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Desktop Application

At one point in time, you could configure Harmony devices using a web-based program. Logitech has moved away from the web-based setup to application-based setup. As shown above, the Harmony app on mobile devices do a really good job of setting up the vast majority of features. However, there are a few features that you can only configure using the desktop application. (There are versions for both Windows and MacOS.)

If you have set up your Home Hub, you have created a MyHarmony.com account. After installing and launching a desktop application, you just log into your MyHarmony.com account and the home page shown below will appear.

Along the left side of the screen, there's a vertical menu to add/edit Devices, Activities, Buttons (for an optional remote), Favorites, and settings. The center of the screen summarizes your devices and activities. The titles shown in blue are links that correspond to the entries in the left pane that let you add/edit activities and devices, change the buttons on the remote, and change your favorite channels.

Harmony Home Hub - Desktop Application Home page

Harmony Home Hub - Desktop Application Home page

One of the things you can do with the desktop application that you can't with the mobile apps is edit an activity. In the screenshot below, I added a startup step to change the channel on the Xfinity cable box to 802. You can also add delays.

However, I wasn't able to add a delay between any of the default steps. I would like to have added about a 5 second delay between steps two and three, as the Vizio TV boots fairly slowly, and occasionally, I noticed after powering up, the command to change HDMI ports had been sent before Visio was ready to accept them. The desktop application also lets you upload an image file (.jpg, .png, and .gif) to change activity icons.

The MyHarmony desktop application lets you customize activities

The MyHarmony desktop application lets you customize activities

The settings menu contains most of the items that would require the use of the desktop application. For most common activities, such as adding a device, or adding an activity, it's just as easy to do on your mobile device as it is on your desktop.

MyHarmony desktop application settings menu

MyHarmony desktop application settings menu

The Hub Assignments menu shown above lets you select the IR source for each defined device. Controlling the IR source is not included in either of the mobile apps.

The MyHarmony desktop application lets you control the IR source for each device

The MyHarmony desktop application lets you control the IR source for each device

Should you need to change your Wi-Fi settings, the desktop application is the best way to do it. You'll need to connect your Home Hub to the a USB port on the computer that is running the MyHarmony application. The hub will be powered by your USB port, and you'll be able to reconfigure Wi-Fi settings.

Harmony Smart Control

Logitech has a separate SKU that bundles the Home Hub with a Smart remote controller. With a list price of $129.99, it sells for $30 more than just the Home Hub alone. My review unit was actually the Harmony Smart Control product, so I got a chance to test out the remote as well. Note that Logitech Harmony remotes won't work with the Hub right now. Logitech's site notes "Compatibility will be available in early 2015".

The remote control communicates with the Home Hub via Bluetooth, so it doesn't need line-of-sight. It is synchronized with the Hub, so it "knows" the currently running activity and the buttons are configured specifically for that activity. You can, however, change the key assignment for any key. The row across the top of the remote selects an activity to run. You run an activity by using either a tap or long tap, so you can run your choice of up to six activities.

MyHarmony desktop application - Assign Activities to buttons

MyHarmony desktop application - Assign Activities to buttons

As noted above, the functions of the buttons on the remote change to provide the correct commands for each defined activity. However, you can also change any of the buttons. While you can do this on the mobile apps, I think that it's a little easier to do using the desktop application.

In the screenshot below, I decided to add a custom feature for my "Watch Roku" activity. On the controller supplied with the Roku, there's an "*" button that takes you to the option menu on the Roku interface. Unfortunately, there's no corresponding key on the remote. When you choose to customize buttons, unassigned keys are circled in blue.

In this case, I elected to change the record button, highlighted in orange to show that it has been selected. I selected the Roku3 device and a list of available commands appeared. I selected the "*" command and clicked OK to save the configuration . I also configured the red option button for Netflix and the green option button for Amazon Prime Video to provide one button access to my most frequently used video services.

MyHarmony desktop application - Customize remote buttons

MyHarmony desktop application - Customize remote buttons

While I like the fact that I can now use any of my mobile devices to control my home entertainment devices, I think spending the additional $30 for the smart remote is money well spent. First, people not familiar with technology may feel more comfortable using a remote control. Second, if you're watching TV and your cell phone rings, you're probably not going to want to start the Harmony application to mute the TV before answering.

However, if you have an old Android or iOS device gathering dust because you've upgraded to something newer, using it as a remote to control your equipment might be a good way to breathe new life into old technology. (I have two decommissioned Android phones that could work just fine.)

Closing Thoughts

The Home Hub is currently also capable of controlling an "unlimited" number of a handful of Wi-Fi based Home Automation / Control / IoT devices shown in the graphic below. I didn't have any of them on hand, so wasn't able to test the Hub's HA abilities.

Home Automation devices supported

Home Automation devices supported

For those of us with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices to control, the Harmony Home Hub Extender is "coming soon". When it arrives, we'll revisit the Hub to see how it does for Home Automation control.

When you review a lot of products, it's easy to get cynical. Many don't deliver on their promises, are difficult to set up or have enough bugs to make you reach for a can of Raid.

The best products identify a problem and solve it - simply. The Harmony Home Hub delivers on its promise of easy setup and simplifying the control of multiple entertainment devices. I've stashed all eight of my controllers in a drawer and am using only my iPad, phone or the Smart controller. Problem solved.

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