Logitech's Alexa-Powered Harmony Express: A Remote You Can Live With

Once upon a time, when you wanted to change channels on your TV, you had to actually get up, walk across the room, and twist a dial. While you were there, savvy users also wiggled the rabbit ears a little bit, and for good measure, whacked the side of the (wood) cabinet. Times have changed.

If you are old enough to remember rabbit ears, you are also old enough to remember "the clicker." Man, oh man, you are old. But I digress.

The remote control. Can't live with it, can't live without it. By that, I mean that we all need remotes because TV viewing without it is impossibly antediluvian. But we also hate remotes because they are a pain. So many buttons, and so small, and being operated in a dark room. Seriously? Raise your hand if you only use about 10% of the buttons on your remote. I thought so.

And yet, somehow we need those other 90% of buttons because occasionally we need to change the aspect ratio of the HDMI3 source while in 3D surround mode. Thus, we end up with remotes with more buttons than a Presidential campaign. And a flashlight so you can ponder the damn thing in the dark.

All of which brings us to Logitech's Harmony Express remote control, the newest entry in their line-up of Harmony remotes. As the Express name implies, this one is simplified. There are, in fact, only nine buttons. But that paucity is compensated for by adding Amazon Alexa.

The remote has a built-in microphone and speaker, so interacting with Alexa is a pleasant experience. You can ask the assistant to power devices up and down, search for content, launch streaming apps, change channels (by number or name), and all the basics. At $250, the Harmony Express isn't cheap, but you're also getting a full-fledged Alexa, and she is your gateway drug to controlling other smart devices in your home, not to mention ordering curtain rods.

You can use this Alexa as your first and only Alexa, or use her in conjunction with other Alexas (such as Echos) in your home. When you lose your remote, you can ask another Alexa (or use a mobile app) to find the lost cousin, and the cousin will sound a tone. Hopefully that will work when somehow the cousin is in the fridge. Man, you really are getting old.

Of course, this is another brick in the wall of Amazon's plan to Put Alexa in Everything. Surely it will be immensely valuable to the company to know when people turn their TVs on and off, and what channels they are watching and when. Well played, Amazon.

But after exhaustive research into the topic, I have discovered the best way to operate a remote control. My method is intuitive, I don't need a flashlight, I don't have to know what any of the buttons do, I don't even have to ask Alexa. I just hand the remote to my significant other and have her change channels. Brilliant, on my part.

Although, occasionally, I do get whacked upside the head.

John_Werner's picture

Brilliant is right. Happy wife, happy life. Who is Alexa?