RM pro versus Harmony hub

Intro

I’ve been asked a few times now by subscribers whether the Harmony hub is really worth it when it comes to voice automation with Alexa, so here’s my two cents.

 

Harmony Hub


Logitech are big players and there’s no denying that there is some security in that.  Your gear is going to be reliable and Amazon are less likely to suddenly put the kybosh on your experience than they might with a little known gadget from China.

The Harmony hub is a nicely packaged product with some beautiful craftsmanship, so the real question is whether or not you can afford the price tag and whether or not you’re happy to live with a device that despite it’s good looks can only really blast Infrared.

Perhaps right now you’re perfectly happy just controlling the TV and your set top box, but if you hang around me for long enough you’ll probably catch the bug and wish you could ask Alexa to trigger “cinema mode” and watch her dim the lights.

RM Pro

So this is where my preferred device comes into play: the RM pro.  

The RM pro can blast both infrared and RF and will currently set you back just £30 on Amazon, which is a 3rd of the price tag of the cheapest Harmony hub.

There is one small snag; the RM pro is not natively controllable via Alexa…  BUT there is a hack that will take just 20 minutes of effort and a spare Android device.  It is an amazingly reliable solution and it’s really satisfying to feel like you cheated Logitech out of £70.  You can see my easy to follow tutorial here

Controlling Infrared and RF in one handy package means you can create scenes such as “Cinema mode” which can dim the lights, draw the curtains, turn your TV to the right source, power up your Blu ray player, turn on your popcorn machine.  There is no limit to what you can control and it will honestly leave you feeling like Harry Potter.

The problem with voice control for your TV

For both devices the commands are limited to “on” or “off” which makes for limited use.  I tend to use “turn BBC one on” amongst some other neat shortcuts, but you can’t browse the TV guide or turn the volume up and down for example.  It’s not like it’s impossible, it’s just seriously ugly.  Who wants to say “turn guide on, turn up on, turn up on, turn select on”?

This brings us to the issue with both devices:  Navigating your TV guide with your voice is the dream right?…

I honestly don’t think that it is.  Having used voice control for my Media Centre for years I can tell you that voice control is great for shortcuts like “play the latest available episode of X”, but you can’t beat a remote or an app on your phone for browsing through movies and shows.

For those of you thinking “Logitech won’t let me down, they will make the skill better in time”, I’ve got an opinion you won’t much like;  I am reasonably confident that Logitech have abandoned their Alexa skill and here’s why:

  1. They can’t know what set top box you have
  2. They don’t know who your TV service provider is
  3. They don’t know what country you are in
  4. They know the end user experience will be a frustrating menagerie of miss-heard commands, repeating yourself and calling Alexa names.

Imagine trying to write code that works one way for a Virgin customer, that works differently for a Sky customer, that dials different numbers for different channels depending on what country you are in,  that knows which channels you are subscribed to, and that knows which IR signal to send to fire up your TV  guide.  The combinations are mind boggling and it is precisely the reason that they leave it to you to program the thing up.  The Alexa control is a nice afterthought that was easy to implement.

The big hurdle Alexa developers all face

The biggest hurdle Logitech face is getting Alexa to remain listening as you navigate but stop listening when you’re done choosing.  and also know that “play”  and “pause”  mean the TV and not your Spotify account and volume up means your TV and not Alexa herself.

Perhaps Amazon will help them out by having Alexa remember she’s watching TV so the commands are applicable during that session, but I can’t see it.  I imagine the discussion has already happened and Amazon have offered a compromise command: “Ask Harmony to XYZ” and Logitech have figured it isn’t worth it.

Final thoughts

If I had all the money in the world I would still buy an RM pro, scratch that, I would buy 3 RM pros for 3 different rooms because it’s a 3rd of the price of the Harmony hub.

In summation the RM pro is cheaper, more capable and more malleable.  In my opinion there is absolutely no contest.

That said if Logitech want to send me a hub for review I won’t say no 😉

Happy automating,

-P

12 Replies to “RM pro versus Harmony hub”

  1. Great write up paul, I agree that voice control has its place for turning on activities but day to day control would be via a remote control for me.
    I am looking for a combination of both rm pro for rf screen and blinds etc and harmony for the remote for physical buttons. I need harmony to tell rm pro to drop screen etc but I’m not sure if it’s possible to do that. What do you think, can I push watch TV on harmony and it fires an ir signal to the rm pro which in turns drops the screen.

