Remote Controls

Sofabaton X1 Review – One Month Update


Update: I originally published my review of the Sofabaton X1 on April 12, 2022. I have returned, one month later, to give some updates and give my impressions after using it exclusively for a solid month. Scroll to the bottom for my one-month update.

Update 6/1/2022: The Sofabaton X1 is now finally shipping from Amazon! Thanks to reader Jimi for letting us know!

So I am not going to lie; I was very disappointed when Logitech finally announced it was killing the Harmony line of remotes and hubs. Although they had teased killing it for years prior, we Audio Enthusiasts never thought this day would happen. Anywho, so here we are, and Harmony is no more. Enter the Sofabaton X1, the only hub-based remote on the market that anyone is talking about.

Like me, you probably started to search for used Harmony remotes to stockpile but quickly found that prices skyrocketed. I refuse to feed scalpers anything, so I decided to start searching for a new solution just in case my beloved Harmony chose to kick the bucket or Harmony (doubtful) suddenly cut support for the database. 

Luckily Rob H from the AV Rant Podcast and I were chatting on Twitter, and we had both heard about Sofabaton dropping a Kickstarter to fund a new hub-based remote. The Sofabaon X1 promised a hub-based remote that supported IR, wi-fi, and Bluetooth, all a must in today’s home theater. It also had a handheld remote with an OLED screen, backlight, and an iOS and Android app. So, a couple of clicks later, we both backed it and eagerly awaited delivery. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally was able to get my hands on my new Sofabaton X1, set it up and give it a real test to see how it fared against my beloved Harmony Ultimate. Will it be the new “must-have” remote? Let’s discuss!

What’s In The Box?

So I will be honest, I was not expecting a lot from a Kickstarter, but I was pretty impressed with the exterior and interior packaging. In the box were a well-packaged remote, the hub, a couple of IR blasters, two USB cables (one for charging the remote and one for the hub), a power brick, and instructions. 

The instructions are the weakest piece here, and I am being generous. The instructions focus heavily on pairing the hub/remote and setting up the devices and activities. However, the instructions do not speak to the proper placement of the hub for correct use or how to connect and place IR blasters. 

I find this troublesome because it assumes that everyone will intuitively know where to put the hub to reach your IR devices or where to place blasters. The FAQs do touch briefly on the use of the IR blasters, but I find it inadequate. Without belaboring the point, you are on your own if you need help with anything aside from programming the hub. Non-tech people who have no experience with hub-based remotes will struggle. If you are one of those people, be prepared to do a lot of Internet searches for guides and walk-throughs.

Sofabaton X1 Build Quality

The build quality of the Sofabaton X1 and hub is excellent. The remote feels solidly made, and the fit and finish are superb. I expected more gaps or imperfections in the finish for a first-gen remote. Honestly, the remote is as professional as any I’ve owned. Sofabaton covered the remote in a black matte finish that resisted marring and fingerprints. 

The hub has a solid feel and build quality as well. It has a small indicator LED on the front. The back has power/IR blaster inputs and a push-button to initiate the pairing of the remote. I appreciate the simplicity of the design.

Sofabaton X1 Hub

The hub is the heart of the Sofabaton X1. The hub handles all the IR, wi-fi, and Bluetooth commands for your entire system. You heard me right; the remote is nothing but a wireless connection to your hub that gives you tactile buttons for essential functions and allows you to map your frequently used commands to a specific key. 

I placed my hub on top of my AV rack in front of my Xbox Series X. I had no issues with it controlling any of my devices, so I didn’t have to connect the IR blasters. Had the blasters been necessary, it would have just been a matter of affixing them by the IR sensor of the device I needed to reach and then plugging it into the back of the hub. So I was pretty impressed with the Sofabaton X1 because my Harmony hub needed two blasters to control devices, not the Sofabaton!

The hub is also where you can teach the system to learn commands for devices not currently in the database. For example, when you need to “learn” a command, the Sofabaton will direct you to point the IR sensor of your device’s remote at the circular icon on the top of the hub and press the button for 3-5 seconds. I will be honest and say that I could not get this to work for me. I tried it with my LG B9 and my Pioneer Elite CD player and could not get either to register a command with the Sofabaton.

Editor’s Note: If you own a Harmony and have IR blasters on hand, they work with the Sofabaton X1. Just plug them into the back of the hub as you would on your Harmony.

