Product Spotlight: Logitech Harmony 880Tom Merritt goes deep into how well this universal remote does--and doesn't do--the job.
>> The Logitech Harmony series of remotes consistently gets good ratings from CNET editors and users. But how does it wear over time? Well, I've been living with one for six months, so I'm going to tell you. I'm Tom Merit from cnet.com. We're going to shine the Product Spotlight on the Logitech Harmony remote. ^M00:00:17 [ Music ] ^M00:00:21 >> I got the Harmony 880 back in December. It was a gift. It's a universal remote that promises to be the easiest in the world to setup and use. And it comes pretty close to the mark. The setup is probably the hardest part. It's not even that hard. You start with some software you install on your computer. First annoyance, the software installs itself into your start-up. Please, companies, I don't need to reprogram my remote every day. So I don't need the setup software to auto-start. Okay, back to the program. It's a modified Internet Explorer box that connects to Harmony's database on line and walks you through the steps of programming your device. Now the idea is that you put in your device name and the software finds the proper codes with which to program your remote. That's great for most devices, but it gets a little funky if you don't know a device's proper name, or its too new to be in the database. The Apple TV wasn't in the database when I first got it, and hence it's not controlled by my Harmony. Now there is an option to train the Harmony remote the way you would a regular universal remote, but it just didn't work for me. As you setup devices you can group them into activities. So for instance, the Watch a DVD Activity will turn on the TV, the DVD player, the speakers, et cetera. The activities work great, but they take a little tweaking. I customized my Xbox 360 so the activity didn't turn it on and off. I can turn the Xbox on and off with the Xbox controller which I need to play games with anyway, and it's handy to have it stay on when everything else goes off, so incase I'm downloading something from the Xbox Marketplace, it stays downloaded. Now, another annoyance, the setup program is meant for setting up. Which means changing things later after you've setup can be a little bit of a hassle. For instance, when I changed my speakers it took me a while to go through and adjust every activity to play with the speakers correctly. Once you're through with setup, the remote works really well. It's nice to be able to press just one button and have everything jump into action. A slight annoyance, you do have to keep the remote pointed towards all your devices while it turns them all on. Sometimes if I'm not oriented correctly my speakers don't come on. The remote does have handy help screens to walk you through figuring out if something didn't get activated properly. That almost always fixes the problem. Now those activities that we mentioned setting up earlier, assign different buttons to different functions. So for instance, if you're watching TV, the channel buttons will change the channel on the tuner, whereas the volume buttons will change the volume on the speakers. Well, that's great most of the time. But what if you want all of the buttons to control just one device. Don't reach for those old remotes yet, just press the device button. It will bring up a list of devices, you can then control the individual device from there. You know, overall the Harmony 880 has certainly cleared up a lot of space on my coffee table and made things a lot easier to use. The few annoyances are largely outweighed by the benefits. I'm Tom Merit from cnet.com, and I approve this remote. ^M00:03:28 [ Music ]