In perfect Harmony

December 29 2006

Thank you again to all those who suggested the Logitech Harmony 880 as the universal remote to buy.  This bad boy arrived today, and as I was using my last vacation day of the year, I had some time to get it configured.  It took more time than I would have hoped, though some of that was pilot error, some of it was pedantic troubleshooting, and some of it was rookie inefficiency.  Still, the result was darn impressive -- my entire entertainment center is operable by five clearly-labelled choices.

Image:In perfect Harmony

The biggest stumbling block is that my DLP TV is very slow at switching inputs.  Everything else worked "out of the box", but switching from DVD to TiVo to HD Cable was just not working.  I followed several different wizard-based processes on the Harmony configuration to try to get this right, each making things more complicated than the last.  I was also having a tough time with what seems like an obvious feature -- take the device's individual remote, point it at the Harmony's infrared port, and the Harmony "learns" how the other remote issues the command.  Note to all who are attempting this -- do not put your Harmony right next to your computer's infrared port..

Eventually, to get the TV's inputs right, I had to delete the TV and start over (as any good technician does, right?), explaining to the device that the TV really does need 2100 milliseconds between "button pushes" to switch inputs.  Now that this is correctly configured, all is right with the remote.

Some things about this remote I really like --
  • The "help" button really does do something, and is context-sensitive.
  • The programmable buttons are very easy to program, are task-specific, and in many cases, Logitech has anticipated what you'll want them to do.  In all but one or two cases, I found that there was an obvious button on the remote to do what I thought I was going to have to program manually.  Even putting the Comcastic "on demand" on a programmable button was as easy as choosing from a drop-down list.
  • The remote has a sensor in it such that when you pick it up, the display/backlight instantly lights up.  So good battery management -- we'll have to see how often it has to return to the base.
  • It feels like the TiVo remote, which is something several commented on.  I found it very easy to navigate TiVo from the Harmony.
  • Subtle configuration options are a walk in the park for this guy.  I want to leave my TiVo and cable box on all the time, and it was just a few clicks to set that up.  Heck, I didn't even know before today that you -could- turn a TiVo Series 2 box off.  I wonder if it would wake up automatically when it is set to record a show.
  • Logitech has a heck of a database for electronics that can be programmed for use with this remote.  Many, many brands I had never heard of.

As was pointed out in the comments on the earlier thread, I did not set out to buy a high-end universal remote.  But the appeal of "so easy my child/grandma can use it", combined with Logitech's generous discount to IBM employees, won me over.  I am SO glad to have put five other remotes in the cabinet tonight!  Thanks, everyone!

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