The Remote

The design of the Sofabaton X1 remote is relatively simple. On top of the remote is an off and return button. The return button allows you to toggle between Activities, Devices, and Set (should be Setup). Many people have complained that the Return button is too high, and you need to shift your grip to access it. I don’t mind it because I rarely need to access my devices, so I like not being able to press it accidentally. 

The screen is a non-touch, 2″ color OLED. What does this mean for you? A clear and bright screen that won’t consume a ton of battery power, so you should be able to go a long time between charges. There are no options for brightness (yet), so it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. I do hope that Sofabaton will eventually give us options for this so we can dial it into our preference. 

Just under the screen are a scroll wheel and D-Pad/select button. The scroll wheel has two functions. First, it navigates the on-screen menus and allows you to select by pressing on the wheel. Secondly (according to the manual), it will wake the remote and activate the backlight. The pronounced scroll wheel is easy to find, so the lack of an accelerometer to activate the backlight is not a deal-breaker. Any button press will wake the remote as well.

Under the scroll wheel are standard buttons for back, home, menu, volume, channel up/down, mute, and basic transport buttons. It’s rounded out by four programmable hotkeys that map to your chosen functions. 

Absent is a numeric pad to allow you to input channels or other functions that may need numbers. I have been a cord-cutter for at least four years now, so this doesn’t bother me. But, I could see this being a deal-breaker for someone who uses the number pad for TV channel input vs. the on-screen menus. 

Editor’s Note: One common complaint that didn’t really bother Andrew is that you have to wake up the remote with a button push. You can use the scroll wheel or any other button to wake it up. But it does mean that your first button press, no matter what it is, only wakes up the remote. If you are trying to turn the volume up or down or quickly pause a scene, you’ll have to press the button once to wake up the remote and a second time for the command. We hope that future firmware updates will allow the wake up button press and command to happen at the same time.

Setup/App

So the setup of the actual hub is a breeze. Download the app, place the hub, power it up, and follow the on-screen instructions. The Sofabaton X1 relies on WiFi and the app for setup and function. You have no option to hardwire the remote via USB and program it with your computer. You must use your phone and the app. After you enter your WiFi password and then pair your remote, you can begin to program devices. 

So here is the biggest complaint I have with the Sofabaton X1. Configuration of devices is pure frustration! Like the Harmony, you enter your brand and model number. But, unlike the Harmony, the Sofabaton X1 does not offer suggestions if the model number is not correct. For example, I chose LG and then B9. Nothing, no hints. I had to enter the exact model number off of Amazon (OLED65B9PUA) before it would add it. And as I said above, learning functions is nigh impossible. Sofabaton has promised a firmware update to fix that. 

Setting up Activities is also frustrating. The steps are straightforward. Select the devices, assign functions like what device controls volume, etc., and choose sources. Except, it didn’t work like that. I tried fixing the Activities, but nothing seemed to work. After deleting all my devices and activities and then redoing them, they seem to work. Eventually, I figured out the quirks with my settings, but I would assume that the novice would get frustrated quickly and give up.

I will say that setting your WiFi and Bluetooth devices with the Sofabaton X1 is the simplest I have encountered to date. It took me three tries and some Google-Fu to get my Nvidia Shield paired with my Harmony. With the X1 app, I selected the Nvidia Shield and then found the Sofabaton under the pairing menu on the Shield. Perfect the first time. Same with my Philips Hue. It found my Hub and connected it in 30 seconds. Unfortunately, it didn’t see all my lights. More on that later. 

The app is both simple and frustrating at the same time. Once set up, it’s simple to use the app instead of the remote. The frustration lies with the setup process. But, I am confident that future updates will fix some of these bugs. To date, there have already been three firmware updates. I expect many more.

Using It 

I have vowed to use only the Sofabaton X1 for the next month so that I can give it a test. So far, I like it. Once I had the Activities set up correctly, no issues arose. Devices started, and inputs switched correctly. I know that some people hate the fact that you have to wake the remote with a button press, but for me, I find that scrolling the wheel is an intuitive motion, so it’s a non-starter for me. 

I didn’t have any issues with commands not being transmitted, and I haven’t noticed any significant lag from button press to device action. And early indications tell me I will probably get well over a month on a single charge with my use. 

I do love that there is a “find my remote” function. Either use the app to ping your remote, or a single click of the pair button will activate the ping mode. Super useful!