    1. Thanks bud 🙂

      This is an interesting question!! I’ve been asked so many questions over the past few months, but no one has asked this one yet!

      There is one way that I can think of but it ain’t pretty! You would need a windows PC that was always on with Eventghost installed and the USB Infrared transceiver that comes with these old HP remotes: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/HP-TSGI-IR01-MCE-Windows-Media-Center-Receiver-and-TSGH-IR01-IR-RC6-remote-/162434513913?hash=item25d1d9fbf9:g:-KsAAOSwhQhYxSdw

      Basically, your Harmony remote would end an IR signal (one that you don’t use for anything else) The HP transceiver would be connected to the USB port of your PC and Eventghost would be listening for this button press. It would in turn send a HTTP request to an android device which has the RM plugin installed and it would tell the RM pro to fire off the RF request.

      Utterly bonkers, but doable. It would all depend on whether you were planning on having a PC and an android device on permanently. If that’s already the case then it isn’t that far fetched and I’m happy to walk you through it. Ping me a message on Facebook (search for Hibbert Home Tech) if you’re up for a challenge.

      Thanks,

      -P

  2. hi paul, can you explain to me does the rm pro actually do more once combined with an android device?

    or do both products do the same?…

    I know harmony costs more, but if it does the same as the broadlink without the need of a spare android device i would lean towards the harmony… can you clarify? cheers

    1. The Harmony can only send Infrared signals, it can’t send RF. That’s the key difference. That and the hugely inflated cost of course! 😉

      The Harmony is marginally easier to set up and will give you a more professional experience, but it’s not worth the extra cash in my opinion. If you only want to control Infrared then I would buy a Broadlink black bean. If you want to control RF then I would buy an RM pro. If you want to control IR and money is no object then I would go for the Harmony.

      Hope that helps!

      -P

  3. Is there any other hub that sends RF signals, and works NOW with Alexa or Google Home?

    I’m not interested in the slightest in controlling the TV besides powering it on. I only want control of this hoard of RF light switches and 13A adaptors, oh and a Nest thermostat.

    The Broadlink RM Pro is a huge disappointment to me. I don’t want the expense of maintaining a dedicated box to be always on, plus the annual subscription to the Tasker plugin. The Amazon US hack is too bodgy and breaks too many things. WHEN and IF Alexa make the skill available here in the UK, THEN we have an alternative. Meanwhile.. no decent automation!!! :'(

    Unless you know better……

    ?

  4. Hi Paul,
    Love your videos, and have learnt a lot from you.
    One question.
    I have the rm pro. And harmony with Alexa dot. All working as it should, but just added Vobot and a black bean in the bedroom the Alexa in the Vobot finds all the skills that are app based, but won’t find any on the rm plug in. I’m wanting to control rf lights and tv with an audio device from the Vobot, does the Vobot and dot need to be registered in the same account? I understand that Alexa sees all the rm tasks as hue lights. But it’s not finding anything. Hope u can help, keep up the good work.

    1. Hey man,

      The RM plugin advertises each device as a light that can be turned on or off. If you ticket the box in the RM plugin labelled “Alexa bridge” and then “Enable alexa bridge” then the android device will start advertising anything you add to the Alexa device list portion of the RM plugin.

      Sometimes you have to switch off the router, the Android device and Alexa and then boot them up in the following order:

      Router
      Android device (with RM plugin running)
      Alexa

      And then scan again. If that doesn’t work then drop me a PM on one of the following with some screenshots of where you’ve got to and where it falls down…

      https://twitter.com/hibberthometech
      http://www.facebook.com/hibberthometech

      Thanks,

      -P

  5. Hello, bought one of these without realising that it doesn’t connect to 5g. As I have a virgin router I’m guessing that it’s useless and that I will have to try and send it back, or is there a solution that you know of?

    1. Hey dude. The Virgin router does both 2G and 5G. I have one 🙂

      You just need to connect the RM pro (and the android device if you’re using that method) to the 2G portion of the router. During setup you’ll need to connect your phone to the 2G network at least temporarily to perform setup.

      Thanks,

      -P

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