Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. They allow us to interact with each other and the environments around us to the degree that we rarely leave them behind. But they can also be used to control the smart devices inside our homes, from televisions to lights to thermostats. Logitech’s Harmony Hub is a small, black box that does just that, tying numerous devices together under one program. And while it won’t create an entire smart home on its own, it succeeds at turning a phone into a convenient, quick-access controller for an entertainment system, a room, or other nearby equipment.
Harmony Hub supports more than 270,000 devices, and it connects to them using wireless, infrared, or Bluetooth. If you can name it, Harmony Hub most likely works with it. That includes countless televisions, game consoles, streaming devices, Blu-ray players, AV receivers, light bulbs, and even Amazon’s Alexa. It’s a staggering list of compatible hardware across more than 6,000 brands. And the Harmony Hub does all its magic in a small, inconspicuous black box that can fit in the palm of your hand.
Setup first involves placing the Harmony Hub in a position near the devices you want to control, such as an entertainment stand. An IR mini blaster is included in the box to extend the range of coverage if necessary. The next step is to download the Harmony app from the Android or iOS store and use the software to connect the Hub to a Wi-Fi network. It scanned my network and found my television and game console, but didn’t recognize the sound bar. In those situations, you can manually enter manufacturer and model information to register devices. My sound bar worked perfectly with the Harmony Hub after that.
I found the setup and tutorial process to be relatively quick, but the Harmony application can be a little unwieldy. Not only is the interface terribly plain, but several menus don’t allow you to go back to the root menu. In one situation where a television was recognized but wouldn’t power on, I had to quit out of the app completely and re-open it to return to the home screen.
The Harmony Hub does give you a lot of power over your devices, however, and it’s very cool in action. It manages them through Activities, scripts you can create from your phone. The app will even compile a list of possible Activities you may want to use depending on what’s paired to it. Basic activities include powering things on and off, but advanced scripters can dive deeper and insert delays and specific button prompts. Different devices introduce different commands.
I spent the most time with Harmony Hub using it to control my entertainment center, which sits downstairs from my office. It took only minutes for me to register the television, sound bar, game consoles, and smart lights to the Harmony app and implement the appropriate commands. With the press a button, Harmony Hub would turn them all on, sign me into my account, and dim the lights. I was immediately in love with the ability to do that from anywhere in the house.
You don’t actually need to be in your house or even on to the same network to interface with the Harmony Hub, and that opens up even more possibilities. So long as it’s powered on and connected to the internet, you have access to your Activities (though editing those same Activities does require your phone to be on the same network).
The only concern when using the Harmony Hub is placement. As I alluded to before, its range is limited. It worked well on the floor it was set in, but it failed to power on any devices on the level directly above it. And that’s understandable. After all, it’s not a large, high-powered Wi-Fi router. Just don’t expect it to run your entire home, unless you want to buy more than one Hub.
Logitech’s $99.99 (MSRP) Harmony Hub is an impressive little box that I didn’t know I needed until I tried it. I felt like a magician turning on an entire room with the press of a single button. It’s well worth a look if you want to transform your phone into your own magic, technological wand.
Full disclosure: a unit was provided for review.