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My Harmony 880 Review  

post #1 of 156
Thread Starter 
I'm sure there are a couple out there, but I just got my remote and after a week of use thought I would give a review. I love this thing. I'm a huge gadget guy, and out of all my toys, Razr, PSP, HT gear, etc this has become my favorite gadget ever.

If you have any questions, post them up, I will gladly share my knowledge and opinions on the unit.

Retail is around $250, but I found the remote on PCMall.com for $177.
It shipped to me in about 2 days. Packaging is really nice and was the first sign that I really got a good product. The package comes with the remote, docking station/recharging station, power cord, and installation CD. The fit and finish on the unit is second to none. It looks professional, and includes every button you would need on pratically any setup and IMO they placed them in very accurate positions. Meaning that buttons you use more are closer to the native position of your thumb and spread out to the lesser used buttons being the farthest away.
Now alot of the UNI remotes I checked on had buttons you would press to gain access to each system you needed. This remote uses macros to change every system to the appropriate function on one click and then automatically places the main system you will be using for that function as the controlls. System functions that do not have assigned buttons on the control layout are assigned a button next to the LCD window and text for that function appears next to the button on the LCD window. For example, my Comcast Motorolla Digi Box/PVR has My DVR button and a button for On Demand (on demand tv and movie rental). So since there are no buttons on the remote for My DVR and On Demand, these two functions appear as text on the LCD screen and the text is assigned to a button that is next to the text on the LCD.

After initial charge you hook up the remote via USB to your computer and the software essentially is just drivers and a program that allerts you of remote updates to firmware. When you hook in the remote, it automatically opens your browser and goes to the Logitech Harmony site.
On initial setup the site asks you about every piece of hardware you have, brand and model number. Then it asks you simple questions for each piece as it sets them up one at a time. For example when setting up my digi box it says, "When using your digi box what do you want to control your sound? TV or Denon Receiver?" You pick the correct answer and you are set. You do this for all your stuff and it sets up all the macros for you.

Then after you are finished and you are setup the remote works as follows. The unit has a motion sensor, so when not on the dock, the unit powers off the LCD to save battery. Whenever it is moved it comes alive. The LCD will display options (you can customize the text too) like "Watch TV", "Watch DVD," "Listen to CD," "Play PS2," etc. Let's say I click "Watch DVD." My TV changes channels to my component input, the receiver changes to DVD input, the DVD powers on, and my digi box powers off. Then the remote is set to DVD commands and the LCD displays any commands next to buttons that don't appear on the remote body. Next I want to watch TV. I press "Activities" the LCD switches off extra DVD commands and lists my choices of what I want to do again. I click "Watch TV". TV switches to DVI input, receiver goes to TV input, digi box comes on, all non used components power off. This happens for whatever I push. If I were in say DVD mode and want to do something special with my receiver I can press "Device" and the remote switches to receiver commands and I can do whatever I need to and then switch back to DVD mode.

Unique to this unit which is amazing! is the "Help" button. Let's say I hit "Watch TV" and the remote turns on my digi box and receiver, all other components are off, but my TV didn't switch on because the remote was blocked or something. I click "Help" and the remote asks me questions until the problem is fixed. "Is the digi box on?" yes "Is the TV on?" Click "no" and the TV comes on and everything is back to normal.

The LCD screen quality is magnificent! The icons are very good resolution (they were update last month from a poorer quality ones). Battery life I can't comment on, because whenever the unit is not in use I have it plugged into the dock so it stays fully charged. But a really good feature is that even though it's rechargable, they have included a removable battery, which looks frighteningly close to a Nokia cell battery. So if there was a problem with the battery it would be very easy to repair.

Total setup time on the net was about 45 minutes, maybe less. I ran into maybe 3 problems which were repaired within 15-30min simply by going back to the site and choosing a specific piece of equipment and using a menu with drop down boxes for each button to customize buttons for control features.

Bonuses include customizing the names of the Activities you want to do, downloading your own personal background to the unit, downloading personal pictures that are used as a slide show to save the LCD from image burn when in dock or if you dont have the screen shut off when not in use off the dock. You can also customize the icons to an extent.

This remote is a godsend and saved me from using 5 remotes. It's perfect IMO, I couldn't ask it to do anything else, and it does more than I could possibly even need it to do, but without getting in the way of what I do need it to do. Hell, if you have a newer PS2 with the IR input on the front, it will even power on your PS2 and you can use the control to control the DVD inputs or play games (playing games is a bit extreme though). You can also use it to control computers with IR inputs, and Media Center PC's. The unit is grey with black and chrome accents and it is actually lighter than about 3 of my other controllers.

