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Logitech Harmony Express: New universal remote control relies on Alexa



On Tuesday Logitech announced the Harmony Express, a new universal remote control equipped with the Alexa voice assistant.

The increasingly omnipresent helper of Amazon is built into the device and accessible via a large round button on the top of the remote control. The idea of ​​the Harmony Express is to use Alexa to control the various devices in your home theater. Previous Logitech Harmony remotes were usable with Alexa capability for users with separate echo devices, but here the speech controls are baked.

The Harmony Express costs $ 250 and will be available on Tuesday.

All About Alexa

] The remote itself is small, light and minimalist in design, emphasizing the new focus on voice commands. There is no integrated display and only a handful of physical buttons: just basic playback, volume and navigation controls. Of course, a microphone and a loudspeaker are built into the device, and the Alexa button will turn blue as usual when activated. The few physical buttons are all backlit.

In a way, the use of voice control with the Harmony Express is similar to Amazon's with the Fire TV cube streaming box. As with this device, you can use Alexa in Harmony Express to set specific channels in a cable box. For example, if you say "go to ESPN," the cable box will instruct you to enter the channel numbers assigned to that channel yourself. You do not need to say "Alexa" to activate the wizard, but the Harmony Express understands only a limited number of expressions: "Switching to ESPN" to continue the above example will not do anything. The wizard can turn a TV or streaming device on or off using voice commands and access the DVR recordings of a cable box. Logitech says you can also use similar commands to tune specific channels through an antenna.

With this universal remote control, Alexa can also be used to control a variety of home theater devices. At launch, Logitech says the Harmony Express will be able to launch Netflix and "similar apps" – including Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO Now – directly on an Apple TV (4th generation or later), Roku, Fire TV and Sony Android TVs and a select number of Samsung and LG TVs. This is not possible on game consoles such as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, although you can still use voice commands after the correct setup to switch to the HDMI inputs connected to these devices.

Since the Harmony Express is an Alexa device, it also works something like a portable Amazon echo. You can use the Harmony Express to answer common knowledge questions, detail the weather, see what's displayed on your calendar, or other typical Alexa tasks. It can also control various smart home devices. According to Logitech, the main exclusion is that it does not support music and audiobook commands because it lowers the battery and the built-in speaker is not designed for music.

In terms of battery life, this is the company says the Harmony Express should last at least a month per charge. (You charge via a micro USB port, and we are a little disappointed that USB-C is missing.)

Logitech plans to add additional voice control features after launching. During a demo in New York City earlier this month, the company said it intends, among other things, to launch certain shows or launch certain sports events by name.

Still a Harmony

After Build Voice functionality is the key reason why you purchase the Harmony Express through one of Logitech's most popular universal remote controls. However, the company says that the device works with all devices from previous Harmony remotes, without voice commands. These include a variety of televisions, A / V receivers, Blu-ray players, speakers, game consoles and the like. However, the company's Compatibility List should be searched if you are not sure that your equipment will work.

The Remote Control With a puck-shaped blaster that controls all of these devices via infrared, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as a mini-blaster that expands the IR range when needed. Thanks to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Harmony Express can control devices like the PlayStation 4, which can not be controlled by older, infrared-only Harmony remotes. When paired with a compatible device, the Harmony Express controls on the device automatically map to the device currently being used. The remote does not need a line of sight to control these devices.

All this is set via a new Harmony Express app designed specifically for the new remote. This means that the new remote will not work with Logitech's existing Harmony app or the hubs developed for older Harmony devices. However, the setup process will be a little less complicated: The app will search for devices in your home – although you may need to add one or two manually – and then drag the small icons for each device found to the appropriate HDMI device ports on your TV. Then, you'll need to map streaming apps to specific devices. So if you tell the remote to go to Netflix, they know which device should light up. Unfortunately, you can not use the app to actually control your home theater. It is mainly for the setup and easy way to trigger an alarm on the remote if it ever gets lost. Logitech wants you to use your voice here too.

Logitech says it does not do any promotional data itself and that the Harmony Express does not record anything if the Alexa button is not pressed down. However, you can expect Amazon to do the same data collection as is typically the case with Alexa devices.

If you are not interested in being a part of it or using speech controls in the first place, then this is likely to overlook the Harmony Express in favor of the cheaper Harmony Companion. If you prefer a touch screen, the high-end Harmony Elite fits better. Given that Alexa has already baked in so many smart home appliances, my first impression is that the Harmony Express market could be a niche. It's not hard to imagine how the voice commands here are mixed with other Alexa-enabled devices in a home theater. For $ 250, the remote control is certainly not cheap. However, if you have a complicated home theater and smart home setup and would rather use your voice as a physical key, you can do that.

Picture of Jeff Dunn


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