Logitech Harmony 890 Pro Remote Control Review

ccokeman - 2007-08-16 05:28:40 in Gadgets
Category: Gadgets
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 27, 2007
Logitech
Logitech
Price: $399.99

Introduction:

"Honey, where is the remote for the cable box? I have the TV, sound, and DVD remotes, just no TV!" How familiar does that sound in your household? It's an everyday occurence in mine. There is always one of four missing. Whether the kids misplaced it or the dog hid it under the couch, it still comes up missing. Then there is the hassle of using four remotes to access the entertainment system. It gets old really fast. Is there a solution to the problem? Sure there is. You could head down to the local big box store and pick up an all in one remote that works on some of your system but not the rest, even though it should. What if I were to tell you there really is a solution to the problem, would you be interested? I was! I have always been skeptical about something that says it does it all, so here we go. The Logitech Harmony 890 Pro series is supposed to be able to control devices in multiple rooms without a line of sight to the device. According to the literature, it can set up macros to start up and shutdown all the devices needed for a specific task, such as watching a DVD or just the TV. Will this be the one stop shop for all of my remote needs? Let's find out.

Logitech was founded in 1981 in Switzerland. The company originally focused on mice, but soon moved into other arenas. Logitech has focused on that last inch between you and your computer, console and entertainment system. "With products sold in almost every country in the world, Logitech’s leadership in innovation now encompasses a wide variety of personal peripherals (both cordless and corded), with special emphasis on products for PC navigation, gaming, Internet communications, digital music and home-entertainment control."

 

Closer Look:

The box the product is sold in is the familiar green and white Logitech box. The front of the box shows the remote, while the rear of the box shows some of the features of the remote. The side panel illustrates the product without any details. Opening the flip open panel, the product is displayed prominently with the line of sight features highlighted.

 

 

 

 

 

After slipping the product out of the box, the product is set into a form fitting velvet like enclosure. The covering slips off and the shell splits into 2 pieces. The upper shell contains the charger bay and remote, while the lower shell includes the power supply and software.

 

Closer Look:

After pulling the remote free from its confines, it appears to be shaped to fit nicely into the user's hand. The charging bay and Harmony have matching contacts to facilitate the charging process.

 

 

 

 

The battery that comes with the Harmony is similar to what you might find in a cordless or even a cell phone. It is a lithium ion rechargeable battery with a 930 milliamp hour rating and runs the remote on 3.7v.

 

 

The battery slips into the Harmony in only one way, if it does not fit easily it is in wrong. To complete the installation of the battery just slide the battery cover into place and it is ready for charging.

 

 

The Harmony comes with a charging cradle to keep the battery charged on the remote. The charging cradle is powered by a small transformer that plugs into the wall to supply the charging voltage. The transformer plugs into the backside of the charging cradle and the cord tucks neatly into a recess on the back side.

 

 

The Harmony connects to the home computer via a USB cable. The remote is programmed using the Harmony software and Logitech's online database of home entertainment devices. The USB port on the Harmony is on top where you would normally see the infrared lens.

 

 

The harmony comes with all of the items needed to get you started from the battery to the software and charging transformer.

Installation:

Installing the Harmony is a two part process. First, you install the software provided by Logitech. Then you will plug the Harmony into any free USB port on the computer. Follow along as the software installation is completed to get an idea of how this remote works. The first thing to do to get started is to put the software CD supplied by Logitech into the drive on your computer and let the auto run start up the installation program.

 

 

 

 

To begin installing the software, you must agree to the EULA and continue on choosing the software to install as well as the location on the hard drive. Then the software will install and complete. Once complete, you will be prompted to plug the Harmony into the computer.

 

 

 

After the software installation, the Harmony software automatically opens and looks for updates and automatically installs the updates.

 

 

 

Configuration:

Now that the Harmony software is loaded onto your computer and the remote has been updated, you will need to setup an account to use the software and to be able to utilize the online database of equipment that Logitech maintains. If you don't want to set up an account, it will be the manual setup for you.

After being prompted to set up an account, choose new account. You will be given the option of a few tutorials, one for high speed internet, one for low speed.

