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Harmony 885 vitals

   Harmony 885
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   5 March 2007
   Lawrence Latif

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Reclaim your coffee table
The Harmony 885 may have been on the market longer than sliced bread but it still manages to achieve the right blend of features, good looks, ease of use and price. If you want a universal remote control, the Harmony 885 is a sure thing.

With almost every home entertainment device coming with a remote control it doesn't take long before your coffee table becomes a parking lot for plastic oblongs. Logitech's now extensive harmony range is the answer to the call of remote control sanity. Thanks to new models such as the 895 and the soon to be released, 1000 prices for the 885 have dropped. This makes the Harmony 885 one of the best propositions around.

Universal controls are the heart of any home entertainment system. It can be your only interface with the system, unless of course you wish to remove yourself from that recliner and physically pay homage to your magnificent amplifier. So as a piece of technology it needs to work well, be easy to use and look good. The Harmony 885 has all the bases covered and because it doesn't cost as much as a short holiday, you can buy something nice for your significant other as recompense for having to learn how to operate it.

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The 885 was the first Logitech designed remote control in the Harmony range and both aesthetically and ergonomically it presses all the right buttons. The slightly oversized hourglass figure works very well with your hand comfortably caressing the form. The top half is dominated by the colour LCD screen, while the bottom is where your fingers will spend most of the time at.

So the styling is excellent and the tactile feel of the buttons isn't bad either. While the Harmony 885 may lack the wallet busting credentials of a Pronto Pro, it still comes with a very sleek charger unit. The remote sits on top of the mount which is punctuated by a blue halo. The whole shebang looks very cool, which is a critical aspect in owning one of these things. Battery life is very good too. Through average use the remote can easily go for days without needing to be placed in it's cradle.

As with all Harmony remotes, the setup takes a little time. Be prepared to set aside an Sunday afternoon unning between your computer and your home theatre checking everything is just so. That's not an indictment of the Harmony but rather a plus point. The fact is most other universal remotes such as the Philips Pronto takes much longer simply because of the vast amount of options you have. Having spent days tinkering with my Pronto Pro, I can categorically say that the Harmony 885 is far easier.

The setup is handled by a Logitech website which means configuring your system consists of picking hardware from drop down menus. The database of supported hardware is extensive but thankfully you needn't worry that your obscure piece of early 90s hardware won't be supported as the Harmony 885 is a learning remote control. What that means is the 885 can learn any Infra-red command you throw at it.

Where the Harmony 885 excels is through its notion of activities. The setup software allows you to define activities such as "watch TV" to a single button. When pressed, the remote will automatically switch your television on, turn on your set top box and adjust the volume. Because the remote remembers "state" meaning it knows whether your TV is on or off, the next time you press the same button it will do the opposite, turning everything off.

The difference between the Harmony 885 and the 895 I reviewed a few months back is that the latter has RF capabilities. So the 885 won't allow you to control equipment that is beyond sight, but for the vast majority of people this shouldn't be a problem. Other than this there's no visible or internal difference between the units. The major difference is in the price, however.

As the Harmony 885 is getting on a bit pricing is very reasonable. While not quite bargain basement, it is reassuringly expensive without being bad value for money. Some shopping around will net you a sub 100 price point which is nothing short of a bargain.

The Harmony 885 is an excellent compliment to any A/V system. Not only does it declutter your living room but also adds accessibility and convenience. Excellent design, aided by ease to use software mean that Logitech's Harmony 885 is a must have for anyone that takes their entertainment seriously.