrate pleasingly, so that you’ll know when you’ve changed a channel or turned off a light. If you don’t like the tactile feeling of haptic feedback, you can reduce or even disable it in the LCD’s settings.
This LCD screen is really where you’ll find the lion’s share of functionality in this remote control. Have a favorite set of channels? You can program the Harmony Elite to save these and they will be displayed with channel icons right on the screen. All you have to do is select your channel from the stacked list and you’ll never have to remember a channel number again.
In addition to this TV compatibility, Logitech designed this device to work with your entire home. Bundled with the remote is the Harmony Smart Hub. This hub is similar to other Smart Home devices on the market today and it will allow you to bring in all of your Nest thermostat controls, Hue lighting, Smart lock functionality, and Garagio security into one device that can broadcast signals in Bluetooth, Infrared, and Wi-Fi.
While the remote will broadcast RF to control the hub, it will broadcast in these other frequencies so that all of your devices have a central controller. Just in case the hub is out of line of sight, Logitech was smart enough to include an IR blaster at the base of the remote. With all of this control, it’s also great to know that the remote’s LCD screen handles profiles intuitively. You can pre-set a program that will dim the lights, activate your fireplace, turn on your Smart TV, and activate your X-box One with the touch of single button.
What about charge? You’ll be pleased to know that this Harmony Elite remote comes with a micro-USB charging stand that will charge your remote when it’s not in use. The holder is comprised of shiny plastic, and the inner surface is made of a velvety fabric that really matches the remote’s design. On a full charge you’ll get more than a few days of usage.
Finally, Logitech also has included Smartphone compatibility into the hub, so that you can access the entirety of the hub’s connected devices without even picking up the remote.
Of the 237 reviews of this product on Amazon, 76 percent had a favorable four or five star rating. While many have complained about the remote’s steep price, the majority of five star reviews state that the convenience of this product has made the device irreplaceable in their homes. Here is one five star review that talks about the remote’s Smartphone compatability:
“I have owned three different Harmony remotes over the last decade or so, and this one is the best by far. The most significant change with this one is how all of the configuration is handled through an app on your phone. Just plug the base unit in near your stuff, start the app, and it is fairly straightforward from there. As you make changes, the remote syncs with the phone seamlessly.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Logitech Harmony Ultimate One Universal Remote
View it on Amazon for $193.92*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
This is another universal remote in the Harmony line of devices from Logitech. The Ultimate actually shares a lot of functionality of our Gold Pick remote, but also features its own unique functions and design. Both of these remotes are compatible with the Harmony Hub, so if you’re looking for another device to control your intricately connected Smart Home, then may be a worthy contender for that position.
Frankly, this device has some of the best ergonomics of any of the modern devices in its class. The base of the remote is somewhat bulbous, but this makes it easy to grip and hold comfortably in the hand. Resting neatly above this rounded rear base is a depression that helps your hand slide forward when you need to access the features at the top of the device. Even further above that is the device’s IR blaster; a feature you can use if the Hub isn’t quite in line of sight.
The entire rear of the remote is coated in a non slip, soft rubberized material that is comfortable to hold. What’s really nice about this remote is how it tapers from the thick, rounded base to the very thin form factored top end of the device. This choice in shape grants this remote a somewhat teardrop-esque profile.
The face of the device features a gentle outward curve that further beautifies the remote. This curving structure also adds to the universal remotes ergonomics by making it easier to interact with the full list of options on the device’s face. Underneath the various buttons, Logitech opted to include a shiny plastic facing, and like the facing on the Elite remote, it can pick up smudges but nevertheless looks very sleek and attractive.
The buttons on this device are placed in an interesting configuration. Some might be annoyed at the positioning of the playback buttons; they are aligned above the 2.4-inch touchscreen, but after a bit of adjustment, you’ll barely notice this strange placement. Each of the physical buttons is backlit and shine very perceptibly in low-light situations. At the base of the remote you’ll find four multicolored buttons that are fully programmable and can be used for a myriad of devices and tasks.
The 2.4-inch touchscreen has a lot of the functionality that you’d find in the Elite, but has a little less of the responsiveness that we’ve come to expect from our devices. Fortunately, the haptic feedback that really helps alert you when you are making a change on the touchscreen is present, though you can turn this off as well in the remote’s settings. TO save battery, the touchscreen interface is very low res and will turn off when not in use. The on-board tilt sensors will wake the screen up whenever you pick it up.
To ensure ease of use, this device features a micro-USB connector at its base so that you can easily interface with a computer and also has two contacts that connect with the included docking station. This docking station actually tidies up your cables and also has its own micro-USB connector to provide power to the charger.