 

 

 

A login user name and password will need to be created to access the database. Create the user name and password as well as choosing your security question and answer.

 

 

Once the user name, password and security questions are filled out, you will need to continue the account setup with your real name and e-mail address, as well as time zone. Re-connect the Harmony to the computer and the additional updates to the Harmony can complete. After it completes the updates, it will reboot the Harmony so that the configuration of the device can continue.

 

 

 

 

Configuration:

After rebooting the computer, the Logitech software will need to be opened and the Harmony reconnected to the computer. The connection is verified and the configuration of the device may continue. The software checks to see if a wireless extender will be used with the remote, for this review it will not. The final item on part 2 of the configuration gives you the option of renaming the device and gives another opportunity to add a wireless range extender.

 

 

 

 

Finally we get through the initial phase of the setup of this device and move into the meat and potatoes of the setup. Setting up the rooms that have controllable devices will be the first thing to do in this section. For the next part of the setup, you will need to know the make and model number of all the devices that you wish to control with the Harmony. You are given options on what devices you want to add to the rooms you have set up. When it comes to adding your home entertainment devices, Logitech's online database is pretty extensive.

 

 

Once you have chosen the manufacturer of the devices you want to control, you will need to input the model numbers for those devices. For this example, I will use the television, surround sound and DVD player. If you have two Harmony remotes, you will want to choose which of them you want to control the devices you have chosen to control with each one. Since I am only using the one, that is the choice for this review.

 

 

Now that all the devices are added into the Harmony software, it is time to confirm the device make and model number before moving to the next step. This completes the device setup portion of the software.

 

Configuration:

Activities are similar to macros in that you push one button for a series of actions to take place. Activities are the term given to the macros used by the Harmony to complete a task such as watching a DVD or the television. Let's take a look at how this works and follow along with the setup.

The process is easy enough as the software walks you through each activity you set up. I will be showing what the setup looks like to watch television on the entertainment system I use. Choose which room you want to set up activities for and go forward. Again, you are shown the hardware in that room to choose from for the activity. After that you are given a list of possible activities that the hardware is capable of doing. Move forward after making your choices.

 

 

Now is where the final set of choices are made. You will be telling the Harmony software how your devices interact with each other and what setting the devices need to be on to start and finish the activity. You will need to have some basic A/V knowledge about the connections that you made when installing the hardware in your home (i.e. What inputs does component A have to use, etc.). For this example we will show the configuration of the Harmony so we can watch television. The first item is how do you control the volume when you listen to the television. The surround sound receiver, in this instance.

 

 

After making the selections for your devices you are presented with a page to verify your settings. If correct, you can move on and finalize this activity or go back and reconfigure the device setup. Once done, move forward to complete the activity. Now the activity is complete. Just follow the same process to set up the rest of the activities and you will be done with the configuration.

 

 

 

Creating a setting is an area where you can control the mood of a room by controlling the light and A/V devices at the touch of a button. To set up the lighting in your home, you would need to find a non proprietary type controller. The lights and fans in my home unfortunately do not allow this feature to be used...yet!

 

After the time spent detailing how and what we need to control, the time has come to input that information into the Harmony 890. How you ask? Simply plug the supplied USB cable into the Harmony and computer and the Harmony software will update the remote with all of the settings and activities you have just finished inputting into the software. Now you are ready to try it out.

 

 

Should you upgrade some of your A/V devices, you are not stuck with your current configuration. Just load up the software and modify your settings. Here you are also able to troubleshoot the remote, update the software or get technical support.

 

Specifications:

 

FEATURES

BENEFITS

RF Wireless

Operation

Controls components throughout the house, even through cabinets,

walls and floors. No line of site needed to operate equipment.

Remote provides 100 feet of range.

Color LCD Display

Vibrant color screen offers a customizable interface; images can be uploaded for background, slideshow or favorite channels.

One-Touch Activity

Buttons

Send out sequence of commands to multiple components at one

time; with one touch, remote can send all commands needed to

Watch HDTV, Listen to CDs, Watch DVD, Listen to Radio, etc.

