Of course there are also play/pause and skip forward/back buttons to control media playback; Guide, DVR, Menu, Info, and Exit buttons to control your DVR; channel and volume changers, plus a mute button; a diamond-shaped cursor control with an OK button in the middle; and four color-coded multifunction buttons. The ultimate function of each button depends on the device you’re currently controlling. If you can’t find a physical button for a particular function, look up at the touchscreen and you’ll find it there.
You can create as many additional activities as you’d like, although as I noted above, you can control only 15 A/V devices. The typical home theater will have a TV, a DVR/set-top box, an A/V receiver, a Blu-ray player, and a TV. That’s five devices. A higher-end installation might add audio separates (pre-amp, amp, and tuner) and a video projector to make nine devices. That still leaves half-a-dozen slots for a multi-room audio system (such as a Sonos), media streamers (a Roku or Fire TV), a gaming console, and so on.
Many homes will have fewer devices—I’m thinking of a home with just a TV and a soundbar. Bottom line: I think the 15-device limit will pose a problem only for very large households with very complex home theaters and large multi-room audio systems. And if that fits your description, you probably have a custom-installed system anyway.
Touch the Devices button and the remote will display all the hardware you’ve enrolled into the Harmony app—both A/V devices and connected-home devices. Choose a device from this list, and the physical buttons map themselves to the functions of that device as best they can. If you choose a Sonos player, for instance, and the track-forward/back buttons will move up and down your queue and the volume control will adjust the playback volume.
The rest of the physical buttons don’t map neatly to a Sonos player’s functions, so they’re ignored. But look up at the touchscreen and you’ll find controls for toggling shuffle, repeat, and crossfade modes; and choosing the input source (if you have a Sonos Connect that has inputs).
A lousy Sonos controller
But don’t get too excited about using the Harmony Elite as a replacement for the Sonos smartphone app, because the Harmony’s capabilities are extremely limited here. Define a “listen to Sonos” activity and it will start with your favorite music source at you’re preferred volume level, and it will dim the lights or control as many other connected-home devices as you’d like. One thing it can do that the Sonos app cannot is to initiate a playlist (or a song, or an album, or a style of music) with one button press.
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