Harmony 688

Review

posted 12/16/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
We’ve done a few DVR articles here at Gaming Nexus and it’s one of my favorite hobbies in building a nice home theater personal computer system. Trying to find a product to control the system has been tough with many options from RF remotes to various learning ones as well. Logitech recently acquired Intrigue Technologies, makers of the Harmony remote line and we’re lucky enough to try out their latest: the Harmony 688.

Touted as built for DVR, the Harmony 688 remote features a plethora of options and easy programming. Physically, the remote is thin and long with a radial button system in the middle. The back features two finger notches that help you hold the remote comfortably. I will say the shape and indentations do make it pretty easy to hold the remote.

One LCD window in the upper half gives you help information, TV listings, and other accessible custom commands. If there’s a command that you would like that doesn’t really fit any of the present ones, you can program it and assign it to one of the six LCD buttons accessible via a menu. The LCD and buttons emit a nice blue glow when a command button or the glow button is pressed.

A nice feature about the Harmony 688 is the activity buttons. Located at the top of the remote, they are generic buttons that, when programmed, will setup your system ready for use with one push of the button. For example, with my DVR setup of a receiver, HTPC, and TV, pushing the “watch TV” button turns on my receiver, sets it to VCR/DVR state, turns on my TV, and sets the TV to video 1. With that, all the buttons are set for DVR operation and I’m ready to go. What’s really cool is the remote remembers the state of the components if you are switching between activities. From the watch TV state, pressing the “play music” button turned off my TV and set my receiver to the Radio state. Pressing the “watch TV” button again turned on my TV and switched my receiver to VCR/DVR state. If there are more activities, and it holds 15, you can push the more button and use the LCD buttons to select an activity. Activities really turn this remote into a very versatile and easy to use device to control your entertainment setup.

If you would like to control one device directly, a device button pulls up the various devices programmed into the receiver and you can select one via the LCD buttons. Picking one will set the remote to control said device. Most of the commands you need will be setup with one of the activity buttons, but there will be times when there’s a command you need that’s pretty specific. With that, the device button comes in very handy to access a specific component.

The middle of the remote features a silver directional pad with a center OK button. Various other buttons circle the center pad and with the volume and channel buttons in this area. The directional pad has a lip that protrudes from the surface and is pretty easy to press. I like the large OK button in the middle to confirm commands. The tension is pretty good when pressing the directional pad.

Above the directional dial sits the media button and one that’s kind of cool to use. Harmony gives you two months free TV listings and you access the feature with it. Through the setup you select the stations that you would like to download listings to. After an update, you can press the media button and packs of three shows will show up on the remote at the current time. Selecting one of the three shows with the LCD buttons will force your remote to switch to the station with that show. It’s simple to use and useful for people that don’t have a guide. And since you can setup what stations show up, you don’t have to cycle through channels you never watch.
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