CNET First Look
A fresh take on the universal remoteThe Logitech Harmony Smart Control combines RF functionality and smartphone control in an affordable universal-remote package, but the complexity of the initial setup will burden some buyers.
Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak at CNET. And today, we're gonna take a look at the Logitech Harmony Smart Control. This is a universal remote system that also lets you use your smartphone to control all your devices. And it's currently selling for $130. So, this is the remote, but the Smart Control is really centered around this-- the Harmony Hub. This little device sits in your TV cabinet, and it distributes all your remote signals to your home theater gear. Even better, the hub can directly control Sony's PS3, which typically can't be controlled by a universal remote without a separate adapter. So, that's a big plus for Play Station 3 owners. What's also neat is not only can you control the hub with the included remote, you can also control it with your smartphone using a Harmony app for iOS and Android. Load it up and you get the same Harmony activities like watch TV that allow you to hit one button and the system does everything you need, including turning on the TV and your AV receiver, and switching to the right inputs. However, in everyday use, I found I ended up almost never using the smartphone to control my TV. I did end up taking more time than you think to wake up your phone, unlock it, find the app, load it up, and all that just to change the channel. It turns out what you really want is a remote that works as soon as you pick it up. And that's why Harmony includes the basic remote. Now, this is significantly thinner and lighter than any other Harmony remote. And it communicates with the hub using RF signals, which means you don't need to point the remote at the TV for it to work. It's actually a pretty great remote with one big exception-- which is that it only includes three activity buttons at the top. That's just not quite enough. And although you can technically access three more activities by pressing and holding those buttons, it's not a great solution overall. Considering the remote itself can control eight separate devices, one or two more activity buttons would have been nice. The other major drawback to the Smart Control system is that it can be a little bit of a pain to set up. Logitech has tried to simplify the process by allowing you to do it with the smartphone app, but I still rain it to several issues and the bottom line is it took me a while to get everything running smoothly. The good news is that after the initial investment of time, it worked perfectly. But you definitely need some patience to get over that initial setup hassle. And that's the main takeaway with the Harmony Smart Control. It offers convenient RF-based universal remote control from a nice compact clicker at a very reasonable price. But you have to be willing to invest some time in the setup to get it running smoothly. I'm Matthew Moskovciak, at this is the Logitech Harmony Smart Control.