Out of the 361 reviews currently on Amazon, 57 percent are of a positive four or five star nature. There certainly have been some negative reviews, but for the most part, these are the result of a firmware update that caused some technical glitches; an update that Logitech has sense repaired. Here is an example of a five star review:
“When you get used to this sleekly designed remote control, you’ll find out that it’s a terrific gadget. It’s not very difficult to set up all your devices and activities. I like the touchscreen. You can scroll through all your favorites in less than two seconds and choose which TV channel you want to watch.
This remote control doesn’t consume too much energy. Therefore, there is no need to leave it on its charger permanently. … Five stars!!!!”
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Logitech Harmony 650 Infrared Remote Control
View it on Amazon for $51.49*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Our Bronze Pick is another in Logitech’s Harmony series of universal remotes. Unlike its predecessors, this remote eschews a touchscreen interface for a standard LCD screen that you control through several of the contextual buttons that surround it. The resulting remote is much cheaper than those Harmony units that we’ve reviewed thus far; you can find it on Amazon for about 60 bucks or so. Also, you’ll only be able to control five devices with this remote, but your options are vast and setup is quick and easy due to Logitech’s web-based Harmony setup system.
The first thing that you might notice about this remote is that it’s very large. It measures in at 10.8 inches from top to bottom, 1.6 in depth at its widest point, and 5.8 inches from side to side. Like our Silver Pick, you’ll also notice that the 650 has a very large, rounded grip at the base. The remote’s face is a departure from the glossy black of our gold and silver picks; it’s comprised of a glossy silver that is somewhat textured. You won’t see much in the way of smudges with this face, which adds a bit of aesthetic charm to the device.
The 650 has a bevy of function buttons to make up for the lack of a dedicated touch screen. Underneath the LCD you’ll find several control buttons that will help you manage the functionality of your devices. A really neat feature of these buttons is the degree of feedback you get when pressing them. Each has a clicky feel to them so that you know when you’re pausing your show or changing the channel. Each of the buttons in this section has this degree of feedback, and fortunately there are a lot of buttons to choose from.
The middle LCD screen is a low res style of non-touch interface and only sports a low level of color options. It’s about one inch by one inch and is interfaced by the aforementioned seven contextual buttons. While you may or may not miss touch, this interface is still very easy to utilize. You can set favorite channels, program device behaviors, and alter settings on your TV. Television logos can appear on this LCD for your favorite channels and they can actually be somewhat colorful. Typically, all your choices will be presented in a two by two grid that aligns well with the contextual buttons. Fortunately, these buttons also have that very identifiable degree of feedback, so you know when you’ve made a selection.
Above the LCD screen are a series of soft buttons. These buttons don’t have that clicky feel; and as a result, are used in a different way. The five buttons in this area are: watch TV, listen to music, watch a movie, help, and more activities. These task-based options let you set profiles for your viewing behaviors, listen to music can activate your stereo, watch TV or watch a movie can start up your favorite DVD or switch to your favorite channel. The remaining function button is programmable and will allow you to select the device you wish to set a profile for.
This remote runs on AA batteries and will last for months, if not years of regular usage. These batteries, which are in the base of the device, add a degree of weightiness to the remote that makes it even easier to use ergonomically.
Currently, there are over 5,000 reviews for this device on Amazon. The majority of reviews (72 percent) are positive, and the general consensus is that consumers love the lower price point and the Harmony features. Here is one five star review that summarizes the 650 experience:
“The screen on my Vizio sound bar XRS500 remote went out and I struggled to find a working replacement. This solved all that. The Harmony screen displays all menu options for my sound bar. Love the one touch buttons. Wonderful remote.”
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): GE 4-Device Universal Remote
View it on Amazon for $9.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
As anyone who’s utilized a universal remote can attest, you don’t need a massive feature set and digital displays to have a great, functional device. Some of the devices on our list can set you back hundreds of dollars, so what do you do if you are ballin’ on a budget? Fortunately, we’ve found a great universal remote that won’t break your bank account in half when you purchase it.
Developed by General Electric, a company that has been in operation for more than a century, this universal remote has all of the functionality you need to control a bevy of devices in your home theater. As the name indicates, you can control four devices with this universal remote. These can include your set top box, your TV, or your DVD/Blu-Ray player.
While not very ergonomic, this remote definitely has a comfortable construction that fits neatly in your hand. Its dimensions are 10.8 inches from top to bottom, 4.8 inches in width, and 1.5 inches in depth. This is also a very lightweight remote at only about four ounces. Aesthetically, GE opted to use a lined plastic design for the body of the device. The overall effect makes the remote look like it’s comprised of silvered wood, which is an effect that could go well with a den-style décor.
