The main feature of Harmony 880 is its ability to set up 'activities' which allow you to seamlessly control all the devices required to do things such as watching TV, listening to music or watching a DVD movie.
I was quite skeptical when I ordered this device (refurbished) - having lived all my life with half a dozen-plus remotes on the coffee table, sofa, under the sofa... where one changes the channels on the satellite receiver, another controls the sound and a third turns on the TV (that's actually how my system works) and then there's the DVD player, the Playstation/Blu-ray player. But, let me talk about the Harmony.
- the remote
- the charger/stand
- a rechargeable battery that goes inside the remote
- a power adapter that plugs into the electrical outlet
- a USB wire
- a setup CD
- a very basic 'paper' manual
- an Internet-connected computer with an USB port and a CD drive
The setup preparation:
- you insert the battery into the remote body
- you connect the power adapter to the stand
- you place the remote on the stand and wait for the battery to charge
- you connect the remote to the computer through the USB wire
- you insert the CD into the computer's CD drive
The initial remote configuration:
- you agree to the license terms
- you provide some information such as your name and email address
- you open an account with Logitech (password is optional)
- the setup utility updates the remote with the latest and greatest
Setting up devices:
You are asked to name the devices that you wish to control with the remote. It's best if you can provide the exact manufacturer, brand and model number. I did that for the first 3 devices I wanted to register and the setup utility was happy with the TV and the satellite receiver but, for some reason it did not recognize my little Bravia home theater. What followed was a series of interactions between the Bravia remote and the Harmony. I was asked to press certain buttons and, after a few minutes, the setup utility was able to recommend a close model.
Setting up activities:
Once I was done with the devices, the setup utility suggested some standard activities, such as 'watching TV' or 'watching a DVD'. For each activity, I had to answer some very specific questions having to do with the exact settings required for the TV, the Satellite receiver and the home theater device - I had to tell it which device changes the channels, which one controls the sound, which input are used by the TV and so on. Once all desired activities are configured, and up to 8 activities are possible, the computer updates the remote and you are ready to go.
Some nice touches:
- There is a page where the remote can be customized. You can actually upload a specific image for the background, you can select the way the time is displayed (time is updated from the computer). I even notice the ability to set up a slide show on the remote display.
- The display turns itself off after a while (time for it to stay on is configurable) but it lights up as soon as you pick up the remote.
- Most buttons that you are likely to need are already on the remote but the display makes up to eight 'soft buttons' available and they change depending of the context of your activities.
Overall, I started skeptical but I am now impressed.
My only regret is that blue-tooth is not supported so my PS3 can't be controlled but, even for the PS3, the remote will be quite useful, properly configuring the TV and the home theater.
I recommend this device and, contrary to my initial inclination, it gets 5 stars.
I've had the 880 for almost 2 years now and I added a Harmony 900 since. It did a great job controlling devices in our living room for more than one year and it's now making itself most useful in our master bedroom.
The only 'problem' I've ever had with this device was the charger. Sometimes you need to wiggle it a little in the cradle before the charging kicks in but it's no big deal and I don't know if this is to be explained by me using a 'refurbished' device.