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Savant's Voice-Activated Universal Remote Takes On Logitech

Outside of spending thousands of dollars for a custom universal remote control that can flip on everything from your TV to your lights, Logitech's Harmony remotes have been the only game in town for do-it-yourself home theater setups. Savant, a company that installs those high-end systems, is looking to challenge that near-monopoly with its own $499 remote that has a feature not found elsewhere: voice control. 

Available in early December, the Savant Remote looks and works similarly to the Harmony Ultimate: it has a large touchscreen at the top, with physical buttons toward the bottom of the remote. Like Logitech's remotes, the Savant communicates with a hub (called the Host), which then relays your commands to an IR blaster. In Savant's case, the IR blaster is also wireless, which gives you greater freedom in where you place it.

MORE: Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home: Remote to Rule Them All

The standout feature of the Savant Remote is its voice control. A large button with a microphone icon sits in the middle of the remote; press it and say "Home Shopping Network," and the remote will automatically turn on your entertainment system, directing your TV to the right channel.

The remote also integrates with Sonos' home audio system, so you can not only do a voice search for a particular artist, genre or album, but the cover art for whatever is playing will also appear on the remote's touchscreen.

The Savant Remote also works in conjunction with a smartphone app (Android and iOS), which lets you create scenes such as Home and Entertainment, as well as user profiles for individual family members.

Currently, smart home integration is limited to $99 Savant Lamp Modules, which are basically connected wall plugs that can be used with a regular lamp. By comparison, Logitech's remotes can work with a wide variety of smart home devices, from thermostats to locks to lights. However, a Savant representative said that the company is looking into greater integration with other smart home devices.

At $499, the Savant Remote is $50 more than Logitech's top-end Harmony Elite remote, but could be worth the price difference for those who want voice control. The Savant Remote will be available online and in retailers such as Best Buy and Magnolia by December.