Using the Harmony 880

The first time you use the Harmony 880, it is in “Help Mode” which allows you to correct any unexpected behaviour in the remote like if the volume control is affecting the wrong device. By hitting “Help” the remote will ask you questions like “Is the AV Receiver on?” and you answer Yes or No. The remote will then attempt to turn on the device. If it fails you will have to plug the remote back to your computer and reprogram the correct behaviour. Reprogramming the remote for the right behaviour is not hard once you’ve done it once.

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For me, I ran through each Activity to make sure the correct devices turned on or off, and that the controls were doing what they were supposed to do. Once you’re satisfied and everything is as it should be you can leave Help Mode so you don’t get all those “Is the X device On?” prompts.

You’re all set!

After you’ve jumped through the hoops (and over the hurdles for some) and you’ve finally got the remote configured the way you like, you finally can sit and relax and use the Harmony 880. But how well does the Harmony 880 work in a multi-device environment?

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The easiest way to get the remote to do “things” is to use the Activites you programmed into the remote during the setup. By selecting an activity like “Watch a DVD” or “Watch TV” or “Listen to Radio”, the remote automatically changes the inputs and outputs on your various devices so that the audio and video are all properly configured for that task.

For example, when performing my “Watch a DVD”, the TV’s input gets switched to Video 1, the digital receiver switches to DVD input using an optical connection, and the DVD player is turned on. I can then use the LCD function keys to change the aspect ratio (a TV function) and select subtitles (a DVD player function). All of this is done in just 3 buttons.

To jump to a different activity you hit the “Activities” button and select the activity you want to perform. The remote would then turn off any unused device caused by the activity switch, and turn on any needed devices, and adjust all the input and output settings automatically.

Continuing with our example, say I just finished watching my DVD and I want just the radio on, I hit the Activities button and select “Listen to Radio” from the LCD menu. The DVD and TV turn off, and the AV receiver remains on and changes its input to the radio. This is done in just 2 buttons.

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By default the responsiveness of the Harmony remote is a bit slow, but thankfully you can decrease the wait time between button presses through the software so the Harmony feels snappier and more alert.

After using the Harmony 880 remote to control all my devices, I found that there were some cases where it was faster to just grab my old remotes and do the action I need. However, this is not the fault of the Harmony 880, rather it’s because I have not programmed all the needed functionality into the Harmony yet.

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