Logitech has just announced a new remote control that shakes consumers from the company's Harmony line. The $ 249.99 Harmony Express, which begins today, has a small, refurbished design that eliminates the touch screen and many programmable buttons on other Harmony remotes. Instead, Logitech is betting everything on Amazon's Alexa voice assistant.
Alexa is incorporated in the same remote control; Yes, there is a microphone there, along with a speaker so you can hear Alexa's answers. If Logitech's other Harmony remotes are aimed at home theater enthusiasts, the Express is intended for occasional consumers who want to enter their living room, turn on the TV and access Netflix or Prime Video with voice commands. That sounds great in theory, but my time with the espresso so far shows that Alexa might not be ready to handle all that responsibility.
Also, why in the world is this thing $ 250? A lot of televisions and broadcast platforms like Roku and Fire TV are already compatible with Alexa. Does Logitech's ability to control a fixed number of living room devices pay off? Voice search is a good advantage to be had at remote controls, but making the voice the central user experience is also taking a big leap.
For the launch of the Harmony Express, Logitech is starting again. The company created a completely new application that offers an extremely simple configuration process and, later, optimized interactions. For now, that application only works with the Express. This remote control is compatible with Logitech's oldest Harmony application, and its center is not compatible with older remote controls. It is charged via Micro USB, but you do not have to worry about a remote battery exhausted.
To start, you can turn on all your devices and then the application scans them. He successfully recognized my TCL Roku TV and Xbox One; I had to add my PS4 and the Vizio soundbar manually. Then, drag and drop each device into its respective HDMI port so the Express knows where to find everything. It is compatible with the most popular devices, including Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. You can also choose which device you prefer to use each of the popular streaming applications. After this comes the Alexa configuration, where you must link Harmony Express to your Amazon account.
Once everything is done, you can say something like "go to Netflix", and your TV will have its own power, change to the correct HDMI input and load the application. Alexa to play a specific show. So, often, you will use the circular four-way navigation keyboard to start seeing something. The Express can also be tuned to specific channels (by channel number or name) in many cable boxes or, in my case, through the antenna plugged into my Roku TV. You can have any command that your device supports, but it requires remote control instead of touch screen or shortcut button if you would with another Harmony.
The remote control itself feels good. I discovered that my thumb rested naturally on the OK / voice button. It weighs hardly anything, and has a soft touch finish on the back for additional grip. Alexa's voice is also clearly heard through the loudspeaker, although a bit loud at times.
And, of course, you can always ask general questions about Express such as weather or sports scores. Logitech designed its Alexa integration to be push and hold to talk, so it's not as if the remote control constantly listens to "Alexa" as Echo Speaker does. You can adjust the volume of Alexa responses, but the voice can not be deactivated completely.
Logitech includes a hub / IR blaster in the box, which is what connects to the Logitech server and extracts all the commands for each of its devices. Once you've set up the Express, that intelligence extends to your speakers, so you can also count on devices to turn on your TV, for example. It is possible that your TV or game console is already compatible with Alexa individually (my TCL TV and Xbox One do) (but an IR blaster is not required), but there is definitely a convenience to chain everything together.
However, there are also opportunities for cross-flows and conflicts between Alexa's abilities. If both your TV and Harmony Express understand "going to Netflix" as a command, which one wins and makes the request? How to use Logitech Express instead of just controlling your Xbox One with Microsoft's ability? Logitech admits that this is an area where consumers can get inconsistent results from time to time, and it's something that Amazon should also have in their hands. If you prefer to use the remote control and the remote control, the physical buttons on the Express will control whatever application or device you are currently using, and all are illuminated. You can also customize each button for a different device command with a short press or a long press, which is useful since there are not many of them.
The port has spent enough time with Harmony Express to offer a review for the time being, but very confused about who will buy this product. I get the concept and for who it is: people who want a universal remote control that is not too complex. But … $ 250? At the price, would not the advanced users of the home theater system prefer the customization and the more advanced automation capabilities of Harmony Elite? Alexa is still reliable enough for that crowd, and it can always be quite annoying.
In the same way, I do not see many casual consumers dealing with that just for the added convenience of Alexa in their lives. For $ 100? Sure, you could make a better argument to give the Express a try. It was done what I asked so far without many problems or setbacks. But I do not think Alexa has enough in the living room for Logitech to ask for $ 250. As shown, Harmony Express is not a member of the Harmony lineup. Harmony Elite is still the flagship, and there are cheaper options if you prefer a more traditional universal remote control. But if you want to try Logitech's new approach, you can request the Express from now on.