The buttons on this remote are all made of a black rubber. They are easy to grip, and they have just enough tactile response to be easily identifiable by touch alone. The playback buttons are located at the top of the device, so it’ll be difficult to accidentally hit them when holding the remote. Also, the master volume sand channel control sliders are easy to use and have a unique enough shape to make them easily manipulated.
80 percent of the reviews on Amazon for this universal remote are positive. For the most part, reviewers appreciate how this is a relatively easy device to set up and operate. Here is one five star review:
“This remote is the sweet spot for price and quality. It does everything you would expect and has an extra notch of build quality over other cheap remotes I’ve owned.”
We’re sure you remember the days of blocky, angular remotes that left your hand feeling a little less than comfortable after a few hours of TV watching. If you go even farther back, there was a time when remote controls were blocky and uncomfortable AND tethered. Nowadays, you can always expect modern remotes to take your comfort into consideration. Many of the new remotes on the market are designed with ergonomics in mind. They simply fit your hand in the most comfortable of ways and don’t require a vast amount of finger and hand acrobatics to operate either. When searching for a new universal remote, be sure to take your comfort into consideration; your poor, overworked paws will thank you.
Touch & Onscreen Functionality
Amazingly, many universal remotes that you’ll find on the market will have this type of functionality. As a matter of fact, most models will either incorporate a screen or a touchscreen that will make programming and channel selecting an easy process. Operating a touchscreen universal remote is very similar to operating a Smartphone. You’ll have menus, apps, and settings that you can interface with the tips of your fingers. Some of these types of remotes even feature screen layouts that are completely customizable; granting you freedom that many would have never expected from a remote control.
Simply put, universal remotes are much more universal these days than they were in decades past. With the advent of the Smarthome, many devices have suddenly become remote controllable. Here is a list of potential devices that you can control with the new crop of universal remotes:
Television – The old tried and true, you of course will be able to control your TV with your new universal remote, but even this has changed significantly. With many people around the country “cord cutting”, or dropping cable, many are getting their entertainment from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Fortunately, many universal remotes can control many different TV-based streaming services as well as change the channels on your set top box.
Lights – Don’t want to have to get up once you’ve settled in on the couch? Well some modern universal remotes come with the ability to control lighting fixtures that utilize smart LEDs such as Phillips Hue bulbs. With these controls, you’ll be able to dim, and even change the color of your bulb’s output.
Temperature – With devices such a Google’s Nest Smart Thermostats, you can control your house’s thermostat right from the comfort of your couch. Simply configure your universal remote to control this device and changing the temperature in your house will be super easy.
Locks – Did you forget to lock the door when you came in? Some universal remotes can be programmed to control modern smart locks with the flick of a backlit remote button. This type of functionality provides both comfort and security.
Many of us have memories of having to frantically search for batteries to power our universal remotes. These battery-searching jaunts were often frustrating, despite the fact that we typically knew when the remote’s battery was dying because of the impaired functionality. Today, remotes still tend to use batteries but some have docking stations that will keep your device powered indefinitely. Others plug directly into a charging cable to deliver hours of power to your remote activities. When searching for a new universal remote, it’s a good idea to seek one that has recharging capabilities; it’ll save you money on batteries, and you’ll never have to think about what you’ll need to do to find a set of AAA batteries with enough life to power your TV watching session.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
One remote to rule all of your devices was once a pipe dream that has now become a reality. Purchasing a universal remote that can give you all of the versatility that you need and will let you retire all of your individual remotes is not easy with a market so filled with so many competing devices. Hopefully our write-up will make the process of finding a remote that’ll handle all of your devices a much easier prospect. Take a look at the devices we’ve reviewed, consider all that we mentioned for your pre-purchase period, and check out the competition on consumer and buying sites, and you’ll make a purchase that’ll give you the home control that you crave.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Chris Ziegler, Logitech Harmony Elite review, The Verge, October 2, 2015
- TeQreation, Logitech Harmony Elite Review – Universal Smart Remote: Everything you need to know!, Youtube, Feb 17, 2016
- Justin Tse, Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Review, YouTube, Dec 16, 2013
- David Carnoy, Logitech Harmony Ultimate universal remote review: A remote that almost has it all, CNET, July 31, 2013
- Ben Drawbaugh, Logitech Harmony Ultimate, Endgadget, July 05 2013
- John Falcone, Logitech Harmony 650 review, CNET, July 12, 2013