What’s Broken 

It’s easy to jump on a company and slam it when you have a competent competitor already in the market space. But let’s not mince words here. Harmony was not perfect when they started. It took years of work and refinement to get the product they had. 

First update of many!

I expect Sofabaton will follow the same trajectory. Right now, there is a lot broken. The promised Google Home, and Philips Hue integration is either non-existent (Google) or very raw (Hue). Users have reported lots of issues with Roku and other streaming boxes. 

But I already see fixes rolling out. 

Our Take 

The King is Dead! Long Live The…Prince? The Sofabaton X1 is NOT the heir apparent to the Harmony throne. It looks great, and the hardware is solid, but it lacks the pedigree of the Harmony. 

All that said, I think that the Sofabaton X1 will get there. Enough was going right that I will keep it, and I will probably use it as my daily driver. While it lacks the ease of configuration of the Harmony, the bones are good. 

But do I recommend it right now? That’s a tough one. If Sofabaton continues to refine its app and programming. If they listen to users and make changes based on our feedback…then yes, I think it will be a great remote. 

But, I think that if you aren’t ready for that, you should wait and let us nerds work with Sofabaton and fix all the bugs. I am confident that Sofabaton sees the potential of this remote and will eventually solve the problems. Until then, maybe find a used Harmony and wait for Version 2.0! 

One Month Later

So it’s been a whole month since I posted my review, and I have been using the Sofabaton X1 exclusively as my daily remote. So while I still don’t feel as if I am an expert with the remote, I can give you all a good sense of if it’s worth your cash. And if you don’t want to read the rest of the update, I will give you the skinny. I think Sofabaton will make this a great remote, and I recommend that you get one if you are willing to work with the shortcomings now for a great remote later. OK? Let’s discuss. 

Updates

Sofabaton has kept its word and is working with users to fix issues as discovered. For example, I saw firmware and app updates last month, and they added settings on the remote, like a timer for the sleep and backlight modes, to change how long it remains lit before dimming. And that pesky bug where you had to press a button to wake the remote and a second time for the command? They fixed that! 

I haven’t been very active on the Sofabaton forum, but I do check in from time to time, and I see lots of requests from users for additions to the database and responseS from Sofabaton saying they added the code. It seems that Sofabaton is committed to adding features and codes as requested. 

They also have improved the IR remote learning function. I have not had any issues finding a code for my devices, but I tried to teach the Sofabaton X1 commands, which worked for me this time. However, learning commands is still not perfect, and it requires you to play with the remote positioning. But the Sofabaton X1 was able to learn them successfully. 

Still Not Working

Ok, so the remote is still not perfect. I still don’t have any support for Google Home, and Philips Hue support is still nada. But, Sofabaton has explained that they are actively working on the solution, and they hope to have a fix in the coming months. So if Sofabaton can get Google Home integration working, I would be willing to unplug my Harmony Hub and move to the Sofabaton X1 full time! You heard me right. The Google Home integration is the last hurdle (for me) that Sofabaton needs to meet for me to be content with the remote as a whole. 

Other Considerations/Quirks

I reported that my Sofabaton X1 could reach all of my devices without the IR blasters, which is mostly the case. However, if I open my curtains while cleaning and try to turn on my LG B9 with the hub, it struggles to turn it on. I am assuming it is something to do with the glare from the sun on my glossy speakers and TV. So this tells me that if you have the Sofabaton in a bright room, you might have the same issues. This could be true of other remotes as well. I didn’t notice it with my Harmony however.

Battery life is good, and I charged it once when I got it six weeks ago. But, as my editor pointed out, this is normal for new devices. However, I am still on one battery bar after six weeks. So even if I have to charge once per month, that’s pretty impressive.

Lastly, the remote is tough. I recently got a new puppy, and he has had my Sofabaton X1 in his mouth several times with nary a scratch. So I can confirm that the finish on the remote is tough as nails. 

Our Take: Part Two

As I said earlier, Sofabaton seems committed to working the bugs out of this remote. It may take them a bit to get there, but I am confident they will get there. I used an early Harmony remote, and it was not good. It took Logitech years to get them to the polished form we all remember. If we (as users) hadn’t worked with Harmony and stuck with them, they would have folded a long time ago.

