Do you have a bunch of remotes on your coffee table for every item in your home theater? Tired of universal remotes that lack buttons? Here’s how to solve all your remote control problems with one Logitech Harmony remote.
The Logitech Harmony line is designed to take the hassle out of controlling your home theater (and, in some cases, some of the more expensive remotes and SmartHome devices). While it doesn’t really eliminate the hassle entirely — since Logitech’s setup software is a little dreadful — it does give you much more control over movies, music, and other devices in your living room. Here we’ll show you how to set up your Harmony remote to control everything at the same time.
NOTE. If you can, try to follow these instructions as closely as possible. While Logitech makes great hardware, their software isn’t great and things can go wrong and it’s very easy to get confused (especially when it comes to Harmony Hub remote devices). The closer you follow these instructions to the letter and in the correct order, the less likely you are to run into a problem.
First: choose your remote model
Logitech offers several different remote controls, and they are all perfect for different situations. Their current lineup consists of:
- Harmony 350 ($40, $37 at Amazon): This is Logitech’s simplest remote, offering control of eight devices with four buttons (one with short presses, one with long presses). It works like most universal remotes but offers the benefit of programmable buttons. It has one macro for «Watch TV» which turns on multiple devices at the same time, but other than that it doesn’t offer any other advanced features.
- Harmony 650 ($80, $52 on Amazon): This is my personal favorite and strikes a great balance between functionality and price. It can control up to eight devices, you can create different «macros» that turn on multiple devices at the same time, and it has a screen for any functions that are not available as remote buttons. This means you can recreate just about any remote with your Harmony 650 and press fewer buttons to turn them on—all for about $50. Never rush through that drawer full of remotes again.
- Harmony Companion ($150, $125 at Amazon): The Harmony Companion ditches the 650’s on-screen buttons, but adds a SmartHome control with the inclusion of the Harmony Hub. This is Logitech’s cheapest and easiest SmartHome remote. Not only can you control your home theater, but you can also dim your smart lights, turn on your smart plug, or even control your motorized blinds at the touch of a button. There are four smart home buttons on the remote — more devices than that and you’ll have to use the Harmony app on a phone or tablet that connects to the hub.
- Harmony Elite ($350, $312 at Amazon): The Harmony Elite is Logitech’s best remote with full custom home theater controls and SmartHome devices. The Elite can control up to 15 devices with programmable buttons as well as the screen, so you can add any custom controls that the buttons don’t cover. It also means that unlike the Companion, you can control more SmartHome devices than the four Home buttons allow. Because it also comes with the Harmony Hub, you can use the Logitech app to control all of your devices, but the remote is advanced enough that you probably won’t need it.
- The Harmony Ultimate One ($250): The Harmony Ultimate One is cheaper than the Elite, but we’re listing it last because it occupies a very odd space between the Companion and Elite. It’s basically the old version of the Elite that Logitech still makes (for whatever reason). Its functionality is almost the same as its successor (see above), but the touchscreen is a little slower and the play, pause and rewind buttons are inexplicably located above touch screen. Amazon is $250 bundled with the Harmony Hub, which gives you smart home control and use of the Harmony mobile app. However, you can buy it yourself for $190 and use it as a standard infrared remote control — though I don’t know why if the Harmony 650 does the same for just $50.
Which remote you choose is up to you, but if you want to control smarthome devices, you’ll definitely need one of the last three. You can see the Logitech SmartHome compatibility list here. The hub that comes with the last three remotes works with multiple devices, but the Harmon Home Hub Extender extends that support to many $100 ZigBee and Z-Wave devices.
If all you need is home theater control, I recommend the Harmony 650 — it costs an extra $15 compared to the Harmony 350. If you have SmartHome devices, the Companion is fine, but the Ultimate One and Elite will be a lot more versatile thanks to their touchscreens. . You can probably save money by switching from the Ultimate One, provided you can get past the odd button layout and less responsive touchscreen.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll only go through the initial setup of home theater devices — we’ll cover smarthome devices in a separate guide very soon.
All about activity, the central function of harmony
The cheapest universal remotes—like the one that probably came with your cable DVR, or the one you got from RadioShack for $20—lets you control multiple devices from a single remote by pressing a device button and then using the remote. to control this device. But most can only control one device at a time.
Logitech remotes are different. They let you manage each device individually if you want, but expect you to use Actions for multiple devices first. So instead of turning on the TV and then pressing the DVD button to control the DVD player, you press the Watch Movie button on the Logitech remote, which turns on the TV, sets it to the correct input, and turns it on the DVD player. You can assign some buttons to the DVD player and some to the TV so that this activity is better suited to your use case. If you want to switch to a different activity—say, Listen to Music—it will reconfigure the buttons (and screen functions, if applicable) for music, not movies.
