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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Test Drive: Harmony 880 Universal Remote

Last time I checked in, I had just opened up my new Logitech Harmony 880 and letting the lithium battery charge up. I could hardly wait for it to charge before trying it, having contemplated the purchase for such a long time.

Logitech Harmony 880 Universal Remote product photo
Once it had charged up, it was time to begin the setup and initial test drive.

I did very little research before buying the Harmony 880. I bought it based on a friend's recommendation and the general "buzz" factor on FatWallet. As I looked at the instructions (rare for me), I noticed that most of the programming appeared to be done on the computer through the software that comes with the universal remote.

After the standard installation of the software, I was ready to begin the programming. The first thing I noticed was that I did not have to have the Harmony Remote plugged in via the USB cable that is included. You can program the software independent of the remote being plugged in. You just need to connect it when you want to download your settings.

The first step was setting up all the devices I have. Through a fairly easy process, I quickly added the devices to the software and confirmed that all 7 components were added to the configuration.

All my electronic devices are added on the Harmony Remote software

Now it was time for the fun part, the programming. Since my setup was a little more complex due the presence of the Psyclone PSC01 and the various settings, I was anxious to get started.

The Harmony software had some great preset options like "Watch a DVD", "Listen to CDs", and "Watch PVR" that help you configure the things you want to control. I think the presets are nice, but a better starting descriptions would be a nice add. For example, how many people know what a PVR is? Of course you can change them later.

Choosing which activities to add to my Harmony 880 Remote

The Harmony asks me which devices are required to perform the action. I choose the Sony Receiver, Sony Television, Psyclone Audio / Video switch and Motorola DVR. The wizard walks you through the configuration of each item until you complete the activity.

Harmony software completes activity configuration

After completing the activities I needed, it was time to download the configuration to the Harmony 880 controller. I just plugged it and in less than a minute, the Harmony 880 was ready to go.

Harmony 880 Remote Control is updated and ready for use
But would it work?

I walked into the family room, started up the remote and clicked on the "Watch TV" activity that I added. The remote accepted the command and I waited for the Harmony 880 to do its magic. After a moment for it to start, everything turned on and went to the exact settings. Try "Play DVD", worked again. Great news, we were in business.

And the successes continued. Thus far, through several days of use, I have been able to put the myriad of remotes I had sitting in the family room away. In addition to the remotes being easy for Ashley to use, she also loves the uncluttered coffee table. I am very satisfied with my purchase -- I should have made it sooner. A huge plus is that with the Harmony's DVR friendly controls, it also has the great fast forward and replay features that are all so important!

Overall, only one issue that I have with it that I cannot say is the fault of the Harmony 880 remote. For one of my devices I have a split audio / video setting for two different channels to deal with a different in input types. The problem? I cannot control it with the remote. Either remote -- the Sony remote or the Logitech Harmony 880 cannot handle splitting the channel. The limitation is on the Sony side, since the Harmony can mimic all the commands. I am trying to find a macro to perform the action, but no luck so far.

Other than that, I am finally fully setup with a single remote.