Review: Logitech Harmony 688 Remote

Review: Logitech Harmony 688 Remote

How many remotes does it take for you to control all of your entertainment devices? Even with ‘universal’ remotes, I still had to use some of my ‘native’ remotes for one function or another, and ended up using three different remotes to control five different devices. This seems to be a common problem in entertainment rooms, the other problem being the difficulty of using the remotes. Harmony has conquered both problems.

Welcome to the wife and mother-in-law friendly remote!

The testbed for the Harmony included the following setup:

  • Denon AVR-1602 receiver with all sound switched through this device
  • Sony DVP-S530D DVD player
  • Sony SLV-779HF VCR
  • Hughes HDVR2 DirecTV receiver
  • Sony KV32HV600 TV

The setup literally took only five minutes from the time I removed the remote from the package: I installed the batteries, installed the software for syncing up the remote with the web site, ran the website wizard and finally synced the codes to the remote.

The hardest part of the setup process was filling out the entertainment device worksheet with the various types of devices, manufacturers and model numbers. It took longer for me to get the model number on the 180 pound TV than running through the rest of the setup steps because I had to move it slightly to find the part number.

You can check out a demo of the Web Wizard at Logitech’s Harmony site, but the above image shows a screenshot from the web-based admin interface.

The Harmony 688 has all the features of the Logitech Harmony 659 but also includes dedicated buttons for complete digital video recorder control. Page buttons for on-screen guide navigation and four one-touch activity buttons make using the remote that much easier.

The technology behind the remote allows you to have complex setups requiring multiple devices turning on and switching of audio inputs without having to program macros on the remote. Also, Powered by the patented Smart State Technology (SST), Harmony remote controls are designed to work the way people think, requiring just one click of a button to initiate a home-entertainment activity. For example, to watch TV on a satellite system with a personal video recorder (PVR), the TV, receiver, satellite, and PVR box may all have to be powered up and set to the right inputs. A Harmony remote can send all of the appropriate infrared (IR) commands with one touch. Without the Harmony remote, the activity might require pressing 10 or more buttons on several remote controls.

In addition to the technology and digital video recorder buttons, the Harmony sports 2MB of non-volatile flash memory (so changing batteries won’t lose your configuration). Also, the firmware on the remote is upgradeable.

The remote also has a Help button which is a one touch help button for problems. I’ve used the Help button to sync the SST back up after one device was accidentally turned off or the remote didn’t share the entire macro over IR.

I love this remote. I can’t live without it now. Being able to press one button to power on and off instead of 5 on 5 different remotes is really remote nirvana. Now if it could only bring me a beer with a touch of a button…

If you want to read more about how the remote works check out this Logitech link.
Also, to make sure your device is supported, check out Harmony’s list of manufacturers.

Purchase from Buy.COM.

What’s Groovy and What’s Sucky

What’s Groovy:

Ease of use and programming thanks to SST and the ever-increasing number of devices
supported.

What’s Sucky:

Configuring “different” types of devices such as configuring the setup on a
Hauppauge card can prove to be a little more difficult. It’s only slightly
sucky though because it takes slightly longer than five minutes!

Features Performance Quality Value
4 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars
The Harmony 688 controls different PVRs such as TiVO while other models do not have
this capabilities HOWEVER Logitech has a Harmony 880 which will include an easier to
read color LCD screen, recharging station, and it will be optimized for the complicated
HDTV and PVR setups that include having to alter the aspect ratios depending on
program source.
I’d love to give a perfect score here, but every so often the remote gets the crazys
and issues too many commands or forgets to turn off one device. Luckily, these problems
are easily fixed by a recycle of the system or going through the Help system on the remote. However, this has only happened twice in the past two months of testing.
There is nothing bad to say about the Harmony remote’s quality. The device is well
made and this is one remote where I doubt I’ll break the hook that keeps the battery compartment
door on.
The price of the remote fits nicely between the “cheap” universals and the high end touchscreen
remotes but includes features that match some of the high end remotes. Overall value is excellent.
Overall
5 Stars
The Harmony 688 remote is the undisputed champ of remotes in the sub-$500 remote category and the
ease of use makes this a remote your family will thank you for. Absolutely the best gizmo in home audio/video since the TiVO!