Logitech Concord Categorical common distant management overview: Sensible, however not excellent

Logitech’s Concord division makes higher common distant controls than simply about anyone. Its newest mannequin, the $250 Concord Categorical, may be its most sensible, even when it’s not the corporate’s strongest.

The Concord Categorical doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the corporate’s top-of-the-line Concord Elite ($350 MSRP), which Logitech will proceed to promote. The Categorical doesn’t have a touch-sensitive show, it doesn’t have as many programmable buttons, and it may well’t execute advanced macros that incorporate each house leisure gear and sensible house units. However don’t mistake its obvious simplicity for an absence of horsepower. The Categorical can do a lot of what the Elite can for lots much less cash, and—because it has Amazon’s Alexa onboard—it may well do some issues the Elite can’t.

The genius of Concord’s method has at all times been its intensive library of distant management codes which can be saved within the cloud. You inform the Concord Categorical cellular app—out there for Android and iOS—concerning the tools you wish to management, and it downloads the codes to the distant. This course of is even simpler with the Categorical, as it may well detect a lot of what’s in your leisure middle by itself.

Michael Brown / IDG

You drag your leisure system elements to the HDMI inputs they’re related to.

It sniffed out my Samsung Q7F QLED sensible TV, my DirecTV set-top field, and my Xbox One video-game console, all of that are related to my house community. Nevertheless it wasn’t excellent. I needed to inform the app that I additionally had a Cambridge Audio CXUHD 4K Blu-ray participant in my tools rack, despite the fact that that additionally has an IP handle.

One room, one leisure system

The Concord Categorical is designed to regulate a single leisure system—targeted round your TV—in a single room. The distant is aware of what inputs your TV has—4 HDMI ports in my case—and diagrams them within the app. The remainder of the tools in your leisure middle seems beneath these ports and also you merely drag their icons to the related HDMI ports.

The {hardware} ingredient of the Concord Categorical consists of three elements: The distant management, a big infrared blaster that you just sit in entrance of your leisure middle, and an IR mini blaster that allows you to management audio and video elements that you just may need hidden inside a cupboard. The 5.25-inch-long by 1.75-inch-wide distant has simply three rows of three buttons organized beneath a directional pad encircling a spherical OK button. The features of the 9 buttons can change relying on which machine the distant is actively controlling, however most of them will likely be common: Rewind, fast-forward, play/pause, quantity up, quantity down, and mute.

The directional pad helps you to navigate onscreen menus (up, down left, and proper) and urgent the middle button selects the highlighted perform. Urgent and holding that middle button, alternatively, summons Alexa so you need to use voice instructions to energy on all of the units wanted to look at TV, launch a wise TV app (both in your TV or on a streaming field), to regulate the rest you may have Alexa set as much as do. You don’t must say “Alexa,” both—simply holding that middle button down for a second or two is sufficient. Alexa’s voice responds through a small speaker constructed into the distant.

harmony express speaker Michael Brown / IDG

The Concord Categorical distant management has a small speaker on its again, in order that Alexa can verify your voice instructions.

Ease of use is the principle attraction

In my set-up, holding the button down and saying “Activate TV” was all I wanted to do to energy up TV and set-top field and swap the lively show to the set-top field. To alter the channel, I simply held the button down and stated “Go to channel 200” or no matter channel I wished to look at (the system additionally acknowledges channel names, resembling NBC or HBO). If I wished to play a TV program I’d recorded, I might say “Go to DVR” to deliver a listing of recordings. I then used the D-pad to maneuver up and down the record till I discovered what I wished to look at and pressed the OK button to play it.

harmony express button map Michael Brown / IDG

The Harmony Express remote has all the basic buttons you would expect to find.

Using the Harmony Express app felt very much like using the DirecTV’s native remote—to a point. If I wanted to delete a recording using the DirecTV remote, I could just press the red button and it would be gone. Deleting every episode of a series can be done just as easily. Deleting DVR programs with the Express involves more steps, although Logitech says its working to make it easier to use voice commands to perform actions for which no physical button exists on the remote.

It’s just as easy to launch a smart TV app—Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, et al—with a voice command, although the phrasing is slightly different. Instead of holding down the button and saying “Turn on…” you say “Go to Netflix app” or “Go to Hulu app.” In the few days I’ve had access to the Harmony Express, I’ve struggled to remember when to say “Turn on” and when to say “Go to.” I imagine I’ll become accustomed to the difference with experience.

Love means never having to say “Alexa”

Once you have the Harmony Express configured to your entertainment center, you can also control all your gear with any member of the Echo family. But you’ll encounter so many other situations where the remote control is faster and/or more precise than barking orders at your TV. And the only things you can’t ask Alexa to do via the Harmony Express is to play music and make phone calls using the remote’s speaker.

harmony express ir blaster ports Michael Brown / IDG

You can plug as extension IR blaster into the Harmony Express’s primary IR blaster.

The Harmony Express strikes a good balance between power and complexity. It’s very easy to set up, and it makes the most of Alexa’s ability to control hardware using voice commands. The remote itself won’t overwhelm you with buttons and inscrutable icons, but its simplicity does limit what you can do with it. If you want a remote that lets you stitch together complex macros that can cascade through your smart home, dimming the lights, closing your shades, and dropping the video projector screen from the ceiling at the touch of a button, you’ll want the more powerful Harmony Elite. If your needs are simpler than that, and you just want to get rid of all the extra remotes cluttering your coffee table, the Harmony Express is worth a look.

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