Yes, it is expensive, but it's a god send, and this will be the last piece of HT equipment I buy till I'm out of grad school so that and the fact that I have not one dissapointment gives me huge peace of mind in my purchase and the purchase price. And suprise suprise, it is the darling and center of attention of my setup. One would think it would by my HDTV or perhaps my 7.1 surround, but tu'che, it out shines them all.
post #2 of 156
Yes, it is very easy to use. But as pointed out here, the problem comes in with customizations--you can't program it using the software, you are stuck with what the Internet will do. Don't get me wrong, I love the 680 I have and am waiting for the 880 to come out with RF. But I am still torn as to whether I will get that or the MX-850, which while more difficult to set up, is much more flexible to program.

As an example, my 680 won't let me record on the VCR since you have to hold the Record button and hit play. I tried learning the command--everything--doesn't work.
post #3 of 156
cmulder, have you called Harmony about this? I can't believe there isn't some work around for such a common function! From what I've read (I personally haven't had to call them yet), the Harmony phone support is outstanding...not so much for the email/internet though...
post #4 of 156
While I agree with the positives you listed, most can also be accomplished with any programmable remote with macros. I tried the harmony for a week, alongside a much less expensive URC-100 that I bought at the same time. Both did exactly the same thing as far as macros (one button to watch DirecTV and get everthing to the correct input...one button for DVD, etc.) The one feature the URC can't match is the help function you mentioned. That's a great feature. In the end, though, for me...it was the buttons. I hated the harmoney buttons. Too small and too difficult (if not impossible) to operate totally by feel. I can operate the URC-100 without ever looking at it. The buttons have a much better "feel", and there are different shapes and sizes as well.

Don't get me wrong, I thought the harmoney was a good remote...I just couldn't get past the inferior (in my opinion) buttons.
post #5 of 156
I was considering buying this in addition to the new Microsoft MCE Keyboard, but have any of you tried the Harmony with MCE? Does it work well?
post #6 of 156
You can do some more extensive macroing via Utility Activity, and then saying you want to add more stuff to it after the initial question set. Just a pain to run through the question set everytime I want to tweak the 'real' macro :).

I wish the remote didn't look as slick, mainly from a ergonomic usage point of view, I still have trouble hitting the right key blindly, due to the smoothness between buttons, and the lack of raised bumps.

I'm not using it with MCE, but rather MythTV/xine under Linux, and it works fine for that, so I'm guessing it should work even better for MCE.

I do like this remote alot, and I'm coming from the Pronto crowd.
post #7 of 156
I'm using the 880 with MCE2005 and it works great. I bought both the 880 and 680 and intend to return the one that is 2nd best. Right not it is clearly the 680. I have not found anything the 880 can't do with MCE2005 that the 680 can. At this point, I'm returning the 680. The only thing that I'm looking closely at is the reliability of the recharging cradle. So far, so good.
post #8 of 156
I set up a MCE Computer for my 880. Since I just use a USBUIRT through Grinder and not MCE, I am having some issues.

When capturing a command, I see that the IR Command alternates back and forth between two distinct codes each time a button in pressed. (i.e. Code1, Code2, Code1, Code2,...)

I just need to pick a different base set of IR Codes, but was looking for the "this is why it is doing that" explaination...
post #9 of 156
I've had my Harmony 880 for a little less than a week now. Am generally pleased with it, but my opinion has slipped a bit as I try to work out some remaining issues.

Comments:

1. The initial setup process was much more time consuming and cumbersome than I expected. The web based interface seems overly complicated and difficult to use. (However, the web site response times for me - contrary to several other user's reports - have been quite good.) All in all it took the better part of the week to get 4 basic functions ("Activiities in the Harmony lingo) set up to function and there are still 'quirks' in some of these.

2. Recognition Of Equipment: Yes, the Harmony website does *seem* to recognize almost everything. However, I found this does not guarantee it actually has a correct database for the controls. The control is provided for my Philips TV was about 90% wrong! (Showed the wrong buttons and/or control functions that were not supported by my TV/remote control.) My call to Harmony leads me to believe they have no intention of correcting this (and the tech confirmed they sometimes substitute a generic control configuration for less popular equipment, such as my Philips TV.)

3. Activity Function Linking: This is my biggest gripe to date - and one that I can't believe Harmony hasn't (and apparently has no intention of) fixed. If you program a button function under one activity (for instance, assign volume control to the TV under "Watch TV") the Harmony remote automatically assigns the same function under ALL activities. That is there's *no way* to control listening volume through your amp or receiver when watching DVD's and control listening volume through the TV or another amp when watching TV. I couldn't believe it when the tech kept insisting this was a FEATURE, not a BUG!

