My Review (get out the reading glasses):
Price Paid: $113 after rebate to my door
IF SP4805 Projector
Onkyo LR522 Reciever
Motorola 6412 (I think) cable box
Toshiba 120 Hour Tivo w/DVD burner
Since I like it both ways (easy and fast and complex but detailed) here is my shorty review:
Well built, generally easy to use this remote handily replaces my almost dozen other remotes and actually makes me feel confident putting them in the box for storage as I won't need them but for very rarely.
Only a few programming and functionality hicciups keep this from doing everything I want and it's layout is very good and useable. For about $100 I think it's great, for the retail $300 price tag I would say they need to do some more work on it before I could really feel it's justified.
If you have lots of remotes or someone in the house who just doens't do well with complicated electronic setups this is a solid choice.
Long winded version:
I don't have the fanciest home theater and I haven't owned hundreds of expensive universal remotes but I am a techno geek and I know what I want and what its' worth... and I think the 880 has me covered.
My only other learning remote was the Harmon Kardon TC1000, and it had some short commings but was also very easy to program, the software that came with it was generally well laid out and the options were plenty. But I didn't like the LCD touchscreen (something seems wrong about looking at your remote every time you push a button) and the fact it didn't remember when stuff was on got problematic resulting in the macros only being useful some of the time and some actions actually getting harder.
I got a handful of universal remotes, some of which I really like, but none as flexible as I really wanted. Then the 880 caught my eye; it has the eye candy I like, it offers features I want, and with the rebate I got it for $113 to my door. Couldn't resist.
I have now had the remote for 5 days and I have to say that it gets a solid 8 out of 10 from me and considering the price I don't think I could have done much better.
First off what I feel are high points:
I like the peanut style remotes, and while the 880 isn't truly peanut like in how Tivo remotes are it still fits nicely into the hand.
The screen has 8 soft buttons which I feel are adaquate for most things. When they aren't more pages are available with an easy to access button. In conjunction with the rest of the buttons I think it would be pretty hard for the average user to run out of option space.
The screen is color and makes nice eye candy. Does the screen saver add any usefulness? No... but if you honestly can say you don't care about the eye candy at all I think you are lying at least a little. It could have been better quality but for what it does it does it well and I think a better quality screen would have resulted in higher cost at no real benefit.
The rechargeable batter seems like a plus for me right now. I have to get used to putting the remote on teh charging dock, but that may help me not loose it so much.
The tilt sensor, despite seeming gimmicky is truly useful. Many remotes have the backlight button poorly placed (what's the point of a backlight to help you see buttons if you can't see the button for the backlight?) with the SP 4805 being a very smarly laid out exception. As silly as it seems, being able to pick up the remote and have it light up is truly a function you will start to wonder how you lived without.
Depth of remote codes was great, everything from my SP4805 to my XM Myfi was recognized with pretty much every command I could want available (many not on the original remotes).
Oddly, many of the pluses tie into where I find the minuses:
My biggest gripe has to be the programming... I am not one to overlook the value of streamlining and having a web app I guess allows for the easiest access to up to date info, but don't lots of programs check the web for updates automatically now anyway? And what about if my internet goes down or I just don't have internet? I am hosed?
Even worse is the way it forces you through dumbe down answer trees to get anything done. I told them I was an expert at this kind of thing when I signed up and I still feel like they think this is my first remote control ever. Not to mention if I want to change something at the end of the answer tree I have to waid through half a dozen questions to get to that part.
There are ways around some of it, but I think honestly Harmony's approach of "all one way" is stupid. Get that simplified web interface up for the people who don't want to tinker with making their own macros and such, but leave me an option to go in and easily tailor everthing. Many times I feel like they dumbed it down so much it became harder for those who know what they are doing... It's like Macs and that one stupid big button on the mouse (no offense to the Mac lovers), I sit down and put two fingers on it and immediately feel unhappy.
