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Harmony Home Hub
At a glance
ProductLogitech Harmony Home Hub ()   [Website]
SummaryHome entertainment device control hub
Pros• Easy iOS or Android set up
• Extensive library of entertainment devices (>270,000)
• Eliminates the need for multiple controller devices
• Compatible with an assortment of Harmony controllers
Cons• Very limited documentation
• Limited to eight entertainment / media devices

Typical Price: $80  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

If your living room is anything like mine, you probably have the same problem - controller creep. Every entertainment comes with its own remote with unique IR codes. And, most likely, each controller has a couple of special-purpose buttons. So you need to keep the remote handy even if you have a "universal" remote. Here's what my coffee table looks like...

Controller creep - every device has its own controller

Controller creep - every device has its own controller

What if you could stash all of the remotes in a drawer and control everything with only a single device? That's what the Harmony Home Hub promises. All of the clutter can be reduced to this:

Harmony Home Hub and Samsung S5

Harmony Home Hub and Samsung S5 (phone not included)

The Logitech Harmony Home Hub is a small device that connects to your wireless network and provides control for up to eight entertainment devices and an "unlimited number" of home automation devices. It uses Wi-Fi to connect to your Android or iOS device and Bluetooth and IR to control devices. While there is a desktop application that you can download to assist you with setup, Logitech recommends that you use the Harmony iOS or Android apps that you can find at their respective application stores.

The Home Hub uses IR, so must have a line-of-sight to controlled devices. The top of the unit is made of a dark red plastic that will pass the IR signals emitted by the hub. The Hub comes with one IR Blaster to reach devices that can't see the Hub and can control two more connected ports on the rear. The callouts below show the top and rear panels.

Harmony Home Hub callouts

Harmony Home Hub callouts

The top panel is quite plain, with only the "Harmony" logo. On the front, there's a single multi-color LED. It glows red when starting up, when not yet configured, or if Wi-Fi connectivity is lost. If the LED is green, it means that setup has been completed and that the Home Hub is connected to your Wi-Fi network.

The rear panel has a reset button, two ports for IR blasters and a Mini USB port for power from an included power supply. For configuring some features using the desktop application, you also use this port to connect to a USB port on your computer. A USB / mini USB cable is also included with the product.

Setup

I'm always suspicious of quickstart guides that only contain a couple of steps. I've been burned enough times by products that have simple setup programs that don't work smoothly. The quick start guide included with the Home Hub only lists three steps:

  • Plug the hub into the power supply and connect the power supply to power.
  • Download the Harmony app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play
  • Launch the app, select Continue and follow the instructions.

I would probably supplement those steps with:

  • Make sure that your Android or iOS device is connected to your Wi-Fi network.
  • If you don't know the Wi-Fi password for your network, look it up. You'll need to type it in as one of the setup steps. The Home Hub does not support WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup).
  • Create a list containing the manufacturer and model number for each of your devices that will be controlled by the Home Hub. You'll need this information for the setup program. For me, gathering the information was probably the worst part of the setup process. All of my equipment is in a cabinet and often the model numbers were on a tag on the rear or the bottom and often printed in very small type.

The Harmony application downloaded onto your Android or iOS device walks you through setup using the following steps:

  • Pairing. If you have an optional controller, you need to pair the controller with the Hub. The controller uses Bluetooth, so the controller doesn't need line-of-sight.
  • Connect to your home network. The application already knows the name of the network that your Android or iOS device is using, so it just prompts you for the Wi-Fi password.
  • Name the Home Hub (eg, Living Room)
  • Sign in or create a Harmony account. This account will be used to sync your hub to multiple controllers and Android/iOS devices.
  • If necessary, the firmware will be updated. My device did require a firmware update.
  • Device discovery. The Hub will look on your Wi-Fi network to find compatible devices. It found a Roku 3 on my network.
  • Add devices that you want to control with the Home Hub. It supports up to eight entertainment / media devices.
  • Test that you can power on/off each device.
  • Add activities. Activities are groups of actions associated with something that you want to do. Your furst suggested activity is Watch TV. For this activity, you select devices involved in the activity, which input to use on the TV and which device the controller should control for channel changing and volume Up/Down. For my setup, I chose my Vizio TV, Xfinity cable box and Panasonic receiver. At the end of the configuration, you are prompted to test your configuration to see if everything works.
  • Finally, you can set up your favorite TV channels by entering in your Zip Code, selecting your provider (or over the air), and picking your favorite channels.

While this list might seem daunting, it actually only took me under 15 minutes to complete. I spent more time rounding up all of the model numbers on my equipment than I did performing the the initial setup. Each additional activity, such as Watch Roku or Watch Movies took only about a minute or so to complete. With an extensive database of over 270,000 devices and 6000 manufacturers, I was confident that my entertainment devices would be found. Indeed, all were discovered and the IR codes transmitted by the Home Hub worked flawlessly for every device.

I found setup very easy and simple to complete. Each step was done in a logical order and performed only one action. I documented each step of the setup process with screenshots, shown in the gallery below. I chose to use an iPad, primarily because it has the largest screen of any of my mobile devices.

The iOS and Android apps have a very similar look and feel. So if you feel comfortable using one platform, there will be little to no learning curve to switch to the other one. By the time you complete the initial setup, you'll have a pretty good understanding how the Harmony control system works.

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