Harmony 880 Remote Control
By Ron Goldberg
It's been a year since Logitech acquired Intrigue Technologies, makers of the web-based Harmony Remote system. Since then, all eyes have been on the company to see how the Harmony might be modified and/or improved (not always the same thing) by the accessories giant. The new 880 is the first Harmony remote credited to Logitech's design team.
Similar to previous Harmony models, the 880 is a one-handed remote based on hard-button operation, rather than an LCD touchscreen. While many of the handset's buttons are dedicated to global tasks (volume, transport, numeric entry, et cetera), some are also soft, in that their functions can be customized. The system works by controlling user "activities"—basically macro strings that establish a particular configuration—that are loaded via the web. The programmer selects the relevant components in the customer's setup from the Harmony web site and arranges them into these activities, such as "watch a DVD," "listen to music," and so on.
The most striking addition of the new 880 is the inclusion of a backlit color LCD screen that graphically displays the activities, functions and other system information. The icon-driven graphics are much more readable and accessible than on prior Harmony remotes, where the user interaction was text-based. The backlighting system in general bears mention, as it is particularly well-designed. The unit's backlight turns on when you pick up the remote and not only illuminates the LCD window, but key hard and soft buttons throughout the remote as well.
The second obvious enhancement over previous Harmony remotes is that the 880 is powered by a lithium-ion battery. The included charger features a stylish blue backlight and provides a simple dock where the family will put the remote every week or so, which is about how long Logitech claims for average use.