As part of our Home Technology Demonstration for Small Spaces we needed a remote control to handle the Media Center PC, LCD TV and Receiver. Logitech stepped up to the plate and sent us the Harmony 880 remote to see if it would fit the bill.

Optimized for complicated HDTV and PVR systems, the Harmony 880 helps you tame tough configurations like switching your television between video aspect ratios depending on the program source. The interactive color display lets you quickly choose a 16:9 ratio for movies and HDTV, or a standard 4:3 ratio for basic television programming.
This is in fact more power than we need for our simple setup … but it gave me a great opportunity to try out the Harmony system of programming and operation to see for myself whether it indeed simplifies the setup for those who don’t have the patience or understanding to do it with many of the remotes out there on the market now.
Indeed the setup process is easy to follow. The software puts you through a step by step process by first asking you to identify each component. The Logitech software is essentially a web client that connects the user to the Harmony online database and finds all of the codes for these and I must say that impressed me. The equipment we are using includes the latest models from several manufacturers and happily they were already in the Harmony database.
The next step in the setup process is to tell the software (step by step) what “Activities” you want it to setup for you … Watch TV, Listen to Music, View Photos etc. For each of these it sets up a standard configuration assuming for example that for Watch TV you need to turn on the TV, Cable Box and Receiver. This works quite well except when it comes to using a Media Center PC as one of the components.
I have found that I just don’t want to put the Media Center into standby mode … ever! Just like a PC, it takes way too long to wake up and half the time something is out of whack when it does 🙁 And of course if you have a sequence to perform … Wake up PC – Go to MyTV – Click OK – Click Live TV – Etc. … then the whole thing falls apart … because it takes a few minutes to wake up the PC and it never gets those other commands. Perhaps the folks at Harmony just need to re-program that function if a Media Center PC is one of the components.
Not a big problem however. Once I found that quirk I just had to go back and tell the software to let me decide which components to turn on and off for various Activities. I ended up setting it so the Media Center stays on all of the time. It took a bit more work and tweaking but in the end the system sets up fine. It’s always a challenge for designers to decide how much leeway to give users. Thankfully we have moved from an era where designers gave you so many options that you needed a week to learn how to operate devices. The Harmony engineers have reached a pretty happy medium for most.
The remote itself is very nice to use … the buttons are slick and the LCD screen is clear. Having a recharging station is terrific too. I never lose the remote any more, it’s always ready to go and I never have to worry about changing batteries. The IR signals are stronger than any other unit I’ve tried so it never fails to do it’s job. Just picking up or tilting the unit brings on the LCD screen … no buttons to push for that … nice!
All in all this is a nice product and for those with a multitude of components in your Home Theater it’s definitely worth looking at. MSRP is $249.