The Harmony 880 Universal Remote

It’s been three weeks since the Harmony 880 Universal Remote dropped at my doorstep, purchased with the funds from all the Amazon shopping you fine folks did through this website over the summer. Thanks again. Now, as promised, my thoughts on using the thing:

It’s been in daily use at VandS World Headquarters for long enough now that I can’t live without it anymore. Being able to switch between the TiVo and DVR boxes (as well as a DVD player and the Wii) is the biggest advantage of the remote. I don’t need four remotes sitting out on the coffee table anymore. The Harmony remote sits docked in its wonderful recharger when not in use on an end table next to the couch, and keeps the battery continuously fully charged. The hardest part has been learning the new key layout. I could run the old remotes without looking at them for most functions. Their keypad layouts were all distinctive, and the keys well marked and separated. The Harmony remote, obviously, has the same organization of buttons for each device, though their functionality differs a bit from device to device. The backlit screen does a great job with the keys unique to the device I’m trying to control, but they require a good looking at to find the proper button to push. The buttons are small, but each has its own “bump” for your finger to latch onto.

The buttons, themselves, are nice. They CLICK. They’re not rubber chiclets like on the lesser versions of the same remote. They make a satisfying click when you push them, but your hand can also slide across them easily enough. There’s a little nipple in the middle of the keypad that helps you center your finger, if you think you’re good enough to push buttons without looking. I don’t recommend that all that much. My fat fingers occasionally still miss the PLAY button and hit the PAUSE button underneath. It doesn’t happen that often, but it is a point I have to bring up. They cram a lot of keys onto this one remote, so the size shrinks up considerably. The four major keys above the numeric keypad are slightly larger and bring you to the MENU, EXIT, GUIDE, or INFO. Volume and Channel changing buttons are above that and slightly larger, though narrower. Still, it’s anther satisfying click when you push them. You KNOW you hit the button.

The preprogrammed special keys on the display screen have their ups and downs. There can be multiple screens worth of options here, but I find myself using the first screen almost exclusively. The TiVo’s 30 second skip button is one big exception to this. The button to control the aspect ratio on the TV (“Zoom,” “Wide Zoom,” “Normal,” etc.) shows up in the same position across all screens. That’s all preprogrammed in for me. While I’m sure there are likely ways to move that around if I wanted to, it hasn’t been a big problem. So I let it go. The order of the options seems decent enough.

The remote saves a lot of fumbling around and a lot of space. It’s a powerful thing that I know will stick with me through future home electronic purchases, and does everything it promises. What more could you ask for? The biggest hang up has just been in getting my hands used to the feel of a new remote. You don’t realize how accustomed your mind and hands are to specific divergent remote layouts until you remove them all and replace them with something new. That’s an adjustment, but it’s getting easier with time.

I wouldn’t trade this remote in for anything. It’s a necessary addition to any serious home theater or home entertainment set-up.

Now, go click on the Amazon MP3 store banner above and buy yourself an album or two. I have a camera to buy next. . . ;-)

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4 thoughts on “The Harmony 880 Universal Remote

  1. Glad you have enjoyed your Harmony so far. I am definitely hooked to Harmony remotes for life now. I can’t even imagine how I survived with all the multiple remotes I had before!

  2. These posts really make me want one now – but I don’t think my wife will ever go for it.

  3. Jason – The Finance Committee can be a very tough nut to crack. I only got away with it because it involved no cash payment. My paycheck never touched the remote. This is turning out to be a much tougher thing to do with a digital camera. =(

    Josh – I’m with you. I hope those remotes stay locked in a drawer until the end of time. The Universal solution is so much simpler. It’s even easier to explain to a houseguest — no longer do you have to explain which remote controls the volume and which controls the channels. This is so much easier.

  4. Pingback: Various and Sundry: DVDs, Tech, HDTV, and More » Blog Archive » Harmony Remote and Sony TVs

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