Logitech unveils Harmony Ultimate and Smart Control universal remote sets for home entertainment heroes

Got no touchscreen on your living room remote? That's a shame, because Logitech and others have been flogging such universal controllers since way back when. After a long new product hiatus, the late 2012 release of the Harmony Touch remote hasn't stopped Logitech from mulling a sale of the brand, but it's not done with it just yet. Coming soon are two fresh bundles bearing the Harmony name: the Ultimate and Smart Control. At the heart of both is the Smart Hub, a palm-sized box somewhat similar to the Harmony Link. It receives commands from remotes via RF, or from smartphone apps via WiFi, and in turn, broadcasts its own orders to your A/V setup using IR and Bluetooth. It's especially useful for those wanting to hide their kit away in cabinets, as it translates inputs into IR signals that'll bounce around those secluded spaces. Optional extender nodes will also pipe IR into other nearby recesses.

To do that though, the Hub needs instructions, which is where remotes and apps come in. The new Ultimate remote (aka the Touch Plus) is last year's Touch remote with a few refinements, including the addition of a trigger-like nub on the underside to improve grip. It uses IR, Bluetooth or RF (to the Hub) to control up to 15 devices, and is programmed using Logitech's software for PCs that pulls settings from a database of 225,000 home entertainment products. The Ultimate's 2.4-inch touchscreen serves as a number pad, a favorite channel list for easy hopping, and is the home of one-touch "activities," which are basically macros for issuing multiple commands. Set up an activity for "Play Xbox," for example, and in one touch it'll turn on your console, switch your TV to the correct source, select the right channel on your amp, and so on. It'll even tell Philips' connected Hue lightbulbs to set a mood. Jump on past the break for more.

Logitech unveils Harmony Ultimate and Smart Control universal remote sets for home entertainment heroes

Free smartphone apps for iOS and Android (dedicated tablets apps are coming soon) essentially replicate the functions of the Ultimate remote, but use WiFi to speak to the hub. In certain countries with compatible metadata, like France and Germany, they also integrate programming guide information. If you opt for the Smart Control package, the apps will be the only way to access advanced features. Bundled with the Hub is a much simpler remote capable of controlling 8 devices; physical number buttons are back in, but the touchscreen's out. It's really supposed to be a back-up device -- your smartphone is the primary remote, but if you're running out of battery or need to take a call, the basic remote will act as a slightly dumber stand-in. The Ultimate package is due to hit shelves in Europe and the US in late April / early May for $349.99 / £229, with the Smart Control package following later in May for $129.99 / £109. You'll also be able to pick up a Smart Hub on its own sometime in summer for $99.99 / £79. This option is intended for those who already have the previous generation Touch remote, but theoretically, you could bust out of Logitech's box and be the rogue that controls living room setups with nothing but portable devices.

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Harmony Ultimate / Smart Remote hands-on pics

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Harmony Ultimate / Smart Remote press shots

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Logitech Reimagines Home Control with Two New Advanced Harmony Universal Remotes

Logitech Harmony Hub Adds Closed-Cabinet, Game Console and Lighting Control to Your Universal Remote and Smartphone

NEWARK, Calif. - April 16, 2013 - Today Logitech (SIX: LOGN) (NASDAQ: LOGI) announced the expansion of its award-winning universal remote control lineup with the Logitech Harmony® Ultimate and the Logitech Harmony® Smart Control. Both products feature Logitech's Harmony Hub and Harmony Smartphone App to enable closed-cabinet control and one-touch entertainment access to game consoles from your universal remote or smartphone. The Harmony Hub takes personalizing your activities a step farther into home control with the ability to program your Philips Hue lights to the desired brightness and color with a tap of the Logitech Harmony Ultimate.

"We've elevated the universal remote to the next level, taking a personalized approach to home entertainment," said Joerg Tewes vice president of Logitech's digital home business group at Logitech. "Furthermore, our Harmony product line is no longer just about entertainment access – we've designed the Logitech Harmony Ultimate so you can also control your home's lighting. Now you can tune the TV, start a movie and adjust your lights to set the mood, with the touch of your finger."

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate and Logitech Harmony Smart Control are compatible with more than 225,000 home-entertainment devices and more than 5,000 brands. Both include the Harmony Hub, which uses Bluetooth® wireless technology to power on game consoles such as the Sony PS3®, Nintendo Wii® and Wii U. The Harmony Hub also, controls infrared devices inside closed entertainment cabinets and without the need to point at them. Each also comes with the Harmony Smartphone App, which anyone in the house can download to turn his or her smartphone into a personal universal remote.

Able to control up to 15 devices, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate is a fully featured remote with a 2.4-inch color touch-screen that enables no-look control over television programs, movies and music by using simple swipes and taps. It also introduces the ability to program Philips Hue lighting systems with entertainment activities allowing you to adjust the room's lighting as easily as changing the volume of your television. Other exclusive features include vibration feedback so you know it received your touch-screen commands, tilt sensors and buttons programmable for both short and long presses, doubling the available functions.

The Logitech Harmony Smart Control and Harmony Smartphone App turn your iOS or Android phone into a universal remote, giving you personalized control of up to eight devices from anywhere in the house using the smartphone you already own. Plus, it includes a simple remote control for when your smartphone isn't handy.

Pricing and Availability

These new products join the Logitech Harmony Touch to complete the Logitech Harmony remote lineup. The Logitech Harmony Ultimate is expected to be available in the U.S. and Europe in April 2013, for a suggested retail price of $349.99. The Logitech Harmony Smart Control is expected to be available in the U.S. and Europe in May 2013, for a suggested retail price of $129.99. The Logitech Harmony Smartphone App will be available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. For more information, please visit www.logitech.com or our blog.

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Logitech unveils Harmony Ultimate and Smart Control universal remote sets for home entertainment heroes