Logitech's Harmony are the best universal remotes out there, even if their user-friendliness is questionable. It's been nearly four years since the Elite was announced, and it shows. User interfaces have evolved and so has the smart home, yet the Elite's remote and app both feel stuck in the past. So it only made sense that Logitech would announce a new remote: enter the Express.
If you have the Google kind of smart home, you may want to temper your excitement. The new Harmony Express is all about Alexa. Amazon's assistant is built in and can be summoned with that big blue button on the top. You can use it to control all your entertainment system (it replaces up to 15 IR remotes) and many smart home devices. Direct integrations with some set-top boxes also mean you can set a specific channel or open a certain app by voice. Plus, you can ask Alexa on your phone or another speaker to find the remote, if it ever gets lost in the cushions.
The minimal design means there's no screen and the buttons are down to the bare minimum. This scares me. We currently use the screen on our Elite a lot to launch scenes and control specific actions on some devices that aren't mapped to any button. We also need it in the rare occasion something goes wrong with a scene and the cable box turns on, for example, but the TV stays off. Having to rely on voice for all of these sounds like a recipe for frustration.
Another letdown is the lack of a charging base. The Express comes with a new hub and IR repeater, as well as a charging USB cable. You'll have to plug it in somewhere to charge. Having the base for the Elite has been great not only because it charges while it's idle, but also because we always put the remote back in the same place.
However, there's one aspect of the new remote that does appeal to me. Logitech has released a new eponymous app for the Harmony Express and it looks quite good, user-friendly, and easy to understand. I've set up hundreds of tech gadgets in my life, and still getting my Harmony Elite up and running wasn't an easy feat. The app is so slow, confusing, and full of awkward decisions. Hopefully, Logitech has taken the hint and is working on improving its existing apps.
Back to the Express, the remote, hub, and IR repeater cost $249.99 and are already available for purchase on Logitech.com. They should also be soon up on Amazon and Best Buy.