Harmony 680 & 880/885 Review
many remotes do you have in your house?
You've got a TV, Cable/Freeview/Sky box, VCR,
DVD Recorder, Hi-Fi and Home Theatre Equipment?
Imagine setting up your home theater system or
Media Center PC to watch a DVD movie with full
surround sound… listening to your CDs in
full stereo… or enjoying your favorite TV
shows. How many remote controls would you have
to cycle through? Do you remember the button sequences
to perform these activities?
Which remote do you pick up?
Get a Logitech Harmony Remote Control
and make life easy for your family!
No more figuring out which one to pick up to
do what. Read on for my personal opinion and
Is the Harmony 880 / 885 the Best Programmable
Last Christmas my wife and I purchased a new TV,
Freeview box and 5.1 Surround Sound / DVD Player system.
the other home entertainment system items we owned,
we now have 6 remotes, and my missus was doing her
in. Ok, I admit it, sometimes I was too!
So I spent pretty much all of Christmas and the first
week of 2006 researching the best one for my money.
You will see from my other review page on the best
universal remote control that I narrowed the choice
down to 3 different makes.
Logitech has won a total of eight Industrial Design
Excellence Awards (IDEA) in the past two years, including
five of Japan´s prestigious 2004 Good Design Awards.
After choosing the Logitech Harmony
product range as being what I considered the best featured,
I then had to make a decision as to exactly which
Harmony model to go for, and it may suprise you
to learn that it was not the latest and best model,
which at the time of writing is the Harmony 885 !
My budget was to be a maximum of £100 (US$176),
and after scouting around various online shops for the
best deal I eventually bought a Logitech Harmony 680
unit for £88 (about US$153), and that included
VAT and delivery charges, and gave me a far superior
product than if I had spent just £15 less on a
more budget make and model (which I very nearly did,
and was glad I took the time to do the research).
So here you are - hopefully this page will help you
understand how and why I decided on the Harmony
680 from all the other makes and models,
and I will also, I hope, reduce some of your time
which remote to get. First I will cover the Harmony
880 / 885 as it is currently the latest and
probably the most hyped of the Logitech range.
880 Advanced Universal Remote
The Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote
looks great. It puts you in control of your entire
audio-video system with just one button. It´s
home entertainment the way it should be—simple.
Optimized for complicated HDTV and PVR systems,
the Harmony 880 helps you tame
tough configurations like switching your television
between video aspect ratios depending on the program
source. The interactive color display lets you
quickly choose a 16:9 ratio for movies and HDTV,
or a standard 4:3 ratio for basic television programming.
High-end systems deserve a high-end remote. Designed
with brushed chrome and charcoal accents, a color
LCD display and a low-profile recharging station,
the Harmony 880 Remote will match
your most advanced audio-video components perfectly.
Featuring a comfort grip shape
and a centered directional pad, it fits easily
in your hand and naturally guides you to the most
frequently used controls. The buttons are sculpted
too, helping you locate them by feel, not sight.
The patented Logitech Smart State Technology
allows the Harmony remote to completely control
an entertainment system by knowing how to control
each separate component while tracking the current
state of up to 15 devices simultaneously. In
other words it remembers which items are turned
on or off, and which inputs were selected.
Both the Harmony 680 and 880 have a unique Internet
approach to setting them up - the Web Wizard.
You will need a computer (with Windows
98SE/ME/2000/XP or MAC OS X 10.2 +) and Internet
connection (I use Broadband) to access the web site,
which leads you through setting up, and a standard
USB cable (supplied) plugs into one end of the remote,
and the other into your computer.
After setting up, the Web Wizard uploads a program containing
all your settings into the remote, and voila, you can control your system. You
just repeat the process if you want to tweak any settings. We found it to be
easy to learn and use.
The Harmony range use dual infra-red emitters at the front. These
provide a powerful beam up to 25 feet. In use I can casually point the remote
kinda "roughly" in the direction of the fireplace, and magically it
operates ALL of the items correctly, even from across the other side of the room.
Before buying I was wondering about this because our DVD Recorder was a fussy
little thing about how you pointed the original remote control at it. Not a
The Harmony 880´s color LCD
is both functional and stylish, with user-customizable
button icons and text, it makes the Harmony
stand out from the crowd.
Pretty, yes, but
it just a gimmick you are paying good money for?
