Logitech Harmony 880 Remote Control

Continuing my recent, impromptu series on consumer electronics and their underlying technologies, I will now discuss one of the finest programmable, universal remote controls I have had the pleasure of owning: the Logitech Harmony 880 Universal Remote Control.

I have spent a lot of money on programmable remote controls over the last decade.  I have never been a fan of the coffee table full of remotes and always felt embarrassed whenever guests drooled in anticipation of the visual and aural deluge which surely awaited them behind the panoply of shiny glass & metal cabinets packed with high-end audio/video electronics but couldn’t figure out how to turn the system on.

We have owned everything from the first-generation Philips Pronto to an AMX Viewpoint VPT-CP behemoth that worked through floors & walls and integrated with a Landmark whole-house automation system.  Yes, a lot of money.

So you can imagine my joy when, in January, I “discovered” the Harmony 880 which not only works extremely well but is also easy to configure and not terribly expensive.  MSRP is $250 but the street price is more like $190 and you can probably pick one up for about $150 on eBay.  We paid $141 (including tax & shipping) for ours direct from Logitech courtesy of an employee discount. 😎

Discount aside, given the experience I have had with the Harmony remote compared to others I have owned, I would definitely pay full price and skip lunch for a month if necessary.  Setting up the remote is simple:

  1. Write down the make & model of each device with an infrared remote control in your setup (TV, VCR, DVD, Xbox, cable/satellite receiver, etc.)
  2. Install the software provided with the remote.
  3. Setup an account at http://members.harmonyremote.com
  4. Plug the remote into a USB port on your computer.  This will open a web browser that takes you to the Logitech web site that walks you through configuring your remote.
  5. Follow the wizards to add each device from the list you created in step 1.  Logitech has an extensive database containing the codes for most devices.
  6. Use the wizards to associate devices with activities (e.g., “Watch TV,” “Play a CD,” “Watch a DVD.”)  The Logitech software is pretty smart and sets things up automatically in most cases.
  7. On the off chance one of your devices is not in the Logitech database, the wizard walks you through a learning step that requires the original remote.
  8. Once, everything has been configured using the web browser, click a button that copies a file down to your computer and then to the Harmony remote.
  9. The software waits for you to go try things out and makes it straightforward to troubleshoot and customize enough aspects of the remote’s behavior to not feel too restrictive but not so much that it becomes too overwhelming.

The remote has a replaceable, rechargeable battery and comes with a docking station to keep it topped off.  It has a blue backlight that emanates from the buttons whenever the ambient light is low as determined by a built-in light sensor. There is also a cool, color LCD that turns off automatically to conserve battery power but immediately comes on when the remote is picked up courtesy of motion-sensing electronics.

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