When the stack of remotes on your coffee table obscures the tabletop, then you know it's time a for a universal remote. Logitech's Harmony Ultimate can simplify your life – and even clear some brain space.
This svelte unit controls up to 15 devices, including game consoles via Bluetooth. It has both physical buttons and a touchscreen, which allows it to reproduce almost every function the original remotes offer. It also includes a hub that repeats commands you shoot its way; this helps make sure the actions make it to the intended components. Using the hub extenders, you can even place components behind closed doors and still get the signal to them.
You need to put in some work to get the most out of the Harmony Ultimate. First, you have to enter all the devices you want to control on the company's website. Then you'll want to customize how the buttons map to the functions you're used to; this can take a few revisions before you find combinations that work best for you.
Beyond allowing you to put away several of your remotes, the Harmony Ultimate almost takes a lot of the thinking out of controlling your devices. You can create activities that tie together combinations of actions across components. For example, if the once simple act of watching TV now requires you turn on your HDTV for picture, a receiver for sound, and a cable box for video signal, you can combine all three into one push of the touchscreen. You can make activities for all your actions, like listening to music or watching a Blu-ray. There – now you can free up some brain cells that were trying to remember what remote controlled which device.
The touchscreen makes switching channels a breeze – you can create icons that correspond to any channel. If you watch ESPN a lot, you can switch to it with one push instead the three- or four-digits your cable box requires. Soon you'll forget what the channel number is (freeing even more brain space).
The Harmony Ultimate doesn't always get it right; a device may not power on or switch to the correct input. You can fix these problems through the remote, too. That's another advantage of the touchscreen. With a few taps, you can access a plethora of functions.
No universal remote can replicate all features of an original remote, so don't throw those away. But the Harmony Ultimate comes closest to the goal of one remote to rule them all. [$350; logitech.com]