The Harmony 880 includes a sleek
docking station that keeps the remote fully
charged. Your family
will always know where to put the remote—and
you´ll always know where to find it! You
need never replace batteries again.
This is a great idea, but read on.... other
owners of the 880 have said that there is a design fault with the charger
cradle, which unless particular care is taken in placing the remote into
the charger means it doesn't make a proper connection and so it does
not charge up!
And will the rest of your family actually remember
to put the remote into the charger - properly?
Most people have the remote either on the coffee
table, or on the armchair within easy reach, and
you certainly don't want a wire trailing across
the floor to the charger base on your coffee table.
Just a minor point, but something worth considering
depending on your household and who will actually
be using the remote. That being said the remote
only requires a couple of hours charging every
3 or 4 days.
Easy To Set-Up
You connect the Harmony remote to
your computer and the Web wizard walks you
a simple set up. Enter in your model numbers
for your components, then answer a few easy
about how you “Watch TV” or “Watch
a DVD.” You´ll be controlling even
the most complex system without any of the
of elaborate macro-programming.
I got the main components of my setup working
in about 30 minutes (all the Harmony remotes
the same Internet Web Wizard method of setting
them up regardless of model), although you will
things until they are how you like them for a
while longer. Personally I think it
is this tailorability that is part of the fun
Once you have configured the settings
using the Web wizard, it just takes a 2-minute
upload of the configured program into the remote,
and then you can test your settings. If something
doesn't work right just fix it in the Web wizard,
and upload into the remote again. Repeat as many
times as necessary until you are happy with it!
Easy To Use
The Harmony Remote is the world´s
only remote with Smart State Technology®.
Just press one of the Activity buttons,
such as “Watch TV” or “Listen
to Music,” and your Harmony Remote automatically
sets up your entertainment system, without
ever having to learn about or program a "macro".
Easy To Find in the dark too! You can set the
880 remote to light up all the buttons when you
pick it up. The light stays on for a set amount
of time (determined by you) before ging out again.
Easy To Get Help
With the Harmony remote, you don´t have
to know anything about your entertainment system
to operate it. No sound? No picture? No problem!
There´s even a handy “HELP”
button to guide you through simple troubleshooting
and get you back in control. Everyone from the
kids to the babysitter can now enjoy the full
home theater experience.
Never Out of Date
The Harmony Remote device database is constantly
updated with new components and fine-tuned settings.
Simply connect it to your computer using its USB
interface, and your remote is updated automatically!
This is a great concept! The Harmony remotes
can learn the infra-red codes for new TV's,
boxes, recorders, lighting controls, etc in case
the central Internet database does not know about
(although the database is absolutely massive
and you usually can find something similar for
point). And because anything new is handled by
the central database, it means that new equipment
is then available for other people.
880 vs. 885
The main differences between the 880 and the
885 models are that the 880 is targeted at USA
markets, while the 885 is for the European market
which has different Teletext options.
Basically the page up and down buttons have been
replaced by four Teletext (Fasttext) colour buttons.
The European model therefore gives you two extra
buttons to play with. There will likely be a
between the two as well.
This is the one for me! As I explained it's not
the top of the line and considerably more expensive
flashy Harmony 880 detailed above.
It also uses the Smart State Technology to remember
current equipment settings.
And it has a Help button to guide
you through troubleshooting. Mrs. P has used this
on a couple of occasions when things have got
out of sync, and she is very happy now!
For example, sometimes when the grand-children
come round, rather than use the remote, they turn
off the TV or DVD player using the actual Standby
button on the front of the TV/DVD. Before this
she would simply have shouted me to come and sort
it out, very frustrating when I am not available!
So why did I choose
the Harmony 680 instead of the 880?
- Cheaper, and within my budget.
- Although it is an older model it is still
perfectly adequate for my setup.
- Has the same activity based features.
- Out of the other Harmony models, I preferred
the harder, jewel style buttons of the 680,
as compared to the rubber style buttons of
the other models, such as the 659, 676 and
Also they are more raised and tactile than
the plastic buttons on the 880 and 885, meaning
you don't have to look at the control as much
because you can feel the shape and layout of
the buttons, and
this was another main reason why I prefer the
- With kids around I felt this model would be
- I had concerns about the remote not seating
on the charger properly, and preferred to use
my own charger and spare set of batteries.
