I’ve tried a few universal remotes over the years and generally found them to be fiddly, tiresome and more trouble than they are worth. So the Harmony Smart Control has proved to be a breath of fresh air.
The thing that attracted me to the Harmony in the first place is that it ties into the WIFI network and so can be utterly buried in a cupboard. The unit communicates with either the supplied remote or an iOS or Android device (via WIFI network or Bluetooth) and then blasts IR signals out to your TV and other devices. It comes with the main blaster and one repeater so you can easily bury the DVD player, Apple TV, XBox etc in a cupboard and have the unobtrusive repeater deal with the TV.
Setting the thing up is a breeze. Type in the manufacturer and model number and the unit does all the rest. It purportedly has a library of units running into the hundreds of thousands and certainly had no problem, with my mainstream, but somewhat old, TV and amplifier. We then put the main blaster and all of our watching and playing accessories in a cupboard, leaving only the TV and the unobtrusive mini-blaster exposed. And swapped the single, slim remote for the five we had sitting around before.
Being able to control things from your iOS or Android device is probably an added bonus although it’s not why I got the Control and not something I can see myself using much. Being able to swipe the volume up and down is neat, as is having a big clear screen of buttons to press. But I don’t want to leave my phone or iPad over where I watch TV. Nor do I want to leave them on all the time: Using the remote involves picking it up and pressing a button; the iPad means turning it on, sliding to activate, firing up the app and doing something. Also when the app is on the iPad doesn’t go to sleep – which makes sense for using it as a remote, but means the batteries drain at speed.
We did have a couple of issues getting things set up within the app. We had to go through the whole process twice after the app crashed, which was a minor pain. It would also be nice to have a little more granularity of control, especially being able to easily set different timings for separate devices controlled by one button. Overall, though, it was a painless process and the results are excellent.
We got our Harmony Smart Control on sale from Estore for $135.