Logitech Harmony 880 Unties my A/V Knots

Logitech Harmony 880 universal remoteI hate to do gadget porn, but I've got a new addition to the A/V equipment stack that's been making me very happy. (Plus, it's Holidailies time and I need to write about something every day.)

The new device is a Logitech Harmony 880 Universal remote control. Although my Denon A/V receiver has a multi-device remote control, it wasn't doing the job. Some tasks, like TV watching, required juggling multiple remotes. The one task we could completely do with that single remote was play DVDs—at least we could until the new HD-DVD player arrived. The Denon remote didn't understand the new player.

One of the very nice things about the Logitech device is how well it works with very old and very new equipment—precisely the thing that gave the Denon remote fits. That's because the Logitech remote is programmable. It is managed by a web-based application, backed by an extensive equipoment database. The Logitech remote understood every device we had, from the old dual-deck Go Video VCR to the brand new HD-DVD player.

The best thing about the programmable remote is that it is "activity oriented". As opposed to controlling the individual devices, you just push a button that says "Watch a DVD" or "Digital Music". The button fires off a sequence of commands that does all the work (e.g. turn on TV, turn on receiver, turn on DVD, switch receiver to DVD input, switch TV to video5 input, etc.)

The configuration is malleable enough so that I could create my own activities (such as "Watch Multi-Region DVD") easily enough.

One thing that's really nice about the device is that unlike typical remote controls, it only has a few "hard" buttons, which cover the most common actions. That makes the device very streamlined and easy to use. All other functions are accessed through "soft" buttons that appear on the LCD display. This is really smart design.

The biggest disadvantage is that you lose a lot of individual device control. For instance, when I switch from "Watch a DVD" to "Watch TV", it powers down the DVD player whether I want to or not. (Sometimes I don't, because I want to keep my place on the disk.) But even annoyances such as this are fixable. If I wanted to I could go into the programming and remove the "power down everything else" step from the control sequences.

Overall, I've been pleased with the Logitech Harmony 880 universal remote.