Left to right: Harmony 880 / 688 / 680 / 676 /
More Info on the Logitech Harmony 680 Universal Remote
A Closer Look At
The Harmony 680
With the Logitech Harmony 680 advanced universal
remote control, a single button is all it takes.
That's right: Just press “My Videos,”
“My Music,” or “My TV”
on your Harmony 680 and all your equipment turns
on and automatically adjusts to the right settings.
It´s called Smart State Technology®,
and it will put you and your family back in control
of your home entertainment system.
Plus, the Harmony 680 lets you seamlessly integrate
your Media Center PC with your
Home Theater setup. Right out of the box, the
Harmony 680 is pre-configured for Windows®
XP Media Center Edition. To program
the remote to work with the rest of your home
components, simply log on to the Logitech Web
site and use the Web Wizard to set up the remote.
Once the set up process
is complete, everyone from the kids to the babysitter
can enjoy the full Media PC entertainment experience.
I shopped around and bought my Harmony 680 for
£88 including VAT and delivery charges!
The Harmony 680 does eat batteries for breakfast
particularly during your first couple of weeks
while you set it up, tweak it, and generally
play with it, so I would recommend you buy a
charger for the four AAA batteries. I picked
up a mini-battery charger for just under £5
from my local Dixons store, plus a couple of
of batteries. Once you settle down to normal
use of the remote the batteries last considerably
longer. Generally I have found they last 2 or
3 months between each charging, but we don't
Remotes use Activity and Device Based Operation
Initially you set up each individual "device" that
the remote will operate (it can store up to 15).
For example your
TV, Freeview box, and DVD Player/Home Theatre
5.1 Surround Sound System, your Video Recorder
and DVD Recorder. All of these 5 are considered
Basically I found it best
to ensure the Harmony knew about every
single button that was on the original
devices remote control unit. This way you know
that you can control every aspect of the device
without having the old remote control. Once all
these buttons are known by the Harmony (either
from the online database, or by the Harmony learning
new infra-red codes), you can assign the functions
to ANY of the buttons on the Harmony remote.
Press the Device button and a
list of your devices will show in the LCD display.
Select one using the arrow keys at the side of
the display, and then you have independent control
of just that single device. In normal operation
you very rarely use the Device button.
It is only necessary if you need to access some
of the more unusual functions for that device,
e.g. the TV setup menu, which is normally just
a one-off task when you first get your TV.
Activities are where the Harmony
remotes become interesting, and are the whole
point of having a universal remote control. This
is how you combine the operation of several devices into one activity. So to "Watch TV",
you combine the TV, the satellite/freeview box
and your surround sound system (3 devices) into
The Web Wizard program leads you
through this with sensible defaults. Then you
Harmony which devices are assigned to which buttons
in the Activity, so let's look at just a couple
of buttons as an example .....
Volume Up/Down, Mute, is assigned to the Surround
Channel Up/Down and numeric keypad, Guide, Info,
Menu & Exit buttons are assigned to control
the Satellite box
Sound & Picture
There are also two other important buttons called
Sound and Picture
which toggle an additional mode of operation.
For example I have programmed my remote so that
pressing the Sound button displays
commonly used "sound" related functions
in the LCD display, so that I can select Soundfield
on my 5.1 Surround Sound Amp which changes between
all the modes like Dolby Pro Logic, Movie, Music,
Stereo, Rear Virtual Speakers, etc.
And for the Picture mode, it
displays "picture" related functions
that I frequently like to change, like the brightness
on my LCD TV can be switched thru Standard, Soft,
Strong and Custom, or the picture ratio
can be switched thru 16:9, 4:3, Panoramic, Zoom,
and so on.
Activities are incredibly flexible, you can create
256 different Activities, and each one has a basic
mode, sound mode and picture mode, each of which
can have pretty much ANY device function assigned
to ANY button. Again the system defaults commonly
used button combinations to reduce the amount
of initial setup work you need to do.
I found the best thing to do was to "play
with the Web Wizard configuration program so
that I got the
hang of it all before I started making fine adjustments.
The programmability of the remote is what really
appealed to me, and I quite enjoyed getting stuck
into making it all work. Like I said, you can
get your basic device functions up and running
really very quickly (like on/off, input selections,
channel hopping and volume
, i.e. sufficient
to keep people happy initially, then you can
tweak the setup in your own time improving the
like your system to operate.
