Updated Mar 31, 2019

Harmony Elite vs. Harmony Companion: Best Universal Remote for 2020

Cam Secore

After months of testing, I found Harmony Companion is the best universal remote because there are no device limitations and it’s affordable. Harmony Elite is great, but the additional of the touchscreen isn’t enough to justify the price.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing four universal remotes (Harmony Elite vs. Harmony Companion) while evaluating four categories: software, design, compatibility, and unique features.

harmony companion

Harmony Companion

10
  • Software: You program the remote and set up your devices with the Harmony phone app.
  • Design: It doesn’t fit in the hand as nicely as the others. It uses a CR2032 battery that lasts about a year.
  • Compatibility: It works with any WiFi, RF, Bluetooth, or IR device.
  • Notes: 1. You can control up to eight devices, and create unlimited activities, but there are only three activity buttons. 2. There’s no help feature. When your devices don’t respond, hitting the activity button again fixes things.

Best for you if...

You want to control devices that aren't IR compatible, like Roku, Fire TV, and Sonos. It works great as a supplement to your phone apps for like light dimming. The buttons aren't backlit, and there isn't an indicator or help feature after you press an activity button.

harmony elite

Harmony Elite (950)

6
  • Software: You program the remote and set up your devices with the Harmony phone app.
  • Design: It has a rechargeable battery, charging base, and a touchscreen for managing devices and activities.
  • Compatibility: It works with any WiFi, RF, Bluetooth, or IR device on the market.
  • Notes: 1. You can control up to 15 devices and create unlimited activities. 2. The screen is helpful and shows more devices, but it’s old school tech. 3. It's $200 more than any other Harmony for incremental upgrades.

Best for you if...

You want the features of Companion, but want to control ALL of your smart home devices with a physical remote rather than apps. The help feature, extra devices, backlit buttons, and touchscreen are upgrades but aren't enough to justify the $300 price tag.

Advantages of Harmony

  • I started using Logitech Harmony remotes in 2013. Before Harmony, I tried many universal remotes. The problem with those was setup and compatibility. You get a manual with codes for each type of device and brand. You enter codes while pointing your remote at the device and pray you performed the button cadence correctly AND entered the correct code. It’s painful. Harmony got rid of that setup process by introducing software to remotes.
  • With Harmony, you edit the settings on your computer, plug the remote into the computer and let the settings sync.
  • Harmony has more than 270,000 home devices with over 6,000 brands in its database. It’s compatible with virtually any device.
  • You’re future proofed. When new devices come out, Harmony adds them to their database. You don’t need to upgrade your remote when you upgrade your entertainment devices.
  • Harmony has one tap “Activity Buttons.” For example, you can create an activity called “Watch Movie” that turns on your Samsung TV, Roku and Sony receiver, then changes your TV to the “HDMI 2” input, sets your receiver to the correct setting, then locks your August smart lock, and, finally, dims your Philips Hue lights to 5%.
  • The remote knows which devices are being used after you tap an activity button. For example, when you turn the volume up, Harmony knows you’re using a receiver because it’s in the activity and it will turn up the volume on your receiver, not the TV. All of these settings are configurable.
  • If you have a remote with Harmony Hub, you can control smart home devices you wouldn’t usually be able to control with a traditional remote.
  • You can remap buttons to perform whatever action you want. Plus, on remotes with the hub included, you get extra “Home Control Buttons” that can be mapped to any smart home device.

Disadvantages of Harmony

  • Setting up a Harmony remote is easier than setting up a traditional universal remote, but Harmony’s software is terrible. It’s slow to load and sometimes disconnects from the Internet, and main features are buried in the interface. It has a 2.2-star rating in the App Store, so these are issues many users experience. Once you get your remote hooked up, you’ll see the magic, but getting there can be a pain.
  • Harmony doesn’t have competition in the high-end universal remote market and hasn’t released a new remote since 2015. With more competition, Harmony would be more likely to improve and update their apps, release more new products, and offer more competitive prices.

Purpose of Harmony Hub

  • Harmony Hub lets you control IR devices. It communicates to IR devices via IR, but it interacts with your remote (Companion or 950) via WiFi. You get control over Roku, Fire TV, Hue, Sonos, August, Nest, Ecobee, and other devices on your network.
  • You don’t need to be in the line of sight of your device. You can control the living room TV from your bedroom, for example.
  • If you don’t want a physical remote, you can control your devices and activities with the phone app.
  • It can communicate with Alexa to make a “dumb” device smarter. Most TVs or cable boxes don’t have a voice assistant built in, but with Hub, you can say “Alexa, turn on ESPN” or another activity and the devices will be powered on and put on the correct inputs.
  • Rather than plugging your remote into a computer to sync your settings, you configure with the phone app. There are a few advantages with the phone app:
    • Finding your devices is easier. It shows each WiFi connected device, and you can tap the ones you want to add, rather than typing the model numbers of your devices.
    • With the desktop app, you change multiple settings, then sync, wait a couple of minutes, then confirm that your devices work how you want them. With the mobile app, you can test your devices as you configure the settings.

Companion

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Notes:

  • Harmony Companion comes with Harmony Hub, which lets you use devices that aren’t just IR. It can control any device, whether it receives IR, RF, WiFi or Bluetooth signals. Also, you don’t even need to be in the same room as the device, just on the same network.
  • You can control eight devices and unlimited activities.
  • It’s a great remote if you plan to use the Harmony app and want a physical remote to supplement it.
  • You get one IR blaster that hooks up to the hub and adds more versatility to your system.
  • There are four “Home Control Buttons” with corresponding up and down rockers. I used these buttons for my Hue lights. A tap of the down button would dim my living room lights.
  • You configure your settings in the Harmony phone app, then your Hub and remote will sync.
  • I love the size and material of the remote, but it doesn’t fit in your hand as nicely as the others.
  • There’s are three features from Harmony Elite that aren’t on Companion:
    • There’s no help function. I found if you tap the activity button again, the inputs fix themselves.
    • The buttons aren’t backlit.
    • You get unlimited activities, but there are only three activity buttons.

Notes:

  • Harmony Elite comes with a charging dock, two IR blasters, Harmony Hub, and the 950 remote. (You can buy Harmony 950 without the hub and it works fine, but you can only control IR devices. It has a micro USB port and can be configured on your the app).
  • The remote has a rechargeable battery and charges with the dock (included).
  • You can have up to 15 devices on the remote with unlimited activities.
  • There are four “Home Control Buttons” with up and down rockers that correspond to them. I used these buttons for my Hue lights and smart plugs.
  • You configure your settings in the Harmony phone app, then your Hub and remote will sync.
  • The remote is a great size and feels fantastic with the perfect ergonomic fit in your hand.
  • You can use the Harmony phone app as your remote too.
  • Harmony Elite is the same as Companion with a touchscreen and backlit buttons.
  • My problem with Harmony Elite is the price tag. For the listed price of $350, I need a premium screen, like those found in a smartphone. Harmony Elite’s touchscreen reminds me of screens before smartphones were out because it’s slow, lacks responsiveness, and has poor pixel density. That’s why Companion works perfectly: you control most things with your phone, then when you need a physical remote, you can get most things done with its basic buttons.
 

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