Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote
By Lawson Wong
The Do-It-All IR/RF Remote
Infrared (IR) has been the standard for remote controls for as long as I can recall, and if you remember otherwise, well, I'm sure you can regale me with tales of 8-track tapes and hula-hoops, too. While IR has worked well over the years, the Logitech Harmony 890 Universal Remote ushers in the next generation of remote controls. The Harmony 890 is a radio-frequency (RF) version of the popular Harmony 880, Logitech's first web-programmable, color screen, rechargeable IR remote control. Not limited to line-of-sight like IR, RF signals can reach equipment behind walls and cabinets, granting greater flexibility and control to any home theater.
What It Is
The Logitech Harmony 890 works both as a standard IR and RF remote. Similar to its predecessor, the 890 sports an attractive metallic silver finish with a bright color LCD screen. Just below the LCD sits a directional pad for full access. A sleek docking station recharges the remote's lithium-ion battery.
Weighing less than 6 ounces, the familiar dumbbell shaped unit fits comfortably in the hand. Logitech has gone away from the typical unresponsive, soft, rubbery buttons to the more substantial hard plastic buttons - all fully backlit for easy viewing in the dark. Although fat-finger couch potatoes might find some of the buttons to be placed uncomfortably close together, its overall layout is intuitive and well thought out.
As with other web-programmable remotes, setting up the 890 is straightforward and requires you to connect the remote to an Internet-connected computer. Forget the included software and go download the latest version directly from Logitech's website. After connecting the device to your PC using the included USB cable, you just answer a few simple questions on the website about your home theater components and your watching/listening preferences, and all the control codes will then be downloaded into the remote. Although the software may intimidate and even confuse the less tech savvy, conquering the learning curve is better than wasting time punching in a slew of multi-digit codes for each and every component in your system. Advanced users can spend more time setting up macros, customize wallpaper and buttons, and more. To access the RF, plug in the included RF receiver into any power outlet and hook up the IR blasters by taping them to the IR receivers on your equipment. Press the CONNECT button and you're ready to rock - RF style.
The Harmony 890 has all the functions and features of your standard remote, but what sets it apart centers around "Activity" buttons. During setup, you determine which devices and inputs the remote will turn on or off corresponding to "activities," such as "Watch DVD" and "Listen to Music." Now, with the push of a single button like "Watch DVD," the remote will activate all necessary equipment (TV and DVD) and turn off all the unnecessary (radio and CD changer); it's not only efficient, it will save you on energy costs. With built-in Z-Wave support, you can even press "Watch TV" and not only control the home theater system but also bring up the perfect movie mood lighting. That's George Jetson cool!
The Help key comes in quite handy. If you run into any trouble with the remote not activating the correct equipment for the activity you chose, it will ask you a series of questions to correct the problem, almost like your own personal help desk in the palm of your hand. However, more complex issues will require that you actually call Logitech's tech support.
The typical range for RF is about 100 feet, and in my testing, the remote worked in all parts of a 2-story house. Keep in mind that performance will depend on the size of your house and the materials of your walls and floors. I did, however, experience hiccups between the remote and the RF receiver, but this can be easily corrected by pressing the CONNECT button to resync.
As I constantly forget to turn off equipment in my home system, I particularly liked the "Activity" buttons - no more having to figure out what to turn on and what to turn off when I transition between listening to my CDS to watching a DVD movie.
Who's It For
For those with simple setups not hidden behind walls and cabinets, you can forego the RF function and go with the less expensive but equally functional Harmony 880 remote. However, while it may be too much remote for some, the Harmony 890 boasts a robust set of features and functions that will appeal to owners who want all their equipment hidden unobtrusively behind cabinets and walls. Logitech offers an excellent option for a sub-$400 RF remote that won't require a home installer to program.
Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote
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