If this sounds confusing, don’t worry — you’ll get the hang of it once you start customizing the remote. Suffice it to say that if you’ve only used cheap universal remotes so far, try to forget your old instincts. It will be weird at first, but once set up, you will have a fully customized remote focused on what you do not what devices you have.
NOTE. Harmony 350 is the only exception as it only allows one action. For the most part, using your Harmony 350 is just like using a regular remote—you press a device button like «DVD» and then use the remote’s buttons to control your DVD player.
How to set up your initial devices and activities
Okay, at this point, you’re probably itching to get started. Here’s how to set up your remote using the Logitech MyHarmony software.
Step One: Download and Install the MyHarmony Software
To get started, go to the Logitech download page and download the MyHarmony software for your platform—Windows Vista/7, Windows 8/10, or Mac OS X. Double-click the EXE to install the program, then launch the MyHarmony program when it’s finished. ,
You will be prompted to sign in to your Logitech account. If you don’t have one, create it now. (Don’t worry, a Logitech account is very handy — it backs up all your configurations, and if you ever buy a new remote, you can carry over the settings from your previous remote, which is very handy.)
If you have a remote with Harmony Hub, such as the Harmony Elite or Ultimate One, you can also set up the remote using the Harmony app for iOS or Android. But to be honest, we still think that the MyHarmony desktop software is — as flawed as it is — easier and more powerful for a basic home theater setup, so we’ll be using it for this tutorial.
Step Two: Adding a Remote
On the welcome screen, you will see a list of remotes connected to your account, as well as an «Add Remote» button. If you’re logging in for the first time, you’ll obviously just see an «Add» button. Click on it to add a new remote.
Once instructed, connect the remote to your computer using the supplied USB cable.
MyHarmony will walk you through some of the initial setup. If you have a previous Harmony remote, you’ll be given the option to copy your settings, which — depending on your remotes — works decently well. For the purposes of this guide, we will be performing «New Settings».
Step Two, Point Five: Add a Harmony Hub
If you have a Harmony Hub remote, such as the Harmony Elite or Ultimate One, you’ll also need to set up the hub during this process. (If you don’t have a Harmony Center, skip to step three.)
First choose a location for your Harmony Hub. It will use infrared to communicate with most of your devices, but that doesn’t mean it needs line of sight to them. Unbeknownst to many, infrared commands will bounce off walls and surroundings, so you can mount the Harmony Hub under a TV or in an entertainment cabinet and it will likely work just fine. If you’re placing it behind a closed door — like in a closet or indoor entertainment center — plug in one or both of the included infrared blasters and make sure one of them is outside that closed space.
I found that I didn’t need blasters at all — just putting a hub on top of the receiver was enough to control my entire home theater.
Back in the MyHarmony software, you will need to accept the license agreement, after which you will be prompted to enter your Harmony Hub. Click Next when you’re done.
Next, MyHarmony will present you with a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks. Select the one you want to use to communicate with the Harmony Hub from the list and click Next.
MyHarmony will search for and connect to your hub. If it doesn’t find it, it will return to the «Name Your Hub» screen. I found that I had to go through this step on a Wi-Fi connected laptop and sit right next to my Harmony Hub for it to work properly.
You will then be asked if you want to continue the process from your computer or use the Harmony mobile app. I recommend sticking with the desktop app for now. Again, the desktop software has its drawbacks, but it’s still easier to use than the mobile app thanks to the mouse and keyboard. You will need to use the mobile app to control the PC or SmartHome devices on the higher remote, but those are instructions for another guide. Today we will just add your standard home theater devices.
MyHarmony will walk you through some of the initial setup. If you have a previous Harmony remote, you’ll be given the option to copy your settings, which, depending on your remote’s models, works decently. For the purposes of this guide, we will be performing «New Settings».
If your remote supports SmartHome devices, they will appear in the list. You can select them to add them to your remote, or do it manually later. We will now discuss adding home theater devices and adding smarthome devices at the end of this guide, so you can skip this step.
When you reach the Add Your Devices screen, click the Add Device button and proceed to the next step below.
Step Three: Add Your Devices
MyHarmony will ask you to enter information for your first device. For this example, we will start with our TV — Samsung UN55H6203AF. Find your model number on your TV (or in your TV manual), enter it, and click the Add button.