All in all, I still like the 880. The color screen 'soft-button' screen is marvelous (as is the auto-lighting control). The charger cradle has worked well for us and it's nice to have a defined home base for the unit so we always know where to look for it. The Help function is marvelous - especially for those times when the device(s) manage to get out of sync with the control (for instance if someone mistakenly uses the native remote to turn the TV on or off or change the input).

-Wes
post #10 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by WesN
3. Activity Function Linking: This is my biggest gripe to date - and one that I can't believe Harmony hasn't (and apparently has no intention of) fixed. If you program a button function under one activity (for instance, assign volume control to the TV under "Watch TV") the Harmony remote automatically assigns the same function under ALL activities. That is there's *no way* to control listening volume through your amp or receiver when watching DVD's and control listening volume through the TV or another amp when watching TV. I couldn't believe it when the tech kept insisting this was a FEATURE, not a BUG!
I hate this as well, and to make it worse, if you need to remove some of the custom buttons that have propogated globally, you have to remember just under which device you added them to remove (i.e. if under Playstation activity you add a control for the TV menu function and you see that when tweaking the "VCR" ativity and try to remove, it won't remove them...you have to go back under Playstation activity to remove if it screws up other activities).

I've spent three nights, couple hours at a time trying to get this remote to do what I want it too; not quite as flexible in creation of macros as my MX-500 was, but in the end, the simple iconic activities are a must for the wife and child (and the form factor in terms of it sitting in your hand is much better than the MX-500)

All in all, I'm liking the remote, but the web interface leaves a lot to be desired (especially as it "forces" you down certain paths to make tweaks to activities) and the soft buttons on the remote itself (for activities, etc) are a bit narrow to use (it would have been great to have more rounded, yet tiny buttons such as those used on a Treo, for example).
post #11 of 156
Wes

I'm a little confused by your posting with regard to the volume control. When setting up the various activities I was prompted to enter what device (TV or receiver) will control the volume. Therefore when I hit 'Watch DVD' my receiver controls the volume and the +,- volume buttons control the dial on my receiver. While when I hit 'Watch TV' the volume is done by the TV itself. This seems to work fine but I'm in the middle of a DVD and don't want to interrupt it at this point.

-Jody
post #12 of 156
What if you sometimes use the TV speakers and sometimes use your AV system with the TV? For day to day viewing I use the TV speakers but when football is on or I'm watching a movie on cable I might prefer to run through my HT. Can you set up two "watch TV" functions, one foe basic TV and another for HT purposes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jodeus
Wes

I'm a little confused by your posting with regard to the volume control. When setting up the various activities I was prompted to enter what device (TV or receiver) will control the volume. Therefore when I hit 'Watch DVD' my receiver controls the volume and the +,- volume buttons control the dial on my receiver. While when I hit 'Watch TV' the volume is done by the TV itself. This seems to work fine but I'm in the middle of a DVD and don't want to interrupt it at this point.

-Jody
post #13 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by TH3_FRB
What if you sometimes use the TV speakers and sometimes use your AV system with the TV? For day to day viewing I use the TV speakers but when football is on or I'm watching a movie on cable I might prefer to run through my HT. Can you set up two "watch TV" functions, one foe basic TV and another for HT purposes?
For this, you'll have to create two different actions. Watch TV using TV Speakers. Watch TV using processor.

this is from the Harmony FAQ:

If you sometimes listen to the sound from the Stereo Receiver and at other times listen from the TV speakers when watching Television, add two separate Activities:

To add an Activity, please choose "Add an Activity" under the blue ‘Activities" banner on your home page.
Choose No - manually add an activity to my setup.
Select the type of Activity desired.
Choose the option that best describes the Activity.
Follow the Activity setup wizard and choose the Television for sound.
Once you are back to the home page, add a second Activity by repeating steps 1 to 4.
Choose the Stereo Receiver for sound.
Choose Customize beside each of the newly created Activities and then choose Rename xxxx where xxxx is the name of the Activity.
Update the Remote.
post #14 of 156
You can't just remap the volume on the page that does the volume mapping? Because I have a similiar situation, where in the case of HTPC, use HTPC as volume control, but all other cases, use the receiver.