So if you need something more than the Sofabaton U1, but don’t want something as expensive as Control4, then the Sofabaton X1 is the best choice. So I think it’s 90% to where it needs to be. That may not be good enough for those looking for a plug-and-play solution…yet. For those enthusiasts that are willing to put in the time, this is about the only universal remote option left. And 90% is way better than 0%.


13 Comments on Sofabaton X1 Review – One Month Update

  1. Jason

    Thanks for the review Andrew. Sounds promising. I love my Harmony Elite for our living room home theater setup. As soon as Logitech announced they were killing Harmony I bought an extra Elite from Best Buy which is still unopened. I also have a Harmony Companion remote with hub. I have since decided to create a dedicated basement HT (in progress) so will use my extra Elite for that set up. So if either dies I’m stuck. Hopefully by the time that happens (or Logitech stops supporting it) the Sofabaton will have matured a bit and us HT enthusiasts will continue to have a good option without having to spend a ton on something like Control4 and not even be able to program it without a dealers help.

  2. Nice review, Andrew! I’m pretty sure you and I are in agreement about pretty much everything with this remote. Lots of potential, quite nice to use once you actually have it fully set up, but the setup process is not for anybody who is impatient! Not yet.

    It’s not at a point where I would hand it to a non-techie person and say, “have at it!” without any instruction. But if you set it up for someone, and then teach them about Activities, the Off button, and the Screen Back button, it’s impressive for a 1st gen.

    One thing not mentioned in your review: there is no Help button right on the face of the remote like there was on Harmony remotes. But there is a “Fix” function within the “Set” menu. But when I tried to use it, it was not at all intuitive!

    You use the wheel to scroll through your devices, and then you click the wheel to select either On or Off, or to select an Input.

    You would THINK that would send a command, similar to Harmony’s Help button. You started your Watch TV Activity, but your AV Receiver didn’t turn on? You’d THINK, “simple! I’ll go to Set, then Fix, then scroll to my AVR, and then click the wheel to make it say On. That would FIX IT, right?”

    But nothing happens. No command is sent. Instead, what you need to do is set the Fix screen to whatever state the offending device is actually in. For example, your AVR is Off when it should be On? Then go to Set, then Fix, the scroll to your AVR, and then click the wheel until Off is highlighted.

    Now the Sofabaton X1 Hub is “aware” that your AVR is Off.

    But nothing happens!

    You have to now switch to a different Activity, at which point, the X1 will send appropriate commands for you AVR, being “aware” that it is actually Off when it should have been On. So if this new Activity requires the AVR to be On, it will send the Power On command, because now it’s “aware” that the AVR was Off.

    But I really don’t consider that a “Fix”. And it isn’t anywhere near as useful and intuitive as Harmony’s Help button. In fact, I’ll bet you’re super confused from what I just wrote! So…yeah…try teaching THAT to your mom – haha

    Lastly, I wish you could just hide the Devices menu option entirely. If you’re setting this up for someone else, they really need to only ever use Activities. But a lot of people still only think in terms of the old “universal remotes”, where you just chose one Device at a time. If they do that with the X1, it’s just going to get your Activities all out of sync. And like I’ve just described, that “Fix” function is a nightmare.

    If the user is someone who just wants to choose one Device at a time to control, they’d be better off with Sofabaton’s other, cheaper remote, the U1.

    So I wish Devices on the X1 screen could just be hidden entirely. All of the customization of buttons and choosing which commands show up on the screen is really only in Activities, anyway. Short and long-press options for the hardware buttons only exist in Activities. So it’s an Activity-based remote, for sure.

    Here’s hoping Sofabaton gets there one day 😉

  3. Alan

    When will it be available? I went to Amazon but it is not available and doing Google searches I do not find any site selling the X1 currently?

    • That is an excellent question. We’ve been checking Amazon as well (where they say it will be sold). We have no insider info on what the holdup is. It could be they are trying to work out the worst of the bugs, it could be supply chain issues. Or both. Currently, only kickstarted backers have them. We’ll keep our eyes peeled and post an announcement when it starts to sell.

  4. Jimi

    I just got mine form Amazon today. I ordered it Saturday night. It said delivery was expected between June 23rd and July 21st, but it showed up today. I also got it for 40% off. Amazon had a 10% off “click to add coupon” and I read in Facebook group that emailing [email protected] and asking for a discount code they would give another 30% to stack on top. I doubted it would work but sure enough, about 18 hours later I got a response with a code and it worked. I have not setup the remote yet (will do when I get home from work) but am pretty excited to try it out.

