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Logitech Harmony 880 Universal Remote

World's best remote By Charlie White

Logitech Harmony 880 universal remote controlIn our ongoing search for the perfect universal remote control, Logitech Harmony has come the closest to that esteemed goal. Its previous models were able to eliminate all those remote controls strewn all over your coffee table, and let you switch between watching TV, watching DVDs and many other activities by pushing just one button. Lets take a look at the top of the Harmony line, the Logitech Harmony 880 ($249), a rechargeable and programmable remote control that sports a small cellphone-like LCD screen.

The programming of the Logitech Harmony line of products is taken out of the remote and put onto your computer, where you teach the remote about your components via a Web-based interface that is both Windows and OS X compatible. The Harmony 880 itself is built in the same shape as its predecessors, a bone-like structure that slightly resembles a figure 8. This design has served Harmony well, because it fits nicely in the hand, albeit not as perfectly as remotes from TiVo.

After extricating the Harmony 880 from its nearly-bulletproof packaging, I placed it on its elegantly-designed charging cradle. The cradle itself as esthetically pleasing, with a glowing blue light serving as a landing pad for the remote. The remote nestles itself onto the cradle with a reassuring click, fitting perfectly without requiring any force whatsoever. Beyond its pleasing design, its an excellent idea to allow this remote to be rechargeable, rather than requiring AA batteries such as the Harmony remote we tested a couple of years ago.

After it had received a full charge, it was time to install the Harmony software, now in version 5.01, on our test computer. The installation went without a hitch, and after plugging the supplied USB cable into the 880, computer and remote shook hands and became familiar with each other immediately. Using a wizard-based interface, the software engaged me in a dialogue which determined which components Id be using with the remote and how they interacted with each other.  

Although its a fairly straightforward process to notify the software of your components, its certainly not easy. The software has an odd way of delivering you into a loop, where it asks you what to do next but doesnt give you a choice of programming more activities. After using it for a while, I finally determined that after I had entered a parameter, it was best not to continue following the wizard but just to click Home and start the process again with the next component.

After you set up your components, the software shows you this screen.

Beyond that, at one point I decided to reset one configuration to its default, when the software blew away all the commands that were available for that device. Not good. Its also a little confusing to find specific operations, but once you wander around this labyrinthine software you start getting the hang of it. The end result is all good, though. Its even able to configure projectors to turn on, even those that require a lengthy button push. It also lets you leave on some components all the time, and turn others off. A major strength of the Harmonys programming routine is the plethora of devices contained in the on-line database. There are tens of thousands of devices included, strengthened by all those who have programmed their devices before you and uploaded their parameters to the Web site. Never again will you have to hunt through tedious secret codes and enter them into your universal remote by trial and error.

By far the biggest benefit of the software is the way you can change the function of every button on the 880 remote. In addition to programming in sequences of commands for particular activities, youre also able to individually control your components. For example, if you want to listen to music and dont need to TV on, you can switch over to your TV and turn it off without affecting anything else.

Once youre done with all the programming, you download the results into the remote via USB. After a couple of hours of serious tinkering, I was able to configure the remote to control all the components in our Midwest Test Facility theater, in addition to being able to conveniently dim the lights. Neat.  

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