If you have a lot of connected devices in your home, chances are you often look for ways to tie them all together. Most devices have their own specific smartphone apps or remote in tow, making it hard to get everything to work together as one big unit. That's where the Harmony Ultimate Home comes in. The system consists of just a remote, hub, and smartphone app, but it's what they can all do together that really makes the magic.
The $350 Harmony Ultimate Home is an amped-up universal remote control for the connected home. Not only does it let you control standard equipment like your TV, DVR, and Blu-ray player, but it also takes charge of your Sonos speakers, Hue lights, Nest thermostat, door locks, XBOX, Playstation, SmartThings — the list goes on. Harmony says the Ultimate Home is compatible with over 270,000 devices (in case you're keeping score).
In the box, you'll find the Harmony Home Hub, Harmony Remote and two IR blasters. Downloading the free Harmony app (iOS (opens in new tab) will get you on your way to setting up the system. Connect the Hub to your home Wi-Fi network, tweak a few settings and you're up and running.
The phone app is where you'll do all of your setup and system tweaking. The hub had no issues seeking out almost all of my devices. Many it found almost instantly — Sonos, Hue, Nest — but others like older TV models or DVR boxes will have to be entered manually. You can search through the Harmony database as long as you know the brand and model of your device. Don't worry if some of your devices aren't "smart" either, the included IR blasters act as a gateway from the Hub to your device, still allowing you to control nearly anything you'll need.
One you have your devices added they'll show in the device list, but that's just where the fun really starts. From here you can create activities — groups of settings for things like movie mode, bedtime, or having a dance party. Activities tie all of your different devices together to give you one-touch access to various scenarios.
Here's a few examples:
- Watch TV: Power on your TV & DVR, turn off the lights
- Dance Party: Turn on all of your Hue lights, play dance music on all of your Sonos speakers, lock your front door (just in case!)
- Watch a Movie: Power on your TV & DVD player, lower your window shades, turn off your Hue lights, turn up your Nest thermostat
- Bedtime: Turn off your Sonos, TV & DVR, turn off all your lights, light your doors, and lower your Nest thermostat
The possibilities are really only limited by your devices and your imagination, so you're free to go nuts creating activities that fit your lifestyle.
When it comes to simply controlling you individual devices, Harmony makes that easy as well. There's a touchscreen on the remote that gives you easy access to commands for the selected device. If you're watching TV for instance, you can scroll through your list of favorite channels, use the number pad, or access things like skip forward or PIP. Listening to Sonos shows commands for next track, favorites, and mute.
The physical buttons on the Harmony remote take over for most common commands. There are the standard DVR controls, Guide & Info buttons, even mute and back. What's cool is that if something doesn't suit your fancy, you can change the programming for a specific button through the app. So if you want quick access to your on-demand menu for example, you can setup one button to do just that. You can even go a step further by designating a quick press or a long press — putting even more functionality at your fingertips.
Of course all of the remote commands carry over to the phone app as well. When the Harmony remote is out of reach (or you just don't want to get up off the couch) you can easily use your phone to control all of your connected devices, which is awesome. On-screen controls give you everything you need to keep your devices running along smoothly.
Everything works in harmony (yeah, I went there) no matter how complex your setup. Yes, you may have to deep-dive into the settings to get everything playing nicely, but once you do you'll be a happy camper. My DVR / TV / Chromecast / Sonos Playbar setup has no issues whatsoever and does just what I want it to do, when I want to do it.
Another cool thing to note is that Harmony is supported by the popular web service, IFTTT. That means you can go above and beyond just the activities and commands, having your system act off triggers from your phone, time & date, location and more. You can use IFTTT to set a timer for your lights, turn the TV off when you leave the house, stop playing your Sonos speakers when you get a phone call and much, much more.
Overall the Harmony Ultimate Home is a very solid system. It does have a few hitches here and there, but if you have more than a handful of connected devices in your home that you're looking to tie together, this may be the bet solution yet. It's easy to setup, will let you control things from the remote or your phone, and supports a ton of devices. The ability to control not only connected devices — but also IR and Bluetooth — really sets this setup apart from similar options.
If you're only rocking a few connected devices though, you may not want to drop another $350 on this setup. Instead, if you simply have to have it, you can grab the Harmony Hub on its own for $99 (opens in new tab). You won't have a physical remote to do thy bidding, but you can still add devices, setup activities, and control things from your phone just the same.
- More info / Purchase Harmony Ultimate Home (opens in new tab)
The article Take control of your connected devices with the Harmony Ultimate Home was originally posted at Connectedly.com
Getting his start writing about BlackBerry in 2008, Adam is the Editorial Director of High-Yield content at Future. Leading an outstanding team, he oversees many of the articles the publisher produces about subscriptions and services – VPN, TV streaming, and antivirus software. From buying guides and how to watch content, to deal news and in-depth reviews. Adam's work can be seen on numerous Future brands including TechRadar, Tom's Guide, T3, TTR, Android Central, iMore, and Real Homes.
For $350, you could buy a used Samsung smartphone (like the GS4, or even an M7) with an IR blaster that would have much better support for things like the Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, etc. with individual apps as well as all of the abilities of this thing. Pretty overpriced for what it is, in my opinion.
Hey, that's great. Except that if you have a home theater set up where the IR receiver ports of your components are hidden (like in a cabinet), then your dream used S4 won't help you. So maybe it's overpriced for YOUR use case, but not for people with a home theater set up.
I have a home theater setup, genius. Not everyone hides their components in a cabinet. I guess blocking the IR ports is a bad idea, which is also what this remote uses to communicate with. Duh.
well yeah, but the Ultimate has a base station you can put in the cabinet (or in my case, the utility room) with all your components so you can still control them using wifi to signal the base which in turn IR blasts the components, while still using the IR on the remote to turn your TV on. I have that setup, as well as two other standalone remotes for my bedroom and living room. Best universal remotes I've ever owned.
There are multiple Harmony Hub configurations available. This one just happens to be the most expensive, hence "Ultimate." If you want home automation, they sell a package for $150 that does the same thing without the fancy color screen RF remotre. If you just need something just for your entertainment center, then they sell a $130 with a basic RF remote. I have the $130 setup and I love it! Regardless of what setup you get, the hub part of the system paired with the app will get you the same functions as the $350 setup. Best part about the hub is it comes with an additional IR source so you can control ALL your media devices hidden behind closed cabinet doors. You can purchase an addition IR source if needed for a total of three sources of IR. You can get the standalone hub starting at $99. It also has Bluetooth to control devices like Playstations and such. Can the Samsung blast IR through cabinets? :)
I have 2 of the same ones you have. They're great, and you can't beat them for the price. I have sold several of these to clients. The Harmony iOS apps have always been pretty poor, but the most recent version is actually decent.
I don't know, but I don't hide everything behind cabinets, so I guess i don't care. My point was that it's a grossly overpriced remote, which still stands.
I have an older Harmony universal remote (at least nine(!) years old) that I absolutely loved, but is now out of date and is on the list of things to upgrade when I have money again.
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