I think it automapped it at first, then after I set the mapping page, it didn't try to mess with me anymore. I also added the normal receiver volumes on the HTPC activity into the custom page though.
post #15 of 156
Another question for those of you that have the 880. Does it have a "." button? When watching OTA HD channels I need to type 10.1 for example. Or what I would prefer since there are only 6 OTA channels I watch, could I assign each channel to one of the soft buttons so that I can just pick the channel I want from the display?
post #16 of 156
I don't have the remote in front of me, but it has the two buttons left and right of 0, I assigned one as '.'

Your case is like mine, I only have a few OTA channels, so I just had it set to favorite channels (media screen) when using the STB OTA. Way easier, than punching in the numbers, and I can assign channel logos to it.
post #17 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkwire
I don't have the remote in front of me, but it has the two buttons left and right of 0, I assigned one as '.'

Your case is like mine, I only have a few OTA channels, so I just had it set to favorite channels (media screen) when using the STB OTA. Way easier, than punching in the numbers, and I can assign channel logos to it.
I used the '+' button. I also went the favorites route. If I want to watch CBS, I just hit the CBS Logo.
post #18 of 156
Spend the extra $$ and get the MX850...GREAT remote...easy to program, does everything you need it and it is RF.
post #19 of 156
Quote:
For this, you'll have to create two different actions. Watch TV using TV Speakers. Watch TV using processor.
This is exactly what I did. Most of the time, 90% or so, I'm watching through the cable box dvr and sound routes through my processor. Occassionally I'll have 2 shows set to record at the same time and want to watch a 3rd live show. Can't do that through the cable box so I have the tv setup through the antenna input and volumn control through the tv. I setup a Watch TV Antenna and a Watch TV. The antenna one sets the volume control through tv, but normal watch tv is through the processor.

Can you view tv listings on the screen? The web page says:

"To get the latest TV listings, use the Update link above."

But I haven't figured out how to get that to work yet.
post #20 of 156
Last time I checked it doesn't work. It just updates the remote.
post #21 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by PlasmaGirl
Spend the extra $$ and get the MX850...GREAT remote...easy to program, does everything you need it and it is RF.
Totally agree PGirl. We had this debate in another thread and I pointed out that's the problem I have with Harmony--it is too difficult to customize--the MX-850 is much much easier. The only thing it doesn't do is make me dinner! :D
post #22 of 156
Damn, for almost 3x the amount of the Harmony 880 (retail to retail), the MX 850 "better" fix me dinner. :)
post #23 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zilla
Damn, for almost 3x the amount of the Harmony 880 (retail to retail), the MX 850 "better" fix me dinner. :)
Actually, you can get the MX-850 for $260 plus another $60 or so for the RF unit from Mike from Surf Remote. So its actually as cheap or cheaper than the 880.
post #24 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmulder
Actually, you can get the MX-850 for $260 plus another $60 or so for the RF unit from Mike from Surf Remote. So its actually as cheap or cheaper than the 880.
I must have taken a different math class than you. I paid under $200 for my 880, which would appear to be $60-$120 cheaper ;)
post #25 of 156
Sorry, I was thinking about the MX-950, around $700, makeing about 3x$ H880.
post #26 of 156
Thread Starter 
LCD screen on my 880 is fading. I noticed it today. It is getting white wash on the edges and streaks across the middle. Anyone else experienced this?
I am guessing this is because when it is sitting on the dock station it constantly slide shows pictures keeping the LCD on about 90% of the time. I can't figure out how to make the LCD just turn off when it is on the dock. I am going to also contact Logitech this week to see about a replacement.
I am not paying $170 for a remote and have the screen wash out in a month.
post #27 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roofus
.....I can't figure out how to make the LCD just turn off when it is on the dock......
Hi Roofus,

The solution is to create your own slide show with black images. (I think you only have to put black images in the first two slots).

Ron
post #28 of 156
It is called "LCD persistance" and it is reversible by displaying other images.

http://compreviews.about.com/od/moni.../LCDBurnIn.htm

LCD Image Persistence
From Mark Kyrnin,
Your Guide to PC Hardware / Reviews.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!

Can Burn-In Happen to LCD Monitors?
Introduction

One of the problems with CRT monitors over time was a condition called burn-in. This resulted in an imprint of a image onto the display that was permanent. It was caused from the continuous display of a particular image on the screen for extended periods of time. This would cause a breakdown in the phosphors on the CRT and would result in the image being burned into the screen, hence the term burn-in.

LCD monitors use a very different method for producing the image on the screen and are supposed to be immune to this burn in effect. Rather than phosphors being used to generate the light and color, an LCD has a white light behind the screen and then uses polarizers and crystals to filter the light to specific colors. While LCDs are not susceptible to the burn-in the same way CRT monitors are, they do suffer from what the manufacturers like to call image persistence.

