Logitech’s new Harmony Express universal remote features Alexa controls for almost everything
Hey Alexa, do all the things.
If you’re an Alexa household, Logitech’s new Harmony Express remote is probably perfect for you. Just like Logitech’s other amazing universal remotes, the Harmony Express links all the tech you have on your TV console (and elsewhere) into one voice-controllable interface.
Now, it’s not meant to be a replacement for the four-year-old Harmony Elite, rather it’s aimed at bringing Alexa voice controls to your dumb tech that doesn’t already have a built-in voice assistant, while also simplifying the number of remotes you need on your coffee table. Think of it as creating minimalism from the usual chaos of A/V remotes, both in the number of remotes and number of buttons on them to press.
While the Harmony Express has the usual small selection of physical buttons for back, home, menu, volume and playback, the real star of the show is Alexa
Want Netflix’s latest Originals to play? Ask Alexa to open the Netflix app, and the remote will turn on all your connected devices and start playing Netflix. That’s a huge improvement over the HDMI ARC control which just turns on the devices, leaving you to manually select the app you want to open.
It’s simple to install too. Plug in your equipment, set the infra-red blaster where it’s visible on your entertainment console, and start the companion app going for the setup process. Most of your devices should auto-detect, with the few standouts needing manual choices from a drop-down menu.
It does have a couple of caveats in its current form: The Harmony Express can only launch apps, not individual shows; and it’s not compatible with the voice commands on Roku or Apple TV boxes, so you’ll need to keep those remotes handy if you use the voice search on either. Logitech has said it’s working on deeper integration with those platforms, but it could be a long time before it happens.
The remote itself is similar to those on the FireTV, Roku or Apple TV, which is fine
The understated dark gray with flat buttons is classy and isn’t something you’d feel the need to hide. Holding the “OK” button that’s inside a lighted blue ring primes Alexa to listen for your voice commands, which saves on battery life and means that Alexa isn’t constantly monitoring you. It’s also got a rechargeable battery inside, recharged from a microUSB port so no more hunting for AAA batteries.
The Harmony Express can also do almost anything that Alexa has in her bag of skills, from controlling smart devices to light bulbs to setting calendar reminders or playing Skyrim. The only annoyance I see is that it relies on IR for everything. That means there’ll be a small lag between you doing anything on the remote and the corresponding actions being taken. That’ll be irritating when we’re so used to Bluetooth-connected remotes that respond immediately to commands.
The Harmony Express remote is $250, which is a steep price if you’re not already heavily invested in the Alexa ecosystem. If you don’t want a voice assistant, you can pick up a refurbished Harmony 665 universal remote for $35 right now on Amazon, for all the button-pressing you can handle.
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