HDTV Optimization

Automatically calls up correct aspect ratio and audio settings for

HDTV, with toggle capability for picture and sound options.

DVR Control

Complete functionality for DVRs. Logical button layout and extensive

customization capabilities unleash the full potential of any DVR.

Smart State

Technology

This patented Logitech technology enables the remote to remember

the operating status of any component at any time. This allows one touch switching between activities without having to turn on or adjust

components for different entertainment activities.

Recharging Station

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery means no more running out of

batteries; attractive charging station provides a convenient location

where the whole family can find the remote.

Web-Based Wizard

for Easy Setup and

Customization

People simply tell the wizard the brand and model of the

components they want to control. The wizard does all the

programming and downloads information to the remote via the

supplied USB cable.

Comprehensive

Internet Database of

Control Codes

Online database contains codes and characteristics for more than

200,000 components from more than 5,000 manufacturers.

Help Button

If any component doesn’t respond properly at any given time, the

simple Help button diagnoses the current state of the components

and walks the user through the simple steps to correct everything.

Learning Ability

In addition to its huge database of command codes, the Harmony

890 remote can learn any infrared (IR) command from any device.

Seven Days a Week

Tech Support

E-mail and toll-free phone support:

Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. EST

Saturdays and Sundays, noon6 p.m. EST

Toll-Free Telephone: 1-866-291-1505

 

Complete control with one remote

Replaces up to 15 remote controls

Works with components hidden behind walls or in cabinets

So advanced, it’s simple

Simple, One-Touch Activity Control - Control your entire home entertainment system with just one button. Choose the “Watch a DVD” activity and the Harmony remote will power on your TV, DVD player, and stereo receiver, set all the inputs and even eject the bay.

Advanced Control without line of Sight - The Harmony 890 remote uses Z-wave wireless home automation technology to control entertainment devices without a direct line of sight. Hide wires and components behind cabinet doors or in a different room and command it all with one remote.

Guaranteed To Work With Your Devices - The Harmony 890 remote delivers full control of up to 15 devices. Logitech’s on-line database includes over 5,000 manufacturers and over 200,000 devices - everything from HDTVs to projectors, from DVRs to VCRs, lighting controls and more!

Easy To Set-Up -The Harmony set-up wizard does the programming, so you don’t have to. Just connect your remote to your computer and answer a few questions about how you currently use your home theater. Logitech’s patented Smart State Technology® does the rest.

Testing:

To test out this All in One solution to replace the multiple remote control dilemma many of us face on a day-to-day basis, I will put it through its paces. Many times an all-in-one solution falls a bit short on the control functionality. Normally, you just get the basics: On, Off, Channel up and down, leaving you to wonder what about the last channel or mute buttons. Will this remote be any different? Let's see how it does. The remote has been configured to control the entertainment system that I have. While the system is by no means high end, it provides a good cross section of new hardware, as well as some that is a few years old.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Some things that I will test on the Harmony are the functionality of the device, ease of use, distance till signal failure (line of sight, this device did not ship with the wireless extender) and last but not least, battery life.

 

Functionality:

After setting the Harmony remote to use the devices in my entertainment system, I was ready for a letdown. I hit the button to watch television and only half of the devices turned on. At that point I was thinking, here we go again! But wait, what does that little button that says "Help" do? Figuring it couldn't get worse, I went ahead and dove right in. The remote has a built in help wizard that walks the user through a series of questions. After going through the process, it actually fixed the issue without having to reconnect to the computer to try the setup process again. Take two! I pressed the watch television activity button and everything powered up the way I intended. The fact that it did so with only the touch of one button was amazing. After being brainwashed by using three remotes, to do the same thing that one button did on the Harmony kept me spellbound for about ten minutes. After cycling through the On-Off process a few times, I promptly sat down to watch the latest edition of Dogfights (no not really dogs fighting but air combat silly!) on the History channel.