Harmony, I think a large part of your market wants MORE options, not LESS options. Give us the simplified one AND give us the complicated one. Let us choose!
Since programming it is such a big part of using this remote at all I think that warrants a pretty big chunk of unhappiness.
As a sort of sub gripe is the custom buttons, when you hit an activity, it turns on what you want on and then leaves you with a screen of custom buttons to do things related to that. Good idea.
But the way it's implemented bothers me and yet again wreaks of Harmony deciding how I will like things, or at least deciding they will go all one way or the other with no option for the odd man out.
Every actions custom button screen shows all the custom buttons you chose to show up for every device in that action. So while I am watching cable TV there are not really and custom buttons I want from my cable box because... it doesn't do that much... so I use all 8 slots for functions from my projector.
Now when I watch my tivo I want to program 4 buttons for tivo stuff, and use the remaining 4 for projector related stuff (I give up 4 buttons worth of projector stuff).
What happens? I can either have 8 projector related buttons (pushing the 4 tivo ones onto page 2) or I can have 4 projector related settings and 4 tivo (thus 8 buttons while watching tivo) but then only 4 buttons show up while watching cable. This leaves me with 4 unused soft buttons.
Now I may be anal in that I don't want to have wasted buttons or ahve to go to page 2 for stuff... but I bought a customizeable remote because I want it customized to just how I want it. Even worse apparently it used to be how I wanted it (every action gets it's own truly unique page of buttons) but people didn't like setting up the same thing over and over... so rather than making an option like they have for devices (copy the setup for another device) they force you into just having custom buttons by device. No option to go either way, just this way or nothing.
And apparently the work around is to create dummy copies of devices so they will have their own custom pages. So I can fix my cluttered custom buttons page by having a cluttered devices page? Great.
I am kind of worried about the battery dying in a few years and how much a new one will cost... unlike the rest of my home theater I don't usually feel the need to upgrade my remote if it does what I want.
Having to teather the base to a power plug kind of sucks as it means no putting it on the coffee table or such without cables around. Also it adds (a miniscule) amount of cost to my electric bill as wall warts are notoriously not efficient. Considering the other options I think not a bad trade. I would have liked to see it take standard AAA nimh and charge those inside but oh well...
As you can see the programming hiccups are what really irks me (and it's a programmable remote that is highly touted as programmable so I think that's fair).
On the physical and functional side very little seems wrong to me. The remotes layout seems a bit more asthaetic than utilitarian but it's a tradeoff for eye candy. The way the buttons are laid out I can only comfortably opperate the center group of buttons. The top (including soft buttons) leave me reaching or even two handing it sometimes (I do have smaller hands) and the bottom ones mean I have to hold the remote so far down it feels like its going to fall out of my hand.
Also the placement of the activities button seems odd, way up at the top left... aren't most of us right handed? And going to be hitting that with our right thumb? As it is I really have to reach to hit it with my right thumb, often leaving a big thumb print on the screen in the process. It seems that button is important enough and oft used that it should be much more central. I guess I can remap it to one of the central buttons but that hardly seems how it should be.
A few tweaks here and there (I will contact customer support about my desires but I won't be crushed if they don't address them and I don't see that Activities button moving) and I think this remote could be totally awesome. As it is, it feels me like the step right before the killer app. So close!!! Soooooo close!!!!!
Keep up the streamlining for the noobs but give us tech minded people our down and dirty options too!
Get away from web only programming! Yes we appreciate immediate access to the newest database possible, but I think mostly programming will be done in short bursts every now and then, MUCH better suited by downloading todays newest stuff as an update and giving me fast access for the rest of the 24 hours. There is a reason tax dcouments are updated once a year, no need to make me go to the IRS building EVERYTIME I do anything tax related.
Keep the updates to firmware comming giving us more options like customizeable Activities images etc and I think I would be hard pressed to give this less than a 9.5 out of 10.