Product Review (February 2007)
Logitech® Harmony®
880 Advanced Universal Remote

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.

Display
The color LCD display on the 880 is one of the key features that make this Harmony® remote stand out from the less expensive models. The top right of the screen has a battery level indicator and the left has the day of week and time. This information will automatically be set based on the computer time and date, but can also be changed manually using the software. Background and favorite channel images can be uploaded into the remote from a PC using the programming software. Users can also run a slideshow for a series of images on the screen. We took one of our small JPG images and formatted it to be 160x128 pixels and successfully placed it on the screen using the software. It is best if the background image contains as little white as possible so that is does not conflict with the white text used for the component and command names on the screen. Different screen themes are available when programming the remote.

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.

Docking the Remote
The Harmony 880 includes a stylish-looking docking station that not only holds the remote, but also keeps it fully charged. Three shiny gold contacts on the docking base mate to the remote and provide charging via the small 8V, 500mA switching AC power adapter. The base design ensures a solid electrical contact with the remote. This can be a problem with some docking stations we have seen, but we did not experience any issues here. The power cable attaches to the underside of the base and can be routed in a guide to exit the top or bottom, depending what is most convenient. The user-replaceable 3.7V, 830mAh Li-ion battery pack has enough capacity for about a week under normal use. The nice part is you do not have to worry about replacing the batteries in the unit, but you will have to remember to periodically dock the remote to charge it. The base has a blue LED in the docking platform that illuminates a ring around the Logitech logo. This looks attractive and makes it easy to find the base in the dark, but it can also be distracting at times.

Configuration
Our multimedia system is quite complicated and like many, has components placed in various locations in front of the user. This needs to be considered when purchasing a remote such as this. If components are far apart, it may be difficult to use an IR remote such as the 880, where clear line of sight is required. Logitech also offers the 890 and 1000 that have RF capability. When used with an IR repeater, these remotes provide a more powerful solution to commanding the system.

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.

Conclusion
The Logitech Harmony® 880 Remote is a powerful addition to a complex audio or home theater system. If you happen to be married, your significant other will love the one button system startup or shutdown solution. Most of us have spouses who are not too happy with the way we have configured our A/V setups because it require a degree in "how my spouse thinks" when it comes to operating the media room. The Harmony® 880 takes much of the pain out of conventional systems by eliminating the need to use multiple IR remotes. Instead, a single button push can launch several IR commands to bring your system alive and another button can shut everything off. You will have to spend some time defining the system components and choose what input should be selected for a given source. Then you will need to spend additional time checking it all out. However, it will all be worth it when you can hand the remote over to your loved ones and they too can watch a movie without having to call you.

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






OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Projector: Mitsubishi HC5000 Full 1080p High-Definition LCD Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD+ A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Dish Network ViP622 HDTV Satellite and Terrestrial Receiver with HDMI
Blu-ray DVD Player: Sony PlayStation3 with HDMI 1.3
HD-DVD Player: Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player with HDMI
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
DVD Player: OPPO Digital OPDV971H DVD Player with DVI Output
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
Media Server: Kenwood Sovereign MRH1 Entre
Remote Control: Remote Technologies Inc. T3 Controller
Analog Audio Switcher (5.1): Zektor MAS3 5.1 Audio Switcher
HDMI Video Switcher: Radiient Technologies Select-4 HDMI Video Switcher
HDMI Cable: VizioWare Hi-Wirez 15-meter Active HDMI Cable
DVI Cable: AudioQuest DV-1 20m DVI-D Cable
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables


Review at a glance


Logitech® Harmony® 880 Advanced Universal Remote

Specifications

Colors:

Metallic Silver or Gun-Metal Black

Current system requirements:

PC with USB port, Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP or Mac OS X with Safari 1.0, Internet access, 10MB free hard drive space. Future support for Linux.

Hardware:

Backlit LCD 84 x 48 pixels, 56 top mounted hard buttons, Infrared sensor, USB communication, Speaker.

Memory:

2 Megabytes Non-volatile flash memory.

Infrared Transmitters (IR):

3 wide dispersion high power LED's (Range > 40 feet, sending frequency > 60 kHz, sensing frequency > 60 kHz.)

Frequency Response:

33Hz - 20kHz

Power:

While connected: USB power from PC, when not connected: 4 AAA 1.5V batteries.

Weight:

5.8 oz

Dimensions:

8.1x 2.3 x 1.3 inches

Warranty:

366 day repair/exchange warranty for factory assembly defects only.

Features

  • Large Internet-based component database
  • Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP or Mac OS X with Safari 1.0
  • 2 Megabytes Non-volatile flash memory
  • Backlit LCD 84 x 48 pixels
  • 56 top mounted hard buttons
  • Infrared sensor
  • USB Interface
  • Speaker
  • Package Contents

  • Harmony® 880 remote control
  • Recharging station
  • AC adapter
  • USB cable
  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Installation CD
  • Installation Guide
  • Limited 1 year repair/exchange warranty from date of purchase


    System Requirements

    IBM® or compatible PC

  • Microsoft® Windows® 98, 2000, Me or XP
  • USB port
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Internet access

    Macintosh® PC

  • Macintosh® OS X or later
  • USB port
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Internet access

  • Company Information
    Logitech Inc.
    Corporate Headquarters
    6505 Kaiser Drive
    Fremont, CA 94555 USA
    Phone: 510-795-8500
    Sales: 800-231-7717
    Support: 866-826-5722

    Part Number P/N 966187-0403
    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    Warranty: One-Year Limited Hardware Warranty
    MSRP: $249.95

    URL: www.logitech.com/harmony

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