Sunday, November 2, 2008

Setting up a Logitech Harmony 880 with a Mac

I bought a very inexpensive Logitech Harmony 880 from Amazon on one of their Gold Box deals. I don't have the most complicated system at home but enough that I have half a dozen remotes in the drawer (with a supposedly all-in-one and a spare for the TiVo). The thought of really having an all-in-one remote that works has always been enticing.

My set-up is a Sony 52" XBR4, a JVC video recorder, a Sony upconverting DVD player/receiver (DAV I believe it's termed), a Series 2 TiVo and a Nintendo Wii. Some old stuff, some newer. Most came with all-in-one remotes. None of those remotes will really control more than two units at best. The TiVo remote is the best of the bunch working everything I need to watch TV but not VCR and not setting up the TV to play with the Wii.

I like the Logitech Harmony 880 remote's appearance. The screen activates when you pick up the remote and turns off after sitting for a short period of time (saving battery life, even though the battery is rechargeable and the remote comes with a charging dock). I like that you pick what you want to do rather than what piece of equipment you want to control (Watch TV rather than Turn on TV, receiver and TiVo). The remote also sits well in the hand but the buttons could have been better designed.

A little bit of background information on how I have things set-up:

1. The TiVo is on all the time.
2. The input for the VCR is split from the TiVo so I can watch a TV channel and TiVo another (and tape a third if I want to). The TiVo has only one tuner and the VCR has two.
3. I use Sony's Theater Sync to run the sound from the TV through the receiver.

I used the Logitech software for the mac that I downloaded from their web-site. It probably came with the disk but I thought I'd just start off with the latest version from the start. The 880 comes with a USB cable that attaches the remote to the mac. You need this as you set up your system on the computer and transfer the information to the remote.

And the set-up went pretty smoothly. Here are a few things I found particular to my system.

1. If you are using Theater Sync, set up the system so that you control the volume through the TV and set up the TV separately so that Theater Sync is activated automatically. That will then turn on the receiver and let the volume be pumped through an external resource. I have not found a way to set up the remote so that it turns on the TV and receiver and switches the receiver to Theater Sync.
2. My TiVo Series 2 was not immediately recognized (I think) as I had to train the remote. I thought I was going to have to go through every button but the training was actually completed after I had trained the third button. All the instructions needed to accomplish this are within the computer software.
3. The Nintendo Wii cannot be controlled by the remote but the TV and audio system can be set-up with it so that you then just turn on the Wii with the Wiimotes.
4. When you press a function button, you have to keep the remote pressed in the direction of the TV and accessories for a while so that everything gets the appropriate signal.

So was it worth it? This one remote seems to control everything but the buttons are not that ergonomically great. I think the newer versions of this remote have better buttons but they are also a lot more expensive.

I'd recommend getting this remote if you get a good price (under $50) but I'd recommend the Harmony One if you can't find a discount price. Both have the same list price of $250.

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