The $249 Express isn’t meant to replace the Harmony Elite, which Logitech released back in 2015 and is still one of the best high-end universal remotes around. Instead, the company is aiming for consumers who want to reduce the clutter in their living rooms, but don’t want to deal with another complex controller. And of course, it’s also significantly more modern since it supports Alexa voice commands (the Elite doesn’t even have a microphone). All you need to do is hit the voice button on the remote and say “Play Netflix,” and your TV and home theater equipment will start up, head to the right inputs and launch the app.
Like the previous Harmony devices, the Express relies on an infra-red blaster base that sits underneath your TV and spits out control signals to nearby devices. There’s also a smaller IR blaster that can sit elsewhere in your home theater to reach gadgets on other shelves. A companion app guides you through the setup process, which involves plugging in your TV and AV receiver models, and confirming other devices in your setup. It automatically detected the Apple TV 4K, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One X, and Denon receiver in my living room, but I had to manually add my Nintendo Switch through a drop down menu.
After that, I used the app to place my receiver under the right TV HDMI input, and then dragged the rest of my devices under my receiver’s HDMI connections. The entire setup process took around 10 minutes, but it was relatively painless. After connecting the Harmony Express to my Alexa account, I held down the voice button on the remote, said “Turn on Xbox,” and my TV and receiver automatically switched to their appropriate inputs. Saying “Play Hulu” switched everything over to my Apple TV 4K and automatically launched the streaming service app.
At first, the Harmony Express felt like everything I’d ever wanted in a modern universal remote, my entire entertainment system at my beck and call. But it wasn’t too long before I noticed limitations: It can only launch apps, it can’t play a specific movie or TV show. And it’s not compatible with any of the Apple TV or Roku’s voice commands, which means it can’t take advantage of either boxes’ voice search. Basically, you’ll still need to keep your Apple and Roku remotes around. Logitech says it’s working on getting deeper integration with those platforms, but it’s unclear when, or if, that will happen.
As a standard remote, the Harmony Express feels comfortable to hold, with a rounded bottom half and smooth plastic finish. It’s thicker and chunkier than the Apple TV remote, which means you’re less likely to lose it in the couch, but it’s also slimmer than Roku’s bulbous controller. A circular ring on the top serves as your directional pad, while the center holds your standard “OK” button. Hold that down, and blue LEDs light up, telling you it’s ready for voice commands.