The Web Wizard program also walks you through
some potentially tricky issues like timing and
synchronization problems, and telling the remote
which of several different methods your equipment
uses to select inputs. For example, the TV might
take a certain amount of time to switch to different
inputs, so the remote must allow enough time
this to happen before sending the next infra-red
command to cycle to the next input. Also some
TV's require you to press the same Input select
button repeatedly, while other TV's have seperate
Input select buttons for TV/AV1/AV2, etc.
Logitech also provide an excellent Helpdesk &
Support Line to help you through any problems,
although I never had to resort to this. I just
know from various peoples experience that they
spoke very highly of the assistance they received
from the customer service department to iron out
in your Living Room
Now how cool is this? Ok, so it's the height of
laziness, and yet another gadget, but I love it.
I just recently
purchased a Varilight® Infra-Red
Dimmer control (details of their Infra-red
dimmer control units can be found at Varilight.co.uk),
wired it to operate the two sets of lights in our
living room, and configured my Harmony Remote to
operate it (true
to form the
for the dimmer).
The Varilight dimmers are easy to use. Click here
for a page to learn more about this remote
control lighting dimmer, and also the Lutron
Maestro IR Dimmer which works on 120V AC.
The dimmer unit works really
well with the Harmony. Again its dead easy,
passes the "wife can work it" test!!
I had wondered whether I would have to twist
round to point my Harmony directly at the
dimmer unit to make it work, but my Harmony
will operate the lights faultlessly even
if I point the remote unit at the opposite
wall, even though the actual Varilight
dimmer is on the wall behind me.
Just shows how good and powerful the IR
transmitters are in the Harmony.
In my Harmony I set up three button actions,
which I added into every Activity;
1) Main Lights for my main
room wall lights which are theatre-style
uplighters, 2) Standard Lamp for
our vertical standard lamp which stands in
a corner of the room, 3) ALL Lights,
this button operates both dimmers at once
(a bit of fun is to set one light on dim,
the other on bright, then press+hold ALL
Lights, and both lights cycle in opposite
brightnesses to each other, totally pointless
but might be useful if you had a disco in
the room - only kidding!).
think these are excellent little units, and even
though a bit expensive, well worth the money
if you like the lighting to be "just right" depending
on whether you're eating, reading or settling down
for a good movie. Sweet. Oh, I'm so lazy!
VARILIGHT REMOTE CONTROL INFRA RED DIMMER
is a revolutionary new range of touch and
remote control dimmer switches.
There is a touch sensitive button in the
centre of the plate and a tiny lens in
button so as to not spoil the overall look
of the product.
You can dim the lights using touch control
In learning mode, it can be taught any button
of most existing infra-red remote controllers.
i.e. use a spare button on your existing
TV, VCR or CD remote to dim the lights before
settling down to a good movie.
Click here for more information on this
and other infra-red
remote control lighting dimmers.
I think the Harmony Remote Controls and the method
of working them are an excellent system, particularly
now that I have been able to use it and play around
with it. There are a few idiosyncracies within
the Web wizard which you soon become accustomed
to, however the beauty of this system is that,
being an online system, Logitech have full and
instant control over the central database and
any software updates can be downloaded instantly
and uploaded to the remote control, therefore
making it future-proof so that refinements to
the way it all operates can be readily implemented.
If you have a laptop computer handy, I would
recommend using that while setting up the remote.
in your living room to reduce journeys which
might otherwise occur between your entertainment
and your PC in another room while tweaking the
I chose the Harmony 680 because I felt it was
more family oriented and was within my budget.
There is a side to me that secretly wishes I had
got the Harmony 880 instead, had circumstances
been different, but regardless I am very pleased
with my purchase, which by the way was from www.scan.co.uk,
who provided an excellent sales and delivery tracking
service, and also were at the time one of the
cheapest and reputable suppliers I could find
Where Can You Find More Universal Remote
There is a massive amount of choice available, and
some very good online reviews and user forums, which
is why it took me so long to decide on the best
learning remote control I could get for the least
(or sensible) amount of money.
2000 Live TV channels?
Amazing! PC on TV!
I think the best and most detailed review site can
be found at www.remotecentral.com
There are many excellent resources available on Google.com,
simply perform a search for "logitech harmony 680
review" or "harmony 880 remote control"
and you will find an oasis of useful information.
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