Review (February 2007)
By Kevin Nakano
Logitech is one company that has kept up with the latest wave of consumer electronics. No longer is the company limited to PC accessories and as they venture into fulfilling the constant need of gadgets for the tech geeks (like myself), their product line is reflective of the ever changing technology we experience. Lately, there has been a need for sophisticated remotes controls for the complex media systems emerging in the market. The Logitech® Harmony® is a family of remotes that has developed a positive reputation in the A/V circles for providing consumers with a simple, yet powerful way to control electronic components. The extensive IR database is wonderful and gets the user up and running in short time. The $249 Harmony® 880 is one of several remotes being offered by Logitech Harmony® and features a sleek design, complete with an 84x48 color LCD display. The remote includes a convenient cradle that keeps the unit charged. The Harmony® 880 features 56 backlit buttons, a built-in IR sensor for reading existing IR remotes, a USB interface for downloading the latest configuration and firmware, and two megabytes of nonvolatile flash memory for storing data. Something unique to the Logitech® Harmony® line is the website that is used to select, update, and program the remote. The user simply logs in and selects the devices/commands, and defines the macros needed to operate their system. Once complete, the website creates a file that is then transferred to the remote via the USB interface. The database of components actually resides on the Harmony® website and is accessed by your login.
A total of eight activity buttons are located around the color LCD screen. These buttons are labeled based on activities such as Watch TV or Listen to Radio and can be used to launch a series of IR commands. The Harmony® 880 supports up to 15 devices and 255 commands. If the massive IR database somehow missed your component, the Logitech Harmony® 880 has the ability to read your IR codes and store them into the Logitech site. Since other users also contribute IR codes using their remotes, the Logitech database quickly grows. This is one reason why the database is so extensive.
The Glow button illuminates the backlit button and is conveniently placed just below the center of the screen. The Help button can be used in case something is not working properly. Since it is possible that one of the components didn't correctly receive the IR command, the remote will walk you through a series of steps to determine what the problem is.
Programming the 880 remote requires that the user downloads the installation software and registers at the Harmony website. We installed the latest version (7.1.4) on our Sony Vaio laptop and updated the remote firmware using the provided link. Once logged in, the connection to the remote is verified and the Web wizard walks you through each step. Adding components is simple and is categorized based on the function. The software will ask the user to confirm the closest match to the model number entered. Setting up the Activity buttons such as "Watch TV" or "Watch a DVD" is just as simple. The Harmony database holds an enormous 5,000+ manufacturers and 175,000+ devices and the number is constantly growing. It is one of the best IR databases I have ever come across. IR codes were found for all of our A/V components including many of the new units we have recently added to our system. Even non-mainstream components such as our OPPO DVD player and Roku HD1000 media server were found in the database. Updating the application software and remote firmware is as simple as a push of a button.
Users can select a personal JPG background image to be displayed on the main screen. It would be advisable to use an image that has little white to keep the white text visible. We found out the hard way when one of our images made it difficult to read the display text.
The Harmony® 880 utilizes what they call Smart State Technology. This allows their remote to completely manage an A/V system by knowing how to control and track each component (up to 15) simultaneously. This comes in handy when something in the system is not working correctly. The ergonomic design of the 880 is great and it has good backlighting for dark rooms. If you are like us, you might find the need to change the default button names for some of the component functions. You will have to get creative with the limited space for text on the screen. However, there is nothing that comes close to the flexibility and programmability offered by the Harmony® line for the price. The extensive database will save you a lot of time setting up your system. Best of all, you can program it yourself for a fully custom feel that fits your needs.
- Kevin Nakano
Mitsubishi HC5000 Full 1080p High-Definition LCD Projector
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