What is Image Persistence?

Like the burn-in on CRTs, image persistence on LCD monitors is caused by the continuous display of static graphics on the screen for extended periods of time. What this does is cause the LCD crystals to have a memory for their location in order to generate the colors of that graphic. When a different color is then displayed in that location, the color will be off from what it should be and instead have a faint image of what was previously displayed.

This problem is most common for elements of the display that do not change. So items that are likely to generate a persistent image are the task bar, desktop icons and even background images. All of these tend to be static in their location and will be displayed on the screen for extended period of time. Once other graphics are loaded over these locations, it may be possible to see a faint outline or image of the previous graphic.

Is it permanent?

In most cases, no. The crystals do have a natural state and can shift depending upon the amount of current used to generate the desired color. As long as these colors do shift periodically, the crystals at that pixel should fluctuate enough such that the image will not be permanently imprinted into the crystals. Having said that, it is possible that the crystals could get a permanent memory if the screen image does not change at all and the screen is left on all the time. It is very unlikely for a consumer to have this happen as it is more likely to happen in a fixed display such as those seen as display boards for businesses that do not change.

Can it be prevented/corrected?

Yes, image persistence on LCD screens can be corrected in most cases and is easily prevented. Prevention of image persistence can be done through some of the following methods:

Set the screen to turn off after a few minutes of screen idle time under the Power functions in Windows. Turning the monitor display off will prevent an image from being displayed on the screen for extended periods of time. Of course, this could be annoying to some people as the screen may go off more than they wish.
Use a screen saver that either rotates, has moving graphic images or is blank. This also prevents an image for being displayed in screen for too long.
Rotate any background images on the desktop. Background images are one of the most common causes for image persistence. By switching backgrounds every day or few days, it should reduce the change of persistence.
Turn off the monitor when the system is not in use. This will prevent any problems where the screen saver or power function fails to turn off the screen and result in an image sitting on the screen for long times.
Using these items can help prevent the image persistence problem from cropping up on a monitor. But what if the monitor is already displaying image persistence problems? Here are a few steps that can be used to try and correct it:

Turn off the monitor for extended periods of time. It can be as little as several hours or it could be as long as several days.
Use a screen saver with a rotating image and run it for extended periods of time. The rotating color palette should help remove the persistent image but it could take a long time.
Run the screen with a single solid color or bright white for an extended period of time. This will cause all of the crystals to be reset at a single color setting and should erase and previous image persistence.
Conclusions

While LCDs don't have the same burn-in problem that affected CRTs, the image persistence problem could come about. Hopefully this article has addressed what the issue is, what causes it, how to prevent it and how to correct it. With all the preventative steps in place, a user should never really have to encounter this problem.
post #29 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jodeus
Wes

I'm a little confused by your posting with regard to the volume control. When setting up the various activities I was prompted to enter what device (TV or receiver) will control the volume. Therefore when I hit 'Watch DVD' my receiver controls the volume and the +,- volume buttons control the dial on my receiver. While when I hit 'Watch TV' the volume is done by the TV itself. This seems to work fine but I'm in the middle of a DVD and don't want to interrupt it at this point.

-Jody
Jody,

Sorry to take so long to get back (I need to set up email notification for messages on this forum).

I don't recall the intial configuration, as set up during the "Add An Activity" process (which uses a series of Q&A screens to set up the initial configuration for your various activities). I ran into the 'issue' when subsequently customizing the Activity under the "Change the behaviour of buttons" function (Activities/Customize/Change the behaviour of buttons). For instance, on my "Watch DVD" function, I want the volume control to be via the DVD player, not the TV (my DVD feeds the audio directly to a separate amp and speaker set). If I change the value shown under Button for Volume Up and Volume Down under the TV Volume Control column from VolumeUp and VolumeDown to the 'blank' entry, this changes the same button value for all other Activities to 'blank'.

I know this sounds crazy - and it is - but that's how it works. What's even crazier is that the Harmony support person I spoke to said the Harmony was set up this way intentionally - a feature rather than a bug! Hopefully they'll come to their senses and give us the full range of programmability that this (otherwise pretty wonderful) programmable controller is capable of.

-Wes
post #30 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonBos
Hi Roofus,

The solution is to create your own slide show with black images. (I think you only have to put black images in the first two slots).

Ron
Here is an image for ya...2 lines on the top are transparent so you can see the charging info
LL
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