    All that to say, as of Saturday, if you add it to your cart it should let you order it even though its says delivery is a month or so off. YMMV

  5. Chris C

    I’m confused by your update. In the initial review you said the Logitech required 2 IR blasters while the Sofabaton required none. In the update you claim the Sofabaton IR is not as good as the Logitech because it doesn’t turn on your TV with the curtains open.
    So which is it? The IR is better or it isn’t?

    • Andrew Thomas

      Hi Chris. As with most things, little quirks show themselves over time.

      Right now, with my curtains closed, the Sofabaton turns on the TV without the need for IR blasters at all. However, with the curtains open at certain times of the day, it seems the brightness of the room can impact it. With my Harmony, I could never turn on the TV, so that tells me that at least in the IR department, the Sofabaton has the advantage. All that said, I still probably won’t hook up the IR blasters as the curtains are closed most of the time.

  6. Matt W

    Honestly this review does not match my experience with the Sofabaton, and I think advising people to buy them at this point is wildly inappropriate without more realistic details on the stuff that is broken.

    Communication between the app and hub still does not work if you have 2.5ghz/5ghz networks with the same SSID.

    The hub randomly locks up requiring power cycling by unplugging it frequently for many people on the forums (leading to “Lost hub” messages on the remote). I tried using it as a daily driver, but was needing to get up and unplug the hub at least once per day.

    Updates are terribly delayed… One was just published this week, but Sofabaton has been promising “next week” for most of June. It’s fine if it takes some time, but their communication people have burned a lot of their credibility.

    I hope it gets better, but my recommendation is not to buy one until some of the show stoppers get fixed.

    • Thanks for your first-hand report. As with any product, not everyone will have the same experience. Andrew will continue to update this review as time goes on. So far, he’s happy with the remote.

    • Andrew Thomas

      Hi Matt,

      You and I have wildly different experiences. I have my Sofabaton on a Bell Fibe Homehub 3000 which does 2.5 and 5 ghz on the same SSID and I have not had a single issue with my device yet. Nor have I had to reboot it aside from firmware updates.

      I will agree that the updates are slow. I had an issue with my Hue lights and updated them and they told me “next week”. Well, a month later it dropped. But I am happy to say they now work!

      I hope your experience gets better, but from my unit and my experience, I stand by saying that it’s not perfect, but I expect it to get darn close.

  7. Steven Att

    Was a Kickstarter buyer – figured, what the heck. Yes, I have a cable TV set top box – it’s totally useless for changing channels the way they lay out the numbers. I actually have a Harmony Elite I don’t use cause I like the hard number keys on the Companion/One remote. My interaction with Sofabaton support regarding this issue didn’t yield a response this veteran IT guy could understand. Seemed like they were saying “create a macro” – what – for every 1 2 3 and 4 digit channel number? FYI – macro – what’s that, I could not find the word in my instruction package. Unplugged for now, maybe someday (post CableTV) I’ll revive. Maybe an X2 will have real numbers. BTW the up/down buttons actually move my channels 2 digits vs 1.. so stations get skipped with hardly any way to access them!

  8. Ronnie R.

    @ Steven ATT

    Decade long AV technician here. I haven’t gotten my hands on one of these yet to give any product specific suggestions, but I am talking to the higher-ups in my company about maybe getting one to test out. That being said, if my assumption is correct about your service and you have an AT&T cable box, it’s a quirk of the way some cable boxes are designed. What the cable box is looking for is what is commonly referred to as a toggle code. When you press the number 1 on the stock cable remote, it sends one code. When you press it again, it sends a different code. If you don’t have that second code, you can press the same number continuously for hours and the box would never respond past the initial press.

    Some remote manufactuers with very well maintained code databases already have the toggle commands built in when you select those specific models of cable boxes. Most remotes I have dealt with require the person programming it to create a macro for each button to toggle or alternate between the two codes with each button press. And it often times needs to be done for every button on the remote.

    Not the most user friendly solution, but it’s one we have been stuck with for longer than I have been an installer.

    As far as the skipping goes, remotes like these often have an option for how many times the command is repeated per button press. If you are finding number or direction commands double-tapping, you should be able to dial it down to 1 or 0 repeats, depending on the limitations of the software.

    If I’m way off base, you have my apologies!

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