Here we have (left to right) a Smart Control, the Harmony remote control app running on an iPhone, and a Hub.
It turns out that "universal" isn't the absolute you might think it is. Logitech's new Harmony Ultimate universal remote control looks set to be Logitech's most universal remote contol ever.
Logitech has just announced the Ultimate, as well as its cheaper sibling the Smart Control, both of which represent a radical rethink from Logitech on the way their universal remotes should work.
Both devices come with what's known as the Harmony Hub, which is a little box (pictured to the right, above) you sit in your home entertainment system, that controls your entertainment devices by blasting out infrared or Bluetooth commands. Bluetooth is important because several gaming consoles use Bluetooth rather than infrared for their remote controls, making them impossible to control with, shall we say, less universal universal remotes.
What's interesting about the Hub is that, as well as being controlled by the Logitech remote control the way that older infrared blasters are, it can also be controlled by an app running on an Apple or Android smartphone, using the Hub's (and your phone's) WiFi connection.
I'm hoping Logitech just starts selling the Hub as a standalone device. You could buy just it, and do away with remote controls in the house altogether. Everyone could just use their smartphone.
But in the meantime, the Harmony Ultimate remote does look like it could be quite fancy. It can be programmed to control up to 15 devices, including a Philips Hue lighting system, which (as far as I understand, never having seen one) can be used to dim the lighting in your living room when you turn on the TV.
According to Logitech, the Ultimate has 2.4-inch colour screen, which lets you scroll through your pre-programmed activities and channel selections with smartphone-like swipe and tap gestures. (Logitech's previous remote, the Harmony Touch, did this too, so I'm thinking the Ultimate is essentially a Touch plus a Hub, the Hub being the thing that makes all the difference.)
The Ultimate will sell for $US349.99, $US100 more than the Touch.
Meanwhile the Smart Control is a remote without any screen whatsoever, plus a Hub, capable of controlling eight devices at a time. Its list price is $US129.99 (we're yet to receive word on Australian pricing) suggesting that, in the absence of being able to buy a just a Hub by itself, you could buy a Smart Control and leave the actual control in a drawer somewhere, to be pulled out in emergencies, like when your phone has been lost down the back of the couch, or something.
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