Normally, an all-in-one is a compromise where you trade some functions for the ease of using one remote. The remote that came with the television was functional for the television, but nothing else. I could change channels on the TV but not the volume on the surround sound or control the DVD player. The opposite being true about the surround sound remote. It did at least run the DVD player fairly well. With that kind of setup, it's a game of find the right remote for the right task. Not so with the Harmony. The Harmony combined all of the functions of each device so that if you wanted to adjust the volume, just use the volume buttons. Change the Channel you say? Yep, just use the channel up and down buttons or choose the channel with you favorite programming. How about changing the aspect ratio on that wide screen television? That's normally a task reserved for the remote that came with the television. Again, not so with the Harmony. From setting up the DVR to record a show to scrolling through the television guide to watching a DVD, I was able to use all of the features of each device with only the Harmony. Not once did I need to reach for the factory remotes during the testing.

 

Ease of Use:

Getting used to where all the buttons are took some getting used to. This is in no way a deal breaker because it is just relearning a behavior. Kind of like when the cable company switches the channel line up, it takes you a while to get all of your favorites back into the rotation. Being on the larger side of life, I have big hands. The remote fit comfortably into the palm of my hand. I had no trouble reaching any of the buttons to make my selections. The Harmony features a color LCD screen that shows all of the activities you have set up. One of the cooler features is that the remote has a built in tip sensor. Huh! Thats right, a tip sensor. How many times have you pressed the wrong button while watching a movie and had your experience ruined because you hit the power button by mistake? Well let's talk about what the tip sensor does. It senses motion such as when the remote is picked up and automatically back lights the whole remote so that wrong button nasty dance is no longer performed in your home. Configuring the Harmony using the included software was a breeze with the devices used in the test entertainment center. Following along with the online setup was a simple process. Just plug it in, answer a few questions about your hardware and how it all works together, update the Harmony and it's showtime.

 

Distance to Signal Failure:

In my home I have about a 50 foot line of sight to the entertainment system. The Harmony handles this distance easily, but if i block the line of sight by putting a wall in the way, it's a no go. The wireless extender that is sold for this device will take care of the problem for an additional cost. In comparison, the other remotes gave up the ghost after I moved out of the living room. The surround sound remote did the best of the old remotes at roughly 23 feet.

 

Battery Life:

Comparing the battery life on the Harmony to any one of the factory remotes is like comparing the fuel consumption of a late 60s muscle car to that of the latest hybrid econo-box. The Harmony is good for about 10 days without recharging in my testing. While that does not seem like a lot of battery life compared to the factory remote control, you have to realize that the Harmony features back lighting and an LED screen to power up each time it is picked up. The factory remotes come nowhere near on the power consumed per operation. But the saving grace here is that the battery in the Harmony is rechargeable in just the same way that a cordless phone is. By placing it on the charger, battery life is no longer an issue.

 

Conclusion:

Finally! An all-in-one remote that does what it should do. The Harmony does all that is asked of and does it without the hiccups normally found on other all-in-one solutions. It even got the set up right for the widget button on my set top FIOS box. After a little experimentation to find all of the functions I use, everything was available. From setting up a DVR recording session to scrolling through the channel guide to navigating through the purchase of an ON Demand movie selection, it all was available on one device. Having the ability to use just that single device is refreshing because usually there is at least one remote that disappeared from the face of the earth (or so it seems). I found the configuration software easy enough to navigate through to get the remote set up to use the test hardware. The interface is kind of slow to load, but once into the interface the process moved pretty quickly. The Harmony can be tailored to fit the needs of the audio/visual enthusiast as well as the family that just wants an all-in-one solution. The rechargeable battery eliminates the need to replace the batteries in up to 15 remote controls. The LCD display works well to display the activities that are set up, as well as additional control functions when in an activity. The LCD is easy to read with the text large enough that a geezer like myself can read it without the prerequisite reading glasses. Navigating the built in help wizard to solve minor setup issues was as simple as answering a few questions. Another of the built in features that puts this all-in-one remote control solution head and shoulders above the rest that I have used. The Harmony will give you sticker shock at just a penny shy of $400, but the convenience it offers creates the value for the user. If you need the ability to go around or through walls, the wireless extender will be needed to accomplish this task. If you are looking for an all-in-one solution that actually works, the Logitech Harmony 890 Pro should be on your short list. Logitech has a winner with the